Focus is integral to accomplishment. It may actually fall in the same category as ambition, motivation, leadership and other driving forces behind becoming successful, but does not necessarily get the attention that it deserves. Often downplayed, the role of focus cannot be sabotaged in an individual’s ability to be productive.
What all this basically means is that you need to be focused in order to achieve something or become successful in your endeavors. But before we go into that, here is a look at what focus really means.
By definition, focus is a skill that allows people to start a task without procrastination and then keep up their attention and effort until the job is complete. It is an ability to not only pay attention to things that they are engaged in but also avoid distractions that will impede the work they are trying to do.
In fact, focus is so important to getting anything done that you can’t really think without focus. When you hear about things like perception, memory, learning, reasoning, decision making and problem solving, you know that none of these can be done successfully unless you focus.
On the contrary, a wandering mind will make you less effective in your work and your productivity will suffer. The same will also compromise the quality of work giving you less than optimal results. Not to forget that you will also be wasting time every instance your mind drifts off.
Why do people suffer from a lack of focus?
In some cases, a lack of focus may be a matter of interest. Take your everyday to-do list for instance. Not everything on the list might be interesting to work on, but needs to get done anyways for you to move ahead. In these instances you may find yourself stuck, trapped doing something that you couldn’t care less about. Your only obligation may be the feeling that you need to get the job done to move on to other things. Not such a great motivator, but that’s reality; in the real world things need to get done to make way for other things.
It is only natural that your mind starts to drift off in these situations. You may end up finding excuses for not doing that particular thing, say by justifying that you don’t really need to do the job right then, or that it’s not really that important or even something like you’ve got better things to do than the job on hand. But any way you dress them up, they are all just excuses for procrastination.
Which brings us to another aspect of focus; procrastination. Procrastination is perhaps the biggest hurdle in the way of attaining good focus. When you use procrastination to get out of things what you are really saying is that you don’t want to do a particular task, or that you are secretly hoping that it will just go away on its own, or that you will eventually feel motivated to do it.
With so much going on, it is no wonder that focus gets sidelined and never surfaces to the forefront.
And while a lot more can be said on procrastination, we will cross that bridge when we come to it (in a later chapter). For now, it is sufficient to say that procrastination, in fact, is the granddaddy of all excuses and will never let you focus properly on any given task.
How can you counter a lack of focus?
Moving on, while you may be well aware of what is stopping you from focusing (think procrastination), you may not know how to tackle this problem. So here’s some help:
Address WHAT needs to be done
To make focus work for you, you need to have a clear cut goal; call it a grounded purpose towards which all your efforts are directed. When you have this reference point in sight, you can apply all your skillset and decision making to get the job done right. But with this crucial factor missing, you may as well go on a roller coaster ride.
It is these clear cut goals that define what needs to get done.
Clear cut goals also stop you from derailing and prevent you from going places where you never intended to go. Pick out a typical day in your life and think of all the fifty or so things you need to do. With your mind divided and scattered trying to deal with all fifty at the same time, you are likely not going to get much done. On the flip side, you may actually neglect to do some of the more important ones as you keep thinking about everything else instead.
This is a point where focus can come save your day. Using focus, work by the process of elimination and prioritize your goals. When you learn to prioritize your goals, you end up spending your time in a more meaningful way; the important stuff gets done first and the not-so-important later on.
Filtering out such time-eaters also help you regain control over chaos and you no longer feel that you are wasting time.
Address WHY something needs to be done
When clear cut goals are paired with a sense of purpose the dilemma starts to resolve itself fairly easily. This sense of purpose also verifies why something needs to be done.
People are naturally more motivated when they have a reason to do something. With that reason in mind, you will feel more inclined to perform better so you can get the results you seek. A sense of purpose will also fine tune your focus as you want to get the best results out of your efforts.
Also address WHEN something needs to be done
This one ties in with prioritizing your goals so that important things get done first. Knowing when to do what can make everyday living so much easier to cope with.
Plus, giving yourself a timeframe to work within helps you stay on task i.e. stay focused so you can then have more time to do the other things you need to do.
Successful time management lets you take control of your life rather than follow others. Plus, you end up accomplishing more, performing better and becoming more successful at what you do. Added perks include a sense of satisfaction and peace of mind.
But whether it is prioritizing goals, finding a sense of purpose or practicing time management skills, none of it can be achieved without good focus.
Types of focus
Having established that the ability to focus is a critical element for success in aspect of life, let us now take a look at the different types of focus you need to develop to achieve that success.
This is the most common of all types. Inner focus is an individual’s ability to block our distractions, focus on the present moment and task and stay calm under the pressure. This type of focus develops a person’s intuition, gut feeling and good decision making.
The benefit of establishing inner focus allows to stay focused in your goals and manage your own schedule.
Focusing on others
Not everyone masters this type of focus as it goes beyond what you are doing and demands that you attend to what others are doing and saying instead. This type of focus is especially important in workplace situations or teamwork scenarios where your output is affected by others’ input. However, this type of focus is not only restricted to professional settings, but is equally applicable to personal and social contexts as well.
Outer focus goes beyond paying attention to other people and demands paying attention to your surroundings instead. Outer focus is based on peripheral learning and allows a person to think strategically. It also allows for making adjustments to outer surroundings as circumstances around you change.