The sound of car horns honking, the chattering of two loudmouths, deafening pop music blaring away from somewhere, the problems that we deal with inside our heads, tasks piling up — all these external and internal distractions make it hard to focus. When most of us try to sit in silence, attempt to clear our heads of all the various distractions, we end up failing miserably. Why? Well, it takes practice to get into that mindset of razor-sharp focus, and you can’t acquire it overnight. But keep at it, and eventually, you’ll learn the art of keeping your focus.
Focus: A brief explanation
First of all, what is focus? Is it the skill to clear one’s head? No. It is not just about that. It is the state of committing to one task only and doing it until it’s finished. And that means you don’t multitask — your eyes are only set on one thing before proceeding to the next. Multi-tasking is the natural enemy of focus because it involves indecision as to what to do first, and ends up with having you tend to multiple things at once. Psychologists say that the brain is not designed for heavy-duty multitasking, which is what turns people into slowpokes when doing more than one task.
When you keep your focus, you boost your productivity by saying “no” to distractions and other things requiring your attention.
Warren Buffett’s strategy
Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, is a successful investor with a net worth of US$88.9 billion as of 2019. What’s the secret to his awesome business career? Focus. He has a simple yet clever strategy to get important things done without getting distracted. He calls it his “2 List Strategy.” It’s a 3-step exercise that will surely narrow down your attention to only the essential things. Take note — you can use this strategy for short-term and long-term goals, even your daily to-dos.
- Step 1: List down your 25 career goals
- Step 2: Circle your top 5, making List A. List B is the rest.
- Step 3: Accomplish List A. Avoid List B at all costs.
By doing this, you eliminate other things that don’t require much of your attention from among the ones that actually need your immediate action.
Tips to keep your focus
The next thing you need to do is simply see-through these tasks until they’re fulfilled. But of course, there’s the distractions, and if you’re still having trouble focusing, here are some tips to keep your eyes front and center.
Find a quiet place
Mark A.W. Andrews, former director of the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine at Seton Hill University in Pennsylvania, told Scientific American that sounds like car horns and screaming kids trigger the release of cortisol, or stress hormones. The more you’re exposed to the noises, the more the cortisol wreaks havoc on your focus. So find a quiet place where you can sit and finish your chore.
Leave all the distractions in another room
Your cellphone, guitar, magazines, anything that will distract you — leave them in another room. If your work requires a computer, then close unnecessary applications, and refrain from checking your social media accounts.
Give yourself a break
It’s easy to burn out when you do things non-stop. In a study involving 84 participants, they were asked to perform a computer task within an hour. Those who were allowed to take quick breaks performed well consistently. But those who straight up worked for one hour performed worse. If you think your focus is dwindling, take a break. Drink water, play with your pet, or walk around for a while before jumping back to your task.
For every assignment done, give yourself a simple reward. By doing this, you acknowledge your efforts for your success, and it helps in boosting your confidence for the next task ahead.