Whenever you want to achieve something, keep your eyes open, concentrate and make sure you know exactly what it is you want. No one can hit their target with their eyes closed - Paulo Coelho
The above quote by celebrated author and lyricist Paulo Coelho sits on my desk at work and I read it daily as it assists me to keep my eye on the goals I have set on a weekly, monthly and annual basis. It's somewhat of a mantra you could say. The phrase doesn't stay at work though, it comes with me everywhere I go and helps me keep focused on whatever tasks I set for myself, in life, relationships and hobbies; However, it's not enough. One can't simply read a phrase a few times and expect everything's going to go their way. It takes effort, hard work, training, practice, skill, knowledge, wisdom and more.
Below are a few of the things I do to stay focused and keep sharp.
Minimise multitasking: I tend to focus on the task at hand rather than trying to do many at a time. If I am writing a proposal at work for instance I won't answer my phone or an incoming email until I am done, or at least the time I have allotted for that task expires. Focusing single-mindedly on that task makes me concentrate better and once complete I can switch more confidently to the next. Multitasking splits your focus and concentration.
Exercise regularly: I say this to many people and they tell me how many times they go to the gym which is great. However that's not the true meaning of it, in my opinion. Sure, going to the gym is important but so is exercising regularly to stay focused. Take a 10 minute break at work and go for a walk rather than grinding away at your desk for hours on end. The fresh air will do you good and you'll arrive back ready to crush it again! Failing that hit the floor and do some pushups. It works. The exercise doesn't even have to be too physically demanding; Some stretching and movement will go a long way towards keeping you on point.
Write lists (to do lists for example): Writing things down carries a certain power and ticking things off once accomplished is satisfying to an individual striving for focus. I use lists daily at work and when on work up for a shooting competition having a schedule and list of tasks to accomplish is integral for efficiency and motivation. Ticking off jobs as they complete avoids having your concentration undermined by thinking about those incomplete tasks. Having that history of all your complete tasks will also help keep you focussed and motivated.
Leave work where it belongs; At work: One of my failings used to be bringing work home, letting work creep into my personal life and therefore not allowing me to focus 100 percent on either. Leave it at work. Work life balance isn't 50/50 it's 100 percent at work, and then 100 percent not! Be 100 percent present at work and then 100 percent present in your personal life. That's balance.
Take breaks, or place some distance between you and the task: It's incredible just how by putting just a little distance between you and the task you can see it more clearly and when you re-engage you'll find you're more focused and productive. Military officers are taught to do this in a battle or firefight. Rather than follow their instinct, pick up a weapon and shoot, they will often move back from the line, sometimes by just a couple of metres, to detatch from the moment and take the time to think through the situation, strategy and subsequent next move. It works.
Get a good night's sleep: This is one of my favourites as I like to sleep. Getting seven to eight hours sleep before a hectic day may mean the difference between extreme focus and productivity and middling performance. Before a competition shoot I don't stay up late, I get a good sleep. This isn't always possible though, I know that, however having a good sleeping pattern can help focus throughout the day.
Schedule: Assign particular times for tasks. I run off an ideal fortnight at work. I use a fortnight as not all of my tasks are done weekly. Between the hours of 0900 and 1000 for instance I know what I will be doing and I do it to the exclusion of all other distractions including phone calls, emails and knocks on my office door. At home I do the same thing. Today for instance I had a couple of onerous tasks to do at home so did them first and assigned an end time for those tasks. I worked at the right pace to complete in the allotted time and then moved on rather than procrastinate and split my focus.
So, there's a few little techniques I use to keep focussed. Of course I am not always focussed however I try to apply the techniques above to most things I do. Being focused doesn't mean regimented though. You see, focus takes many forms. When I am sitting watching the sunset on the beach with my wife I'm focused, as is she: Focused on the moment. We're not scrolling through Facebook or whatever (we actually don't have Facebook anyway). We work hard at applying that 100 percent presence I spoke of before. Focused doesn't mean you have to miss out on being spontaneous and off-the-cuff.; It just means you need to be focussed on being spontaneous and in the moment. Simple.
[- Design and create your ideal life, don’t live it by default - @galenkp -]
Main image photograph of me by Trent Daft Photography - This is a photo of me shooting an event not too long ago. We were shooting a team stage hence the shooter to my left. This is mid-stage and I'm just closing the rifle bolt after firing and racking it to load a new round. You can actually see the spent case still in the air just near my right hand. Anyway, I finished fourth of 50 shooters in this two day event and I put it down to preparation, training, practice and a healthy measure of focus.
Focus photo by Stefan Cosma on Unsplash
List photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash