How to be more focused in life and work


We’d all like to be more focused.

At the same time, there is an industry that specialises in hijacking our brains and hooking us (and our children).

How are we going to win?

It turns out that we can focus on the things that we want to focus on – a so called top down approach – when we want to.

At the same time, our focus can be drawn automatically to distractions – or bottom up signals – like notifications on mobile phones.

So, is there anything we can do to get better at focusing on what we want to rather than being victims of our devices and environments?

According to Edward M. Hallowell, the author of Driven to distraction at work: How to focus and be more productive, there are five things we need to do.

Manage our energy

Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, writes that we should manage our creativity, not our time.

People who manage their creativity get happy and rich.

People who manage their time get tired.

Substitute energy for creativity and we get the same message – the more energy we have, the more creative and productive we can be.

Many people make a big fuss about how hard they work. In this day and age, however, is that the smart thing to do?

Manage our emotion

How we feel affects how we work.

A high stress environment or managers that use blame and threats to get work out of people isn’t going to make us feel good.

And feeling good – or even more fundamentally – feeling safe – is crucial for us to be able to do good work.

If we want people to produce, we have to give them room to experiment, to fail and to learn.

No one gets it right the first time. If it looks like they do, the chances are that they are just very good at hiding it when things go wrong.

Be more engaged

We’ll do things more happily when we’re engaged – when we like what we do.

That seems obvious – but the fact is that we’re all good at different things. Some of us like working with people. Others like solving problems.

What’s important is looking out for the tasks that help us get into flow, where we can lose ourselves in the work and we finish with more energy than when we started.

If the work drains us, or the people around us drain us, then it’s time to look at what else we can do.

Be more structured

Routines help.

They help by reducing the amount of thinking we need to do, freeing up time for more creative and important work.

Some people take this to extremes – wearing just black, for example. That cuts down decision making on what colour to wear.

Routines also create habits. If we have a routine where we start or end the day with creative work and do the administration in the middle, then every day we are going to get a little further.

Learn to take back control

This is the hardest one for many of us to learn.

We’re too eager to please – to say yes.

Life is all about goals.

As Brian Tracy says, either we’re working to achieve our goals or we’re working to achieve someone else’s goals.

We really need to focus on reaching our own goals.

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