It seems like everyone is missing this essential skill, this is your chance to stand out from the crowd.
What I Found Out I Was Severely Struggling With
And you might be as well...
I was facing constant struggle with my homework and just work in general, every time that I sat down to get stuff done, I would find myself scrolling through social media just a few minutes later.
I couldn't just sit down and work for hours on end like some people can, I seemed to always be distracted and it revolved heavily around the presence of my phone in my work area.
It was so easy to just pick up the phone to see if I missed anything on social media or any messages from my friends. Eventually, I started checking it without even realizing that I was doing it until a few seconds later, it was almost like an instinct.
Then I would catch myself and have to regain focus on the task at hand, usually risking losing my train of thought and my idea at some point along this path of distractions.
I'm sure this feels all too familiar for some of you as well, you want to sit down and focus but we just seem compelled, almost subconsciously, to continue to get distracted.
Not surprisingly, guess what the cause was, and continues to be?
Hands down the biggest cause of lack of focus is the decreased attention span we have created for ourselves thanks to technology.
It is widely believed that the human attention span has decreased over the last decades, from 12 seconds to 8 seconds, meaning that we have a shorter attention span than a goldfish who clocks in at 9 seconds...
We are constantly stimulated by technology and social media, almost to a point where we can't stay focused on one thing for too long because there is always something else out there.
Even when scrolling through social media, you never just stay on one social media app for too long before jumping to the next one to see what you missed there.
We are constantly jumping from task to task, never really focused on one thing for too long. Even take the example of trying to learn in college, how many of you actually sit in class and focus the whole time without touching your phone?
The Good News? We Can Change
Just like every other habit, this can be changed.
All of this task hopping cannot be good for our work in any way, shape or form, and it definitely is not.
When we can't stay focused on the task at hand for more than 15-20 minutes without getting distracted or having to switch up what we are doing, then we are not going to be producing and problem solving at the level we should be.
Usually, it takes 15-20 minutes to just clear your mind of all the distractions and other thoughts in order to just focus on the task at hand, and then even longer to enter the "flow state" that many describe as being consumed in your work to a point where you aren't experiencing time the same way.
I am sure we have all had this happen at least one point in our lives, where we were so consumed in the thing that we were doing that time seemed to pass us by faster than usual.
Imagine if you could actually start experiencing that in your work? You would be getting so much more done, producing a higher quality of work and you wouldn't be sitting there watching the red hand on that clock tick away the seconds until you can go home.
Our brains are a muscle in the body and just like every muscle, you can train it to be better. What does that mean? You can train yourself to improve your focus, but it is by no means going to be easy.
The urges to get distracted will be real and you can't do anything other than power through them. Once people try to fix their focus, they reach this stage where it seems impossible to not get distracted and that is where they break.
Then, they try to justify to themselves and others why they can't stay focused and then why they are just as productive even though they get distracted more often.
Focus On Focus
A rare skill in todays world.
With the average attention span being 8 seconds, and many people not being able to focus on one body of work for more than 15-20 minutes, this seem likes a prime area to start leveling up in your own life so that you can stand out.
Stand out through the quality of work you are producing and stand out through the quantity of work you are producing.
Depending on what Industry you are in or what you are studying in school, you might hear people stress quality over quantity. But what if you could have both? We don't have to fall into the average thinking mind because it is definitely possible to produce high quantities of high quality work.
Imagine getting into a "flow state" for hours at a time, solving problem after problem that you were facing and creating intricate solutions? That is something that a flow state allows but simply isn't possible when you attack the problem like everyone else: think about it for a while, go on their phone, write a little bit, then answer emails and before you know it, it has taken them 3x longer than you to do the same amount of work or even less work than you would have in a more focused flow state.
Don't let boring people fool you, you can produce higher quantities of high quality work if you change the patterns of your thinking.
An Ode to Focus: Bill Gates' "Think Weeks"
We all know the the brain of Bill Gates is extraordinary, that he thinks on a totally different level than a lot of us and that he is able to get so much more done in the same amount of time that we all have on a day to day basis.
Well, he also has one habit that is an all encompassing reason on why focus is so important. Even Gates needs time to focus in an ever distracting world, so don't be out here thinking that you can somehow get enough done without working on your focus.
Even Gates is working on his focus through what he calls "Think Weeks."
Twice a year, for a full week each time, Gates sets out to the Pacific Northwest, to a small and simple cabin to take on these "Think Weeks."
He takes these weeks in order to read, learn, and think about the major problems that are on his mind as well as topics that are of interest to him.
No distractions, no other people, just him and his thoughts.
Training his mind to focus and be free from distraction as he can take the thoughts, ideas and habits of focus back to his day to day life after each week is done.
These weeks started way back in the 1980's and continue to this day for Gates, an obviously essential part of his year if they have continued for so long.
Your Focus Workout- by: MMNTM, The Gym For Your Mind
I know you likely can't take full weeks off in order to train this habit for yourself, so why not get the habit of better focus started with some simple mind workouts?
Exercise #1: Take Control of Your Morning
Duration: 30 min- 1 hour
Notes: When you stop responding to texts right away in the morning and start focusing on yourself, you aren't going to start the day being reactive to others, you will have control of your life. Get off your phone for this time and get real things done.
Exercise #2: Take Control of Your Nights
Duration: 1 Hour
Notes: Same as in the morning, take control of your nights so that you aren't just responding to everything everyone else is doing, focus on yourself. Plus, when you get off your phone for this time, you start to wind your brain down to get ready to sleep, helping you sleep better. Better sleep results in improved focus the following day,. making it easier to say "NO" to distractions.
Exercise #3: No Phone Use During Important Tasks
Notes: When you are working on school work or just working on something important, lock your phone in your car or take it to another room. Then you can't pick it up whenever you want to. Take this one step further and don't let yourself switch what you are working on or flip between topics until you are done with the first topic. Only 2% of people in the world can effectively multitask, don't bet on yourself being that 2%.
Exercise #4: Take a Cold Shower
Duration: 3-5 minutes
Reps: 1x per day
Notes: While this on its own won't improve focus, combine it with the other exercises and it will definitely add to the focus. Why? Because when you get into a cold shower, you are immediately focused on nothing but that cold water hitting your body, helping your mind recognize what real focus is like.
Exercise #5: Self Awareness
Notes: Probably the hardest exercise to put to use, but whenever you feel the need to pick up the phone or change the tab or just get distracted when you are working on something important, acknowledge it and then force yourself to not do it. Easier said than done and you will likely catch yourself slipping up every once in a while still but that is fine as long as you are trying to eliminate it.
Sometimes the best solution to your focus is going to be sheer will-power.
Just like that another day on the blog is in the books! Thanks for all the support and if you enjoyed this or learned anything I just ask one thing: bring a friend back tomorrow! Time to make personal development more "normal" because it is at the foundation of every area of our lives. Stop back with a friend tomorrow-- yourmmntm.com/blog
Learning About Your Mindset Shouldn't Stop Here, Try These Resources: