There’s a forgotten art in our modern age. It’s an art that’s always been rare, but recently it’s become so rare, that very few people know how to do it and even fewer do it regularly.
It’s the art of focusing on just one thing at a time.
Doesn’t that sound delicious? Decadent?
What a gift to give yourself.
The ability to focus.
In this blog post I’m going to share tips with you on what I personally do and what works for me.
Below is the podcast version of this blog post (with lots more stories!). To subscribe to the podcast, just open your favorite podcast app and type “Balanced Working Moms” in the search.
Biggest Challenge of our Day
If you were to ask me what I believed is one of the biggest challenges in our technology age, without hesitation, I would tell you that it’s the lack of focus.
With so much in front of us wanting our attention, being able to focus on only one thing is almost impossible. Almost 🙂 In this article, we’re going to show you to make it possible.
Focusing isn’t exciting. It’s boring. I’ll admit it.
Distraction is FUN but it has a huge price.
- It takes us away from our work,
- It makes it take FOREVER to get the work done, and
- It stresses us
Remove the Stress
My friend, I want to help you get rid of the stress that comes from losing focus.
The goal of this article is not for you to be perfect and never lose focus. That’s not realistic.
You have a lot of things going on. You have kids, pets, spouses, jobs, bills, piles of papers. Whatever you have going on, you don’t have the luxury of always being focused.
But sometimes you may want to give yourself the gift of focus.
Yes, it’s a GIFT.
It’s a gift to get something done quickly and efficiently and feel really great about it.
So let me share with you some ways on how you can give yourself this gift.
First, I have a free printable for you. It’s a sign you can post outside your door (office door or even bedroom door) to remind your kids not to interrupt you. When it’s PANDA TIME, they can come in and cuddle you. But when it’s LION TIME, they should stay out. This sign won’t work all the time, but with practice, it does work most of the time in my household.
Click here for the password to access the sign (and lots of other useful printables).
Practice Makes Better
The good news is that Focus is a muscle. The more you do it, the better you’ll get.
Unfortunately, you’re like me and you probably train yourself to not focus all day, but don’t worry about that for now.
The more you do focus, the better you’ll get at it.
You may even crave it. For example, when I do my outlines, it doesn’t even occur to me to turn on my phone. I crave this quiet time to get my task done. It feels amazing.
So let’s go step by step on how to focus:
1: Chose a task you WANT to focus on
If you’re cooking, for example, you may not care if you’re also doing something else, like listening to podcast or a book.
If you’re doing your taxes, you may not want to get interrupeted….
The trick to learning how to focus is to reserve it for the times you really want to do it.
Otherwise, you won’t enjoy it. Some tasks really are better done not fcoussed. it makes them more fun. Like doing laundry while watching TV. Don’t pick that one for your focused task. Enjoy being unfocused when doing your laundry.
But when you have work that involves thinking, save that for the focused time.
Okay. So now you have a task that you want to get done. You’re ready to focus! What next?
2: Set your location
Location can make ALL the difference.
Here’s what Tim Ferris writes in the 4-hour Workweek:
I think that focus is thought of as this magical ability. It’s not a magical ability. It’s put yourself in a padded room, with the problem that you need to work on, and shut the door. That’s it. The degree to which you can replicate that, and systematize it, is the extent to which you will have focus.
Do you love this?
So simple and so powerful.
One of my favorite things in the whole world to do is to find a fun location to work in.
My two top favorites are the library or a coffee shop, and not necessarily in that order. I equally love both.
If I have something to do, I get it done AT LEAST twice as fast AND the quality is top notch.
The important thing to do is when you’re in these locations is to go in with an attitude that you’ll not do anything else. No playing on your phone. Nothing else.
3. Decide in advance to remove all distractions
I have a rule that when I’m doing certain tasks, I get rid of distractions.
- No emails
- No phone
- No people (kids, husband)
- No switching what I’m working on. This one is key. As soon as the task seems hard, boom! We switch and work on something else.
I think the biggest distraction can be other work.
Because you KNOW your phone is a distraction. but if something gets hard so you switch to something else,
That feels like you’re doing something right.
But of course, if you just stuck with item you’re supposed to work on, in a few minutes you’d probably be DONE and would feel amazing.
4. Set a timer
I would say that a timer is one of the best things in the world to help get you focused.
It’s even better for focus than sitting in Starbucks. Really.
Picture this. You have a whole kitchen to clean and it’s late. You don’t want to clean it, you want to relax.
You set the timer for 15 minutes. Do you think you’re going to go on your phone when the timer is going? No way!
You’re going to MOVE IT for those 15 minutes and get as much as that kitchen cleaned as you can. Chances are, if the timer goes off and the kitchen isn’t yet cleaned, you’ll even keep going.
You know I’m right.
Once you get into the zone, you don’t want to stop!!!
5. Pomodoro technique
Here’s another one of my favorite ways to stay focused. It involves a timer, so you know it’s going to work.
It’s the Pomodoro technique.
This is great when you really don’t feel like doing something.
For this technique, you work for a small amount of time, and then you get a break.
You can use this technique with any amount of time, but it’s usually done with 25 minutes work and 5 minutes play.
If you want to adjust that, that’s fine. Do 5 minutes of work and 25 minutes play. Whatever you want!!
It’s magical. During the time you work, you really work. Since you know your playtime is later, you focus and you get it done!
It’s my favorite tool.
6. Leave your phone in a different room.
You knew we were going here.
Our phones are our biggest distractions. We’re cleaning. We pull out our phone. We’re cooking, we pull out our phone. We’re at the checkout, we pull out our phone.
When I feel that my to-do list is as long as a toilet paper roll, I put my phone in the charger and shut the door to the cubbard.
My phone adds so much anxiousness to an already busy day. You don’t even realize you’re doing it. You’re in the middle of something and you just quickly text someone or look something up.
Then you forget what you were doing in the first place. Even though that THING was really important
Your best tool for focusing is to just put the your phone away for a few hours. I’m not saying all day, but a few hours will help you so much, you won’t even believe it.
Even when my phone is with me, I always have it on silent mode.
Give Yourself The Gift Of Focus
If this topic resonated with you, I highly recommend the book, Make Time. How to Focus on What Matters Every Day by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky.
Being able to focus is a joy.
You feel so great when you get things done.
You feel energized instead of exhausted when you do something without distractions.
I also believe that being able to focus is a lost art in our day and age.
If you can get yourself to focus, even if it’s only for a small part of your day, you’ll amaze yourself at what you accomplish.
I know you can do this!! I’m excited for you to get more done by sticking with your focus. And if you already are great at focusing, I’m hoping this article has inspired you to keep at it.