Ways To get focused
Three things stop people from doing something they want to do.
- It’s too hard.
- It takes too much time.
- It costs too much money.
If you want to focus, this solution is easy, takes 5 minutes, and is free. It’s an excuse killer. 🙂
Previously, I wrote about how to get focused in 5 steps. That article was meant as a longer term life system to organize your days around. But what if it’s already 1:30 PM and you’re off to a bad start? In that case, you need a quick and easy mid-day solution to help you get focused and salvage the day.
If it’s already mid-day, you don’t want to invest a lot of time setting a system up, you just want to get going. The list is meant to take 5 minutes to execute, but the explanations are not proportionally short. This isn’t a “cheap list.” I’ll explain how and why it works.
1. Drop worry and guilt, pick up courage
It might be surprising to see dropping worry and guilt as the number one step to getting focused, but you’ll find this intuitive when you consider your experience. Guilt and worry freeze us because they “take over” the mind. They must leave because focus requires our full mental arsenal.
Think about a time when you were worried about something. Got it? Ok, now imagine if you tried to focus on something unrelated to the worry; even paying attention to television (a relatively easy task) is nearly impossible. When you’re worried, there’s no room for other thoughts.
You may have thought about a short term worry in that exercise, like someone not being home when they were supposed to, but worry can be long term as well. Here are the most common long term worries:
Any excessive worry in these 4 categories can devastate your ability to focus, and they can do it over the long term. You might be thinking, “Wait, so I’m supposed to dismantle my greatest worries in step one? We haven’t even come to guilt yet! I thought this would take 5 minutes!”
The secret is that you’re not going to be “dealing with” your worries (or guilts) here, you’re going to suspend them. Focus is well suited for blocks of time – it’s not a 24/7 superpower. As such, we are going to hold off these emotional beasts for a block of time (even a full day) so that we can focus. If we need to do it again the next day, we’ll do it again!
For suspending worry, the best strategy is to accept what you can and cannot control, and to decide to worry later. If you have poor health, finances, or relationships, there are aspects you can control and aspects you can’t. Worry tends to blanket the whole issue, which doesn’t accomplish much besides making you feel bad.
When you want to get focused, promise yourself that you’ll worry about the issue extra hard later (or now). Pick a time block to worry about it. Seriously. If you do this, you’ll probably “get” how worrying doesn’t accomplish anything. Worrying is doing nothing in a way that makes you feel like you’re doing something (tweet this).
Guilt is deadly to focus, but in a different way than worry. If worry is a mental resource hog that fills up your brain, guilt is an aggressive boar that gores your brain. Think about something you feel really guilty about, either now or in the past. For me, a massive source of guilt was from sleeping in. I would feel guilty every time I slept in late (and boy did I do that like a pro).
Do you know how guilt gores our brains and kills our focus?
Guilt is an emotional injury that draws our attention toward it like a sprained ankle – we wish it would go away, but it damages our self-image in a way that can’t easily be ignored.
Most of you have probably seen a guilty dog with its tail between its legs, right? Now, imagine you have to bet on this dog or another dog to complete an obstacle course the fastest. Their times are very similar, with the guilty dog having a slight edge time-wise on the other dog. The non-guilty dog has just been given a treat. Which do you bet on?
I’m all-in the non-guilty dog. He is motivated, focused, and ready to go, while the other dog is preoccupied with his owner being upset at him.
To suspend guilt requires forgiveness, understanding, and hope. You’re human. Take comfort in that there are people who have made worse mistakes than what you feel guilty about AND recovered from them. Maybe you feel guilty because you haven’t been productive all day – forgive yourself, understand that nobody gets through life with perfect days, and have hope that you can do something with your day that will make you smile as you lie in bed tonight.
But guilt’s ultimate weak point is a forward-looking mind. Since guilt is 100% past-based, if you’re focused on present and future opportunities, you’ll find it easy to drop guilt. You won’t feel guilty about not working out earlier when you’re breaking a sweat at the gym.
In step one, we’re replacing guilt and worry with courage – courage that you can redirect your path from your usual missteps, and courage that you can do something great today. It takes courage to believe you will have an impressive day because it will hurt you if you fall short. That’s why half-hearted courage is a poison pill – it gives you hope for a good day, but then fails you when you need that “war cry” boost.
Don’t just consider having a focused, great rest of the day. Decide.
Step 1 Summary
Guilt, worry, and courage are all decisions. Decide not to worry about what you can’t control, decide to focus on the present instead of your guilt-inducing past (whether recent or long term), and decide to believe in yourself. The combination of these three things puts people “in the zone.”