I have a confession to make, I teach people how to focus in a world that’s designed to distract them but in COVID Life I’ve found distraction creeping back in. Have you noticed a shift in yourself? An uncontrollable urge to fill the spare minutes you have picking up your device and scrolling the news or social media only to find yourself at the end of the day feeling flat and with a To Do List that remains undone?
It’s not surprising given most technologies these days are designed to capture as much of your attention as possible. Your attention has become a highly valuable commodity. So valuable in fact that companies like Netflix now taught sleep as one of their biggest competitors. Cal Newport’s research has shown that we have wired a whole generation to operate in nothing but a constant state of distraction. Partner this with the fact that pre-COVID we were dealing with a busy epidemic, a place where every waking moment was filled and being busy and burnt out was worn like a badge of honour. Many of us then just transferred our busy skillset into COVID Life.
Productivity has become our disease. Our focus on doing has compromised our state of being. The need to be busy continues to hold us back as we unconsciously respond to distractions and the things that truly matter and light us up as human beings get side lined.
Our focus on doing is compromising our state of being. Human being!
Building skill in focus requires us to value ‘being’ again. Being in a moment, being with ourselves, being connected humanly to others. In 2017 Manoush Zomorodi shared in her Ted Talk “How Boredom Can Lead To Your Most Brilliant Ideas” that neuroscience has shown that our brains do their best work when our Default Mode is ignited. This occurs when we are bored. Basically, it’s in the stillness that the dots connect, it’s where we figure things out and yet where is the stillness in our current work environment? Where is it that we are incentivised to focus on one thing, to prioritise thinking over acting? Where might one even begin to build their focus muscle in a way that is meaningful?
- Remove the word busy from your vocabulary: A psychologist once said to me a busy mind will go to anxiety it’s just a matter of time. Busy perpetuates busy and the feeling of being stuck on a hamster wheel running a million miles an hour. I made a choice a few years back to remove the word from my vocabulary and the impact on not only my mindset but on the conversations, I have has been huge! When people now ask me how I am these days I share I’m “positively engaged”. It keeps me accountable to ensuring that I spend my days intentionally focused as opposed to busy and it cultivates some curious conversations.
- Gift Yourself The Start Of The Day: Give yourself permission to gift yourself the start of the day. This one may feel hard because so many of us are programmed to believe that if we finish all the stuff on our to do list we will have time for joy at the end of the day. So, we start the day doing…checking email, sorting kids, looking at social media… If you want a focused start to your day try getting up just 15 minutes earlier each week day (you will need to also practice going to be a little earlier for this to be sustainable). This is your sacred time so don’t check your phone, don’t go near it instead gift yourself the start of the day by doing one small intentional focused thing that sets the tone for the type of day you want to have. It must be something that brings you joy and connects you fully into the moment…journal, read, write, move (do a short yoga practice or walk around the block). Whatever works for you.
- Start Using Focusmate.com
Focusmate.com has been a game changer for me. You simply book in a 50-minute accountability session and block in time to complete a task without distraction, on a video call alongside a stranger. Being accountable to someone else when you are trying to make change has proven highly effective. It’s as simple as turning up at the scheduled time, sharing with your new friend what you will focus on and then getting down to business for 50 minutes. This is the tool that enabled me to write my first book in just three months. I absolutely love it!
Lastly, be kind to yourself and embrace imperfection. Developing your focus muscle is a practice. You will have good days and bad days and that is completely normal, the success of your practice lies in the discipline of showing up each day and trying. I’m far from perfect, like I mentioned earlier I’ve fallen off the focus wagon I’m human. I’m an imperfect experimenter and it’s this mindset that enables me to reprioritize my daily focus practice and realign my work and my life to more of what matters.