“Everybody talks about the weather. Nobody does anything about it.” ~Charles Dudley Warner*
You could say the same about focus.
Sure, you know you need to concentrate, but has anyone ever given you the formula for how to do it?
If you’re still wrestling with willpower, trying to strong arm your way into focus, you can let go of the struggle.
As long as you’re willing to follow these steps, you WILL develop the ability to get focused fast and to keep your concentration, even in times of change and chaos.
Preview: Here are your 5 Steps to Focus Fast
1. Make it meaningful
2. Take tiny steps
3. Let (eu)stress happen
4. Give yourself a break
5. Pick up on patterns
Let’s kick it off with your first step to focus fast.
1. Make it meaningful1
Before you start on the path to create lasting, positive habits to focus fast and concentrate fully whenever you need to, you need to know WHY this skill is so important for you to master.
Here’s why your WHY is such a big deal: You need deliberate effort to purposefully lock in a good-for-you habit.
Face it, if changing habits, like getting and staying focused were easy, you’d already be doing it, not learning how to do it.
You not only need effort, you need consistency.
When it’s boring. When it gets hard. When you keep drifting off task. Your reason for getting back on track needs to be so meaningful to you that you cannot NOT do it. Because it’s just too important to you.
The only thing that’s going to keep you coming back in all the times you get knocked off the concentration course is for you to have a big enough reason to master the skill of focus and calm concentration.
Looking for this intrinsic motivation? Imagine what a valuable skillset it is for you to be able to stay calmly focused on your priority, no matter how crazy circumstances get.
You are rock steady.
Day after day. Doing what needs to be done. And leaving for home at the end of the day with energy to spare.
How cool is that?
2. Take tiny steps2
Forget about making big sweeping changes. Science proves people don’t make behavior changes that way.
If change is going to happen for you, it will happen stealth like, one baby step at a time.
How do you know? Think about any bad habits you might have. Did they come on all at once or kind of sneak up on you?
Lasting behavior change is like that. It kind of sneaks up on you.
BJ Fogg, PhD, says “Designing behavior change is systematic. It’s not guesswork.” Fogg suggests that new behaviors begin best by creating tiny habits that follow this pattern:
They are triggered by something
They are easy and can be carried out in fewer than two minutes
They are celebrated
If you want to stay focused on your priority, and it’s common that people at work interrupt you often, you can make a new tiny habit on how fast you can return to your priority after an interruption.
The trigger is: Someone has interrupted you, and now they’ve left your workspace, or you’ve hung up the phone after their call.
The easy, carry it out fast part is this: Make it a game to get right back to your priority as soon as the interruption is over. See of you can get back to priority within two minutes.
Celebrate your win: When you have returned back to your priority within two minutes of this interruption, note your success with a “Yay, that’s like me to get right back on task.”
And don’t be fooled by thinking this new habit is too tiny to count. As Samuel Johnson said:
“The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.”
3. Let (eu)stress happen3, 4
Stress + Rest = Growth is The Growth Equation formula, according to authors Steve Magness and Brad Stulberg.
One of my clients is a Fortune 100 company with amazing employees who were always busy, but not necessarily always productive.5
Through seminars and coaching their leaders, they have accomplished major milestones while improving the quality of their professional and personal lives.
When you are single-tasking and priority focused, you can accomplish great feats.
Two important facts that people overlook about deep focus, that Cal Newport articulates so well in his book Deep Work.
First, you need to schedule deep work time blocks. These are not going to happen by accident and you won’t be finding the time to do what matters most. You’ll be making time and naming it on your calendar.
Second, it’s stressful to go into deep work. The good news is that it’s eustress. The positive kind of stress that comes when you’re pushing yourself beyond the normal day to day routine and delving into tasks that call on your higher levels of thinking and expertise.
So, deep work is stressful work, but in all the best possible ways.
Think back about something you’ve accomplished recently that you’re especially proud of.
Was it easy?
Not at all, right?
Did it push your abilities, and show you what you could do?
Get comfortable being uncomfortable and allow yourself to reframe this as eustress.
