How to focus even if you find it impossible?
Why is it difficult to complete our work with focus?
We overestimate our productivity in a day. In the morning, We believe we are going to finish all the tasks but 20-30% of things rarely see the end.
How can we finish what we start without losing focus?
In this podcast, you will know the small strategies that will make a big impact. You will be able to increase your productivity by 30-40%
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I remember a friend of mine who got married last year.
He married in December 2019. He fixed his date of marriage in June’2019. He had 6 months to prepare. He wanted him once in a lifetime event to be successful and memorable. And why not? He was sharing his planning with me for all the events that led to the final wedding day.
I am not too sure if you know but in India, the wedding event most of the time stretch for 3-7 days.
He was taking care of every single thing that is required in each small event before the wedding. The clothes, the wedding hall decoration, religious rituals, invitation cards etc. That’s a lot of things. And he managed to do all those things well and his wedding event was successful. Everything went according to the plan. The perfect plan executed perfectly.
But that’s not what happens in our business.
It’s December 2020 right now. It’s almost the end of 2020. I am currently planning for 2021. That’s what people generally do. I have been planning every year since probably 2012. I think most businesses and even individuals do yearly planning. If not, quarterly, monthly or daily. But you know and I know that most of the planning fails.
Forget about yearly or monthly goals, We overestimate our productivity in a day.
In the morning, We believe we are going to finish all the tasks but 20-30% of things rarely see the end. Since 2018, I managed to finish almost 50-60% of my tasks. I know this number is not so huge but it’s bigger than completing 20-30% of the tasks.
It’s hard to get focused and do the damn things.
So here you go, We are going to discuss 3 things that will help you to get more focused.
- Why I eliminate more than I select?
- How managing your body clock can increase your focus by 20%
- What to do when you are not in a mood to do things?
Let’s start with the first one, shall we?
Henry Kissinger is an American politician, diplomat, and geopolitical consultant.
He served as United States Secretary of State and National Security Advisor. He worked under the presidential administrations of Richard Nixon. When a young man asked him if he would give some career advice.
Henry answered, ‘NO’.
Just ‘NO’. When the young man turned around to go away, Kissinger stopped him. And explained: “My advice is ‘NO’. Always let your first answer be NO.” To do more and great things, you have to learn to say ‘NO’. You can’t say yes to all. Not everything needs your attention. Not everything needs to be done. You have to be selective in the tasks you say yes to. There are 10-50 or 100 things are flying over our head. We can’t do all. You can’t say ‘YES’ to all.
That’s too much to do.
You are going to finish very few tasks and those few tasks will require your intense focus. You can’t focus intensely on 100 things. You have to learn to focus. When you pay attention to a task, your energy flow towards it. If you scatter your energy, you are not going to complete the task. I am writing the script of this podcast sitting in a far corner of a cafe where nothing is distracting me.
For example, Solar energy – the Sun’s rays are not too hot.
But they’ll burn the grass with fire if focused through a magnifying glass. As Sam Parker says: “At 211 degrees (Fahrenheit), water is hot. At 212 degrees, it boils. And with boiling water, comes steam. And with steam, you can power a train.” You have to focus and persevere to reach the boiling stage.
When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1996-97, he cut down the product line from 350 products to just 10.
This allowed him to focus Apple’s energy and resources in creating the iPod. That revolutionized the music industry forever and was the beginning of Apple becoming the most valued company in the world! We know that focusing is important. But this knowledge doesn’t make focusing easy. Why do we find focusing difficult?
There are two reasons for it.
1. Attention requires energy. Focusing your attention consumes glucose and other metabolic resources. It drains you.
2. Being focused and doing the same thing is boring. Predictability is boring to our minds. And that’s why we chase new and exciting things.
You have to fix these issues to make focusing easy. Let’s find out how to manage our daily routine that will increase your focus by at least 20%. Let’s dive into the second part, shall we?
The leader of the orchestra is called the ‘Conductor.
He provides the beat by moving his/her arms, usually with a baton in one hand. He keeps all members of the orchestra together and ensures that players come in at the correct time. The master conductor knows when the music should go high and when it should go down.
He knows what increases the energy in the audience and what makes them bored.
