Have you ever noticed all those articles, books, and courses about how to focus are written by people who are born focused? These are the left-brained, analytical types for whom organizing, planning, and strong focus are as second nature as breathing.
We—the naturally disorganized, unfocused, planning-skill slackers, and nonperfectionists—march to a different drummer. I’ve walked in your moccasins, assuming you wear moccasins and could
find two that matched this morning.
Here are six strategies that have worked for me (mostly) for how the unfocused can focus:
- Clear the decks. Which decks? First, your actual deck, in this case, a desk. Make a spot that is totally free from any DISTRACTIONS, our Enemy Numero Uno.
- Put it away. Remove anything that will catch your eye, trigger an impulse to move away from your project, stimulate guilt, or issue an invitation to play. This strategy includes the home distractions that surround the “work-at-home” types. Sure, it’s nice to have the laundry going but turn the buzzer off. It can wait.
- Turn ‘em off. Along the lines of clearing distractions, you need to eliminate anything that has an alert. iPhones, iPods, iPads, iMacs, or anything that has an alarm, flashes or vibrates.
- Go offline. Your addictions to checking email, social media, and the web are a given. If you leave any of them on, YOU CAN’T FOCUS. Close down your Internet, social media, and email applications when you need to focus.
- Set a time limit for “focusing.” The maximum any brain can be productive in a burst? 90 minutes, according to science. Frankly, I don’t have much of that time left, so let’s wrap this up, shall we?
- Take breaks. I know. You are probably saying, “If I’m supposed to be focusing, why should I stop?” Again, it’s science and vital for your productivity. When you incorporate short break, you will suffer fewer impulses to find something else to do.
We all know the names “they” (a.k.a. those super-focused types) use for us: flighty, head-in-the-clouds, frivolous, empty-headed, bird-brained, scattered, feather-brained, careless, disorganized, and yes, blonde. We have names for them too, like obsessive-compulsive, rigid, inflexible, stubborn, unbending, set-in-their-ways, obstinate and yes, even tight-_____.
The names we unfocused-types have for ourselves paint a much more accurate picture, of course. We’re “resilient,” “flexible,” “spontaneous,” and “reasonable,” for example. We are also keenly aware of the truth: that impaired focus causes us lots of frustrations, futile efforts, time wasted and goals not met. Good thing we are resilient, huh?
What to do? Please don’t anyone tell me the answer is to focus.
But…what if that is the answer? What if we need to focus on what we are all communicating with each other, what is driving our changing behaviors, and what we can do to enhance performance and relationships in spite of or even in light of our differences?
Hey! Would you look at that? The neighbors have a new bird feeder, and there’s a bird there I’ve never seen before! Now where is that bird book? Oh, yes, over here by the plant…you know, I should water that plant…
How do you focus?
@CoachJudyNelson was a CEO for 30 years and has golfed with presidents, been heckled by famous comedians, and researched insurance policies for riding elephants on behalf of Zsa Zsa Gábor. And those were the ordinary days. A Certified Professional Coach since 2006, she uses the Workplace Big 5 Profile 4.0 to assist leaders and career seekers to develop and reach stretch goals. She is an avid traveler, a wannabe artist, a sort of cartoonist, and a lover of absurdity and new ideas. Her new book, Intentional Leadership (Motivational Press, 2017) debuts in January. Connect with her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter.