7 Things You Can Do To Sharpen Your Ability To Focus

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that in order to be efficient, productive or effective, we must master the ability to focus. Yet for busy business owners and entrepreneurs, this can often be quite challenging.

We know about the importance of staying focused because what we focus on expands or grows. Yet staying focused is something we tend to struggle with. Why is that?

Fortunately for me, I realised the importance of being able to focus on what’s important early in my business. In fact, when I first started my business, I named it Focused On…® because I knew that staying focused on the important things in business or life was a critical skill I needed to develop.

My first experience with focusing on a major project in my business was when I wrote my first book, Hoops and Freedom. For five months, I worked on nothing else except writing my book. I even hand-wrote the whole book. Each day, my aim was to write a minimum of five pages. Most days I exceeded my target however there were days when I could only write two pages. However, having a sole focus allowed me to complete writing the book in only five months, which was a good achievement for me considering I had never written a book before. That was the power of staying focused.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

While you may know about the importance of having a strong focus, you may not know how to strengthen it. Focus is defined as something upon which attention or activity is concentrated. To be able to sharpen your ability to focus, here are seven things you can do, which will ultimately improve your ability to get things done.

  1. Create a “Don’t Do” list. One of the main reasons why we lose focus is because we keep taking on more and more things, and adding it to our already full agenda. For business owners or entrepreneurs, especially for work-from-home entrepreneurs, it is easy to fall into the trap of trying to do everything ourselves when it comes to running our business. To avoid this trap, knowing what we are good at and what are the important tasks we need to do ourselves is critical. That can be followed by creating a list of things that you will not do, which you can either delegate or outsource.
  2. Develop a plan for your day. This is pretty self explanatory. Each day, you must know what you’re trying to achieve and what will be the benefits if you do achieve it. Knowing why you need to do something is also quite important because the reasons why you’re doing something will keep you motivated if they are for the right reasons.
  3. Break your day into segments or blocks. As much as it’s ideal to work on one thing at a time, sometimes it may not be practical or realistic. This is where breaking your day into segments or blocks can be very helpful. As an example, you could plan your day like this: Between 8.00am and 11.00am, you work on Project A. Between 11.00am and 12.30pm, you check and respond to emails and catch on anything online. Between 12.30pm and 1.30pm, you have a longer break. Between 1.30pm and 2.30pm, you work on Project B. Between 2.30pm and 3.00pm, you take a power nap. Between 3.00pm and 5.00pm, you work on Project C. Between 5.00pm and 5.30pm, you check and respond to emails. Breaking your day into segments can greatly help in moving multiple projects forward.
  4. Take good care of yourself. Our physical, mental and emotional health play a huge part in our ability to focus. Having a good night’s sleep the night before is one of the best ways to stay alert the next day. During the day, taking regular breaks, having regular meals, staying hydrated, maintaining good posture and breathing techniques, taking a power nap or doing some form of meditation, will all help sharpen our ability to focus.
  5. Eliminate distractions. This is another way we lose concentration and focus — by allowing ourselves to get distracted via our gadgets (phones, tablets, TVs, etc.) or by wasting time on social media, instant chat or messaging services. These things destroy our productivity levels and must be avoided at all costs. This is where being disciplined during your work day is vital if you to get more things done.
  6. Avoid multi-tasking. Multi-tasking is really task switching. Your brain is not working efficiently if you are constantly switching between different tasks. Having too many programs or tabs open on your computer isn’t a productive habit. Therefore, going back to Point #1, knowing the things you will not do during the day will help maintain your ability to stay focused.
  7. Have a “no excuses” policy. All too often, we give ourselves a pass for slacking off and not doing what we had intended to do. By having a “no excuses” policy, all your excuses will not be accepted. The best way to do this is by holding yourself accountable to someone, like a mentor, coach or accountability partner. To raise the bar, add a consequence if you don’t follow through or complete a task you intend to. Just doing that alone will dramatically improve your ability to get things done.

It is also important to realise that there will be times when our focus level will be low and we need to know how to respond when that happens. Maintaining a high level of focus all the time is not really practical or realistic and it isn’t an expectation we should place on ourselves. However, if you consistently do the seven things mentioned above, you will be stunned by how much you accomplish in a short period of time.

Question: What is one thing you do to stay focused?

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  • Sean Smith

    My favorite is the “Don’t Do” list – so critical for our minds to know very clearly when we are off course when it comes to productivity. Great list, Neel. 😉

    • Neel Raman

      Thank you Sean! I totally agree with you – the “Don’t Do” list has to be one of the most important things we can do to be more productive each day. Glad you found this post helpful.