If the beats are played at too high consistently, it makes the audience exhausted. If he plays lower beats consistently, the audience will not enjoy. The conductor of the orchestra directs the instrument players elegantly by managing the timings of high and low beats.
Our body has the same sort of orchestra happening inside.
It’s called the Circadian rhythm. A circadian rhythm is like an orchestra. It’s the united expression of the rhythms of millions of cells, a common chemical may serve as the conductor, or at least as the baton. Time your focus. Your ability to pay attention peaks with your circadian rhythm.
Just like how the Sun’s rays can be focused the most at noon, your body’s energy also peaks at a certain time.
If you sync your most important work during those times, your ability to focus and do better work will improve. This is extremely important but often neglected. Research done on athletes have shown that when their bodies are at their circadian peak, they are more likely to beat world records.
Playing at your peak matters.
So pay attention and listen to your body to see what time of the day you feel most focused. Find out at what time, your body performs at the peak. Do the things that require high energy during that time. You will get a lot more done. When your body is not performing at peak at specific times, do the things that require the lower energy.
Know the clock that ticks in your body and you will know how to manage your energy to manage the tasks.
When you focus, the brain functions in a specific way. You need to train your brain. Focus is a muscle. And just like any muscle, it also needs downtime to be replenished. Scheduling breaks between tasks is important to be able to better focus and perform with higher productivity. Take some breaks. Our body needs some time to recharge. 20-30 minutes Naps have also been proven to improve concentration and productivity. That takes us to the third part. It’s about what to do when we are not in the right emotional state?
During the 1970 British Open Golf championship, Doug Sanders missed winning the tournament.
He missed because of his mistake of concentration on an easy shot. He missed putting the ball from 3 feet away – something he could have done in his sleep! Sanders exclaimed later on that he was preparing the victory speech in his mind at that time!
It’s easy to get distracted. It’s difficult to stay in the present moment.
We are thinking far too much about the past or far too much about the future. We think and generate emotions. And these emotional distractions take our focus away. When we think of the past or the future, we have certain emotions such as anger, pride, greed, hate, jealousy, excitement and lust. They can destroy our focus.
So, what to do?
Well, I do meditation. There are hundreds of ways to meditate. You can pick up any meditation exercise that suits you. Learn mindfulness meditation. Learn to calm your mind down. Stop going far too much in the past or too much in the future.
Two psychologists called, Sheard and Golby, did research on swimmers about how mindfulness exercise works.
They found out that swimmers improved their strokes, even when they spent just 45 minutes a week on mindfulness exercises like visualization and concentration. Just a few minutes of focusing on your breathing can get you focused. Making a practice of such mindfulness will make you better focused throughout the rest of the day. That takes us to the end of this podcast.
Let’s summarise what we have covered so far. It’s hard to get focused and do things. We covered how can we get focused and do the things that we need to do.
We started with the first thing that we need to eliminate more things than we select. We need to say ‘NO’ to more things. You can’t focus intensely on 100 things. You have to learn to focus. When you pay attention to a task, your energy flow towards it. If you scatter your energy, you are not going to complete the task.
Then in the second part, we discussed the circadian rhythm.
There is a clock in your body that tells you the time when you can perform at peak. So pay attention and listen to your body to see what time of the day you feel most focused. Find out at what time, your body performs at the peak. Do the things that require high energy during that time. You will get a lot more done. If you force your brain to do things when your body is performing at peak, you will win. When your body is not performing at peak at specific times, do the things that require the lower energy.
Then in the third part, we talked about managing our emotional state.
It’s easy to get distracted. It’s difficult to stay in the present moment. We are thinking far too much about the past or far too much about the future. When we think of the past or the future, we have certain emotions such as anger, pride, greed, hate, jealousy, excitement and lust. They can destroy our focus. To take charge of your emotional state, do meditation, mindfulness exercises or anything that keeps you in the present moment.
Before we wrap up this podcast, let me share a big question that will get you focused intensely and instantly.
In a book on focus called “The One Thing”, Gary Keller gives us the lens through which we should focus our energy. He asks “What’s the one thing that I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” The answer to this question helps us in directing our focused energy to a place where it’ll have the most impact.
Find that one thing that can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary.
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