5 Steps to Better Focus
Alexander Webb – The Wandering Writer
We all want perfect focus—but it seems so elusive. Some days it seems like everyone else is getting work done, but we can’t seem to even get started. Let’s look at a few tricks to improve our focus and get on the right track.
If you’re so busy that you don’t even know where to start, don’t sweat it. Simply start somewhere, anywhere, for 5 minutes. Oftentimes, the hardest part is simply getting started. Promise yourself that you will do 5 minutes of work. Oftentimes, this 5 minutes becomes 15 before you realize it, and then you’ve gotten something important done.
The Pareto Principle is a rule of thumb that states that often, 80% of your results come from 20% of your effort. This might seem scary—“80 percent of my time is worthless!”—but its not. It’s actually liberating. A few, well placed and well thought out activities can create great amounts of value. Find out what these are for your task, and focus on those.
Nobody is scarily productive all the time. Use this to your advantage. You don’t need to feel bad or stress about unproductive periods. This happens. In fact, most of the value you create will be from a limited amount of work.
Working more helps you get more done—up to a point. Then, your productivity falls. An analysis of OECD countries, shows that increasing hours worked actually reduced productivity. Moreover, other evidence suggests that working more than 50 hours per week will also destroy productivity. The takeaway? Work fewer hours, but when you do work, give it your all.
Facebook and other forms of social media are notorious time wasters. It’s easy to log in, telling yourself you’ll only check a few updates, then wind up 45 minutes later commenting on your fifth cat video of the evening. Limit yourself to brief looks.
People are different and have different work styles. If checking Facebook is what helps you handle a stressful workday, keep looking at it—while you watch your time. If a morning workout is what helps you get through the day, be sure to hit the gym. If a small candy at work is what helps you cope, don’t worry about it. Find your balance of happy and productive and don’t worry if it’s strange or different than your colleagues.
Focus is a constant struggle, so don’t fret if you have unproductive days. Taking a deliberate approach to improve focus will pay long-term dividends, while looking for quick fixes like caffeine are unsustainable in the long term.
Alex Webb is a traveller who has visited over 30 countries and lived in Hong Kong, Japan, China, South Korea, and the United States. He has written for National Geographic Books and co-authored a book published by the Financial Times Press. When he’s not travelling or writing, he enjoys playing guitar and writing songs. Follow him on instagram at @alxndrwb