It happens to us all—we don’t feel as effective as we’d like. Or we experience resistance when we try to do our work. Or we procrastinate because we are overwhelmed, unmotivated, and not sure what to do next.
In a world littered with so much noise, technological interruption, mindless distractions and information everywhere you turn, trying to stay focused is no easy task.
As the self-proclaimed king of the south, T.I. puts it, “If it ain’t about the money, don’t be blowin’ me up.”
Clearly his prize is the money, and if that’s not what you’re talking to him about, then he can’t even hear what you say. Whether you like him or not, with a net worth of $55 million, I’d say the man knows how to stay focused on what he wants.
The steps are simple: set your mind on the prize, power through your work, and avoid distracted thought by all means.
But we want to dig a little deeper here. Let’s check out 4 atypical methods of reaching a level of focus that will help you achieve your big goals.
What To Do
Method 1: Start with the mental creation
It’s futile trying to steer the body in a positive direction when you, as the driver, have no freakin’ clue where you’re supposed to be going.
Before any physical creation, there was a mental creation. When your brain has a clear, intense, engaging vision, it will unconsciously start signaling your body to take action.
Think about the specifics of your goal and mentally experience your life as if you have already achieved your goal.
- Where are you?
- Who are you with?
- What are you doing?
- How do you feel?
Convince yourself that your goal has already come true—you need to really see it, feel it, smell it, and live it in your mind.
Do this daily. Your brain works toward constructing that which holds the most invested mental energy. Your thoughts are energy, direct them wisely.
Method 2: Don’t fall victim to priority dilution
While classic procrastination is an obvious success killer, priority dilution is of the cloak-and-dagger type.
In his book “Take the Stairs”, Rory Vaden describes priority dilution as knowing your goals, but inadvertently allowing the less important tasks to hog your attention.
In order to stay focused, you must understand that urgent does not always equal important!
A ringing phone, email notification, and co-worker needing a menial favor, is urgent. Urgent matters beg for our attention, and too often they succeed. But at what cost?
When we focus too much attention on the easy, unimportant, urgent tasks, we neglect the unseen important tasks. We become consumed in a constant game of catch-up, thinking we are getting somewhere when we aren’t.
Just because you feel busy, does not mean you are producing results!
By saying yes to the less important, you are saying no to those activities that will bring you closer to your goals.
AOM has a solid article describing the differences between urgent and important tasks. I highly recommend checking it out.
The most important skill for the next generation of knowledge worker is not learning what to do but rather determining what not to do. – Rory Vaden
Next time you are interrupted and tempted into some activity, consciously stop and ask yourself if it’s the most important thing you should be doing at that time. If it’s not, can it wait a little while? Can it wait forever?
Method 3: Take advantage of your altered mental state
They say the two most important thoughts of the day are the first and the last. There’s good reason for this.
What you feed your mind at these two critical points helps you stay focused and set the tone for your daily effectiveness. Why?
Because as the brain transitions from a sleep-wake state, the frequency of neural activity has to pass through the alpha(7.5–12.5 Hz) and theta(4-7 Hz) states. During these periods, your mind is in an altered state and particularly susceptible to subconscious programming.
In the morning: just as you wake up and begin to gain control of your thoughts, repeat positive daily affirmations and try to visualize the productive, focused, and fulfilling day to come.
At night: just before you begin to lose control of your thoughts, repeat your long-term affirmations and visualize your mental creation as you did in the first method.
Method 4: Don’t do what you’re “supposed” to do
Since birth, our brains have been trained to think a certain way and pursue a certain goal.
Screw that. How about instead, do what matters to you!
It’s hard staying focused when you are disconnected emotionally from your work. We spend way too much time doing the things we are “supposed” to do while others are out there changing the world because they shook things up and went after what they truly wanted.
A true go-getter pursues his or her passion, not someone else’s. If thinking about your future does not give you butterflies, then don’t worry about staying focused, because your focus is in the wrong place to begin with.
Be you. Be real. Do what you do. Do it well. Live life and love it a lot.