I’m not a productivity master and focusing is something I have struggled with for years. Especially, in recent years when the noise around is getting more and more disturbing… With more and more to do, to be able to reach, with more and more options and expectations, comes less success and fewer achievements just because of the lack of focus.
Therefore, I’m on a quest to crack the code of focusing and learning how to improve focus from some of the best-selling authors in the field.
In this article, I have gathered some great ideas from masterminds of productivity, focusing and getting things done and added some real-life experiences from where I stand.
Hopefully, these lessons will help you to improve focus and get more done in no time! Because focusing REALLY matters when it comes to reaching your goals.
One of my biggest lessons so far is quite simple – start doing instead of planning! But what else is there? Let’s see!
Lesson on How to Improve Focus #1: Priority is a singular, not plural word
“The main thing to do is to keep the main thing the main thing”
– Greg McKeown
This is an absolute lesson #1 on how to improve focus.
What brings the lack of focus in the first place is everything around you. It can be a TV noise in the background or a message beep on your phone. It can be a to-do list longer than your day or an impatient client waiting for your response. It’s also things that are “just there”. Like dirty dishes in the sink. A book you want to read.
All of this creates noise in our minds, urging us to keep moving from one thing to another. So we have learned to prioritize and try to focus on things that are on top of our priority lists.
Obviously, some things are more important than others.
Most of the modern-day to-do list advice might even suggest that you write down only TOP 3 to-do’s to focus better. In other cases, you can use color-coding to show the importance of the things on your list.
However, nobody seems to notice that word itself – priority – is all about ONE thing you should do. ONE primary task. There shouldn’t even exist a plural for this world. PrioritIES make no sense.
And I get how ridiculous is the idea that we should have just one priority.
“If you’ve made a backup plan, you haven’t made the decision.”
– Jen Sincero
But we’re not even talking about one priority in life. We’re talking about one priority per day. And maybe even priority per day/per life area.
For example, if you separate work, family life and self-care, in each field you should focus on ONE thing you want to do that specific day.
This doesn’t mean that it will be the only thing you’ll get done. But that should be the FIRST thing and you should focus all your energy and intention on that. Once the priority task is done, the rest is just a bonus!
This one thing shouldn’t be ridiculously small or – on the other hand – unclear and wide-focused either. Instead of “answering client’s email” it can be “creating an action plan for the new project” which might include the email, call with the client, check-in about the latest updates or anything similar.
If you’re focusing on creating a project on your own, make it a priority to, for example, “write one chapter of my new book” or “finish the landing page design”.
When it comes to self-care, we, obviously, need to get done quite a lot. Don’t put obvious things like having breakfast or taking a bath as your priority. Instead, focus on things like “read for at least 15 mins” or something else you might not get done otherwise.
Once this priority is done, you can move on to other things. And even if your focus will drift off later through the day anyway, you’ll have at least one important CHECK done on your list.
It might seem even risky to leave something on the other side of your to-do. However, if you have big goals and ambitious plans, choosing the right priority is THE only way!
“Tell me the secret of your genius. How have you created the statue of David, the masterpiece of all masterpieces? – Michelangelo’s answer: It’s simple. I removed everything that is not David.”
– Vicki Robin
Lesson on How to Improve Focus #2: You do YOU. Don’t feel guilty about focusing.
“Your actions reveal how badly you want something. If you keep saying something is a priority but you never act on it, then you don’t really want it.”
– Emily Griffin
When it comes to choosing your priority, there will be a lot of “what if’s…”. A lot of opinions from the outside.
It’s the same when you start a new project or make an unusual move in your life or business. People always have something to say. And there’s always another, a “better” way.
“If I wear clothes made from conventionally grown cotton, I’m encouraging massive pesticide use. If I wear synthetic fabrics, I use fossil fuels. If I wear nothing, I’m putting people out of work.”
– Brain Tracy
So how to understand that you’re putting your focus on the right things and, therefore, to not feel guilty about all this focusing?!
You do you. Your focus is YOURS. You live YOUR life and it’s YOUR decision where you put your attention.
It’s impossible to please everybody. Even if it comes to pleasing those the closest to you. Your husband, kids, dog or mother will always want more of you. Obviously! Your friends will always want to see you instead of knowing that you’ve stayed home to work.
Often, we lack focus because we are literally scared of the things we might be missing out (also known as FOMO – fear of missing out). So we are on the edge. Always ready to run off for the next thing. Always ready to be there when somebody needs us.
But if you’re serious about focusing, you must cut the noise and understand the consequences.
“When are you planning to become the person you were born to be? To ‘recover’ your connection to an intended path? On holiday? When the kids leave school? When you get a pay rise? Tick-tock, tick-tock, chisel poised.”
– Russel Brand
Lesson on How to Improve Focus #3: Protect your energy
“It’s not that the field of potentiality isn’t answering our prayers. It’s just that we’re praying for too many things.”
– Rachel Hollis
Where your mind goes, your intention follows…
Life’s quite simple if we look at it…
Everything we do is made of energy. Of thoughts. Manifestations. Actions. What we think. What we say. What we do. All turns into energy. All of that manifests in one way or another.
One of the most important lessons on how to improve focus is to understand that focus = energy.
