Take the example of any person who has achieved success in his or her chosen field and you’ll find that they share certain traits.
You’ll find strong motivation, clear goals, the will to overcome all odds and hard work.
But there is one quality that distinguishes them from the rest.
And it is their ability to concentrate all of their attention on the goals they have set.
While effort is important to complete a given task, it is this ability to focus that is often the deciding factor that determines how well you do it.
The Value of Focus
Remember the school experiment in which we used a lens to cause the convergence of the sun’s rays and watched in awe as a scrap of paper placed underneath caught fire? This, precisely, is what focus is about.
When the rays of the sun scatter everywhere, they do not have the capacity to generate enough heat but use a lens to focus the same rays and you get magical results.
Similarly, you may have the greatest ideas and the most brilliant of plans but unless you set your sights clearly on what you wish to achieve and follow through with focus, you will not reach your goals.
How to Develop Focus
Compared to motivation or perseverance, focus is often easier to develop. It does not require you to learn something new; rather, it involves a process of letting go of some of your habits that distract you from the most important things.
Here are a few ways in which you can develop focus.
1. Stop Doing Too Much
Think of all your activities throughout the day and list them out.Then look at each one individually and assess if you really need to be doing it. Where possible, delegate the task to someone else; if there are things you simply do as a matter of habit, but which do not contribute in any meaningful way, stop doing them.
Keeping up with news of your area of expertise or general situations in your area may be necessary; but is it really so important to regularly follow the gossip columns that detail the lives of celebrities?
If you have a full-time job, attend classes to pick up a new skill, volunteer for community work and take up a part-time job to augment your income, burnout is an inevitable outcome because you constantly have so much on your plate that it overwhelms you.
Rather, stop doing the things that are not an absolute necessity at the present moment, and you will find it easier to focus on those that are most important.
Before you blindly jump into getting things done, pick the tasks that are most important. Sort out the items on your “to do” list and arrange them according to how urgent or important they are.
Prioritizing will help you avoid the activities that drain your time and energy. If you have set your aim on learning a new skill, give yourself a timeframe within which to complete it and put it as an important task on your list.
Cut out something that is not as important and you will find it easier to do what you need to do to achieve your goal.
3. Get Rid of Distractions
It takes very little to divert our mind from the task at hand – an e-mail from a friend, or an interesting article in the newspaper or even a simple conversation in the office can serve as a distraction.
Distractions tend to make you lose not just valuable time, but also your focus; so take steps to keep them away.
De-clutter your desk, your computer or your home and you are sure to find it easier to focus on the task on hand. If you have an important presentation to prepare, do not log on to your email and turn off notifications because the messages there will divert you from working on your project. Take off the headphones to cut out the music.
Announce to people that you are going to be busy and out of bounds for the next few hours and shut the door of your room. Turn off the television and maybe even your phone.
The Bottom Line
In today’s competitive world, we believe that multi-tasking is essential and we are obsessed with becoming “well-rounded” personalities.
While this may seem like a good thing, it has the potential to cause damage by draining you.
Instead, stick to one goal at a time, eliminate clutter and work on achieving your one goal before moving on to another one.
Take these steps to improve your focus and almost instantaneously, you will find your productivity soaring.