4. Give yourself a break
Remember to give yourself a break. Literally. Give yourself recovery time because eustress, while rewarding does take a significant amount of energy.
It’s tempting when you get on a roll to push through the natural desire for a break.
Do NOT skip breaks! You’ll quickly get diminishing returns, and in short, you’ll burn out quickly.
According to Cal Newport, people who are just starting to train themselves in deep work might get up to an hour at a time of this level of concentration.
Experienced people can get up to 90 minutes to two hours at a time. But only up to about four hours a day.
Be sure to give yourself a break and recognize that even the most wildly successful people are usually only experiencing levels of deep work for up to four hours a day.
5. Pick up on patterns
Have you begun the great habit of scheduling what you’ll do on your next business day, when you’ll do it and where you’ll do it?
This improves your likelihood of following through by 200 to 300%.
And, even if you haven’t started that powerful tiny habit, there is one you can begin as soon as you’re done with this article.
Describe your day, as you go through it.
Write down every time you begin a task. Write the time and the task.
Every single time to task switch, write down the new task.
If you start working on writing a report at 2:08, write that down: 2:08 Draft report.
If you stop to check email. Write that down. 2:23 Check email.
Do this all through your day.
At the end of the day, notice patterns. Do you have habits you weren’t even aware of that stand in your way of clear concentration and sustained focus?
How often did you stop and task switch? How often did you check emails? How often were you interrupted? How long did it take for you to regroup and get back on priority?
Are you task switching before you complete a segment of a task? Checking email excessively? Allowing people to interrupt without suggesting that you connect with them in 30 minutes when you’re done with your project? Are you taking 20 minutes to return to priority after interruption?
Look for patterns and note opportunities for improvement.
These are steps you can start using immediately. And, unlike the weather, focus is something you can actually do something about.
Help is at hand
Are you looking for some tips, tools and techniques that will help you and your team get and stay focused?
I can help. I’m “The Employee Performance Optimizer” and I help leader leverage their employees’ time, talent and energy.
Call, text or email to set up a complimentary 30-minute consultation and we can chat about what you can do to help yourself and your team get and stay focused, no matter what is going on at work.
If you’d like insight into getting and keeping people at work focused even in times of rapid change, I can help with that. You can select whichever format works best for you and your employees: a single seminar or multiple workshops, keynotes, or coaching. If you’d like a quick complimentary coaching call, contact me and let’s get that scheduled as soon as possible.
Book a coaching session with me today!
Here’s how to reach me: Crystal@CrystalJonas.com 719.291.0366.
Footnotes for Focus Fast
* Note: I know this quotation is often attributed to Mark Twain. Quote Investigator suggests Mr. Warner said it first. In case you really dig the details, here’s your link.
1. Inspiration for this article comes from Leo Babauta’s “A Training Program for Single-Tasking & Focus” Leo writes: “First, ask yourself whether this [The Focus Training Method] is important enough to train yourself in. Do you really care about finding focus, or is everything fine as it is? If it’s not fine, what difficulty does it cause you? Is it worth it to train yourself to relieve that difficulty? Do you care deeply about this? Remember that as you practice and feel like skipping the training.” Leo goes on to offer 5 actions you can take right now to get focused.
2. I first heard about tiny habits from a Ted Talk with B.J. Fogg. Dr. Fogg offers complimentary coaching on mastering tiny habits. Check out his link here: http://tinyhabits.com/certify/
I’ve used his service several times.
3.Fun Fact, “Eustress” is a term coined by Hungarian endocrinologist Hans Selye, who wrote eustress is “stress that gives one a feeling of fulfillment or other positive feelings. . . Eustress is what give life meaning and hope.”
4. “The Growth Equation” appears in Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout and Thrive in the New Science of Success by Steve Magness and Brad Stulberg. You can find this book on Amazon. Of course.
5. For a case study how this company improved so many aspects of their business, email me at Crystal@CrystalJonas.com or call/text me at 719.291.0366 to chat about how you can get more of the right things done in a drama-free workplace.