Where you put your mind, your energy, that’s where your focus goes.
If you waste your energy on things that don’t matter, you won’t have any left for the things that do.
Spending too much time on social media, arguing with your kids, getting overwhelmed by the amount of clothes in your closet…
It’s important to simplify and focus your energy. Improve your mindset! Understand that all you think matters. And shift to positivity. Shift to growth. Helping. Inspiring. Being better. For yourself and others.
It’s easy to lose energy. I often get pissed about small things. Like somebody being late. But what for? Me wasting my energy won’t help anybody. The person won’t arrive any earlier anymore and I’m just cluttering my own mind space.
Instead, go the other way and actually do what makes you feel good, get more positive juices going.
Whether it’s a 15-min walk, going to the gym, playing with your kids of cooking a wonderful meal. Don’t be scared to invest time in these small beautiful things. The more positive energy you have, the better you’ll be at investing this energy to make more good things happen!
Lesson on How to Improve Focus #4: Improve your environment
“On the tough days, it’s crucial to have as many things working in your favor as possible so that you can overcome the challenges life naturally throws your way. The less friction you face, the easier it is for your stronger self to emerge.”
– James Clear
Productivity focused environment can make or break your ability to focus!
In short, make it harder for yourself to be distracted.
If you are in the middle of the noise, there is almost no way to focus, even physically. Your eyes will be running from thing to thing. Your mind will be racing along. Even worse, if people come to distract you.
Finding the perfect spot to be focused and productive can be like the mission impossible. Especially, if you’re working from home. Or don’t have a dedicated workspace at all. Or if you’re a stay at home mom, trying to manage your kiddos along the way.
I get it. Not everybody can have a soundproof office with nothing but a table, chair and laptop in it.
However, it’s not what we need to focus on here (ha, see what I did there?)
“One of the most effective things you can do to build better habits is to join a culture where your desired behavior is the normal behavior. New habits seem achievable when you see others doing them every day.”
– James Clear
There are a few requirements you can aim for, depending on your options:
- Create a dedicated workspace with no distractions in sight. In the perfect case scenario, do that office thing with the table and chair only…
- Inform your colleagues/family or anyone else around to not disturb you in the specific hours. It might not be smart to request this for all of your workday. However, when you want to be REALLY focused, let them know.
- Use soundproof headphones to block out any noise and listen to some focusing music. Classical music works for me like a charm! And it’s also the perfect way to let others know you’re not available for a conversation.
- Surround yourself with people who think alike, who understand your need to focus and respects your space. This might be easier said than done. However, if you have the flexibility, use it for your own good!
- Get the somewhat urgent chores done before you start working so they are not on your mind all the time. Especially necessary if you’re working from home and, for example, will need to look at the pile of dirty clothes all day long, unless you put them in the washing machine…
- Turn off the notifications, make your phone quiet, turn it into an airplane mode.
- The cleaner is the space around you, the cleaner will be your mind.
- The fewer sounds, beeps and burps you’ll be hearing, the less distracted you’ll get.
Keep your workspace fresh and clean, make it your saint spot where nothing that isn’t work-related gets in.
Lesson on How to Improve Focus #5: Be clear about what matters in the long run
“We get a temporary high from solving urgent and important crises. The momentary appeal of these tasks seems irresistible and important, and they devour our energy. But in the light of time’s perspective, their deceptive prominence fades; with a sense of loss we call the vital task we pushed aside.”
– Stephen R. Covey
It’s so, so, SO easy to get distracted by the things that don’t matter.
Of course, we still have small day-to-day tasks to deal with.
It’s important to always keep your eye on the prize. Keep in mind your BIG goals and do everything you can to reach them.
Plan it out, step by step, and make sure to check in daily. Keep yourself accountable! Give a new meaning to your daily tasks by keeping in mind WHY you are doing this.
For some, the goal might be to earn consistent passive income, others might strive to pay off the debt, send kids to college, go on quarterly trips with friends or family.
You don’t have to explain your goals or reasons for everybody. Create your vision and go for it, day by day!
Before you go… Don’t underrate stillness
Being still and doing nothing is just as important for being productive as the rest of these tips.
However, it’s more than just doing nothing.
To be productive and immerse into process, you have to actually appreciate what’s in front of you. Get into it.
It’s hard to do only things you love. Rarely anyone can live a life like that – if there even is somebody… But you should become more mindful and intentional even about the things that don’t make you jump out of your pants.
Embrace the peacefulness when the task comes along. The time will pass anyway. No stress, no to-do lists, no going mad about it will help.
Just be there and deal with what’s in front of you.
It sounds like a fairytale. But just think about it. If you could stop and really take it step by step, take in everything you need to do, wouldn’t you be in more peace and, therefore, way more productive?
“Don’t let the beauty of life escape you. See the world as the temple that it is. Let every experience be churchlike. Marvel at the fact that any of this exists – that you exist.”
Got inspired? Here are some book suggestions!
Although I have been (moment of truth!) too lazy to note which book each quote comes from, here are most of the books listed. Great reads to improve your focus and get more productive in no time:
- The 10x Rule: The Only Difference Between Success and Failure
- Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done
- The 5 Second Rule: Transform Your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage
- Breaking The Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One