On numerous occasions I’ve sat down to write a blog post, only for 3 hours to pass and for me to A) not have completed said post and B) have started working on 4 other things. One might say there is nothing wrong with that. That I’m just multitasking! But I recently learned, that humans aren’t really meant to multitask. Working on 5 things at once is not getting those 5 things done any faster or better. So why not work on just one at a time? Single-pointed focus is just that. It’s zeroing on one task — either to completion, or for the entirety of a designated amount of time.
Focusing on one task. Sounds simple enough right? Except it isn’t always. Between personality types and the endless distractions (read: social media and our iPhones), single-pointed focus can be really complicated.
By nature, with the confirmation of many personality tests, I have a tendency to lose focus somewhat easily. I’m not alone in that, I know; and it’s okay to admit it and be honest with yourself if you too possess this personality trait. But while there is no harm in acknowledging the fact, it’s incredibly important to not hide behind it. To not use it as a way to defend an inability to complete a task in a timely matter.
Saying “I’m not good at focusing”, is not acknowledging a personality trait, but instead telling yourself a story, based on your past experiences. But all of the power to rewrite that limiting belief, lies within ourselves. We have the ability to say, “I’m not good at focusing YET, but here’s what I can do to work on it.”
Self-awareness is an important first step, but not the only step. Taking action to grow from your awareness is how positive change happens. Which is why I’ve started to practice my single-pointed focus and you can too. I believe in you. Here’s how.
Acknowledge, Then Rewrite:
Before you can make change, you need to make space for that change. Acknowledge that perhaps you have history of struggling with single-pointed focus and completing a task, but then move forward to rewrite this personal narrative. You can start with a statement of I’m not great at focusing, YET, but I am actively working on it.
There are a variety of mindfulness techniques to help you retrain your mind. Try affirmations like: “I am able to start a task and see it all the way through”, or “I can focus all of my attention on what I am doing in the moment.” Repeat affirmations like this before sitting down to do work. Another option is visualization. Asking yourself what it would look like to be able to focus? How would it feel to be focused and to complete your task? Take 3 minutes to go through this visualization when you sit down at your desk to get your mind moving in the right direction.
Part of the struggle with staying focused can be blamed on the never-ending list of things you have to do; just floating around in your mind. I’ll have 2 hours to work on things, but instead of just completing one, I find myself doing mini portions of 7. One thing I’ve started doing to address this is Brain Dumping. I heard about this from a few different podcasters. The idea is to unload everything floating around in your mind onto a piece of paper, creating the space to prioritize and choose just one of those items at a time.
I wasn’t sure this was going to help me, but I can’t speak highly enough about its efficacy. When I sit down to my computer, I take out paper or a post it and write every possible thing I could work on at the moment. Then I rank the activities and tackle the items of urgency, taking comfort in knowing I won’t forget any of the other things that I had on my mind.
I’m a wanna be list maker; envious of those who can keep up with a consistent list making habit. Brain dumping is somewhat lazy list making, but can do wonders for your ability to check tasks off your list.
Time Blocking and Batch Working:
If routines are your jam, this will be easy for you. If you tend to be a free-spirited worker, I urge you to hang with me and see that time-blocking can work for you too.
Time blocking is scheduling in certain times in your week/day to do a certain type of work. The idea being that you work on only this type of work during the time chunk so that your mind isn’t tempted to work on something else. I like to reject routines and just go with the flow. But I’ve had to acknowledge that there are times when routines are necessary and/or simply better.
Scheduling in certain times of the week to write blog posts or work on social media marketing or craft has helped me avoid that “what do I do right now!?” panic. If you loathe the rigidity of routines, avoid scheduling specific hours, but instead just designate certain days. For instance, make Monday a behind the scenes day where you work on your website design and creating templates. Then Tuesday can be your writing day and so on.
Batch working is similar to time blocking, with a larger emphasis on the idea of doing a mass amount of the same type of work all at once. For instance, if you’re a blogger it would be spending one day to write your entire month of blog posts at once, so that you don’t have to write for the rest of the month. Trust me, I’m not here yet, but it’s definitely a goal!
Turning Down the Distractions:
The little black brick that’s always within arms reach is a major source of my attention issues. It can be hard to resist the mindless scroll. When trying to get things done, I try to put my phone on airplane mode or leave it in another room. Yes, I know the better thing to do would be work on my impulsive phone grabbing. But one thing at a time. For now this is what works. I also turn the TV off and try to limit the amount of words in the music I listen to. I have a few go-to playlists for getting the most work done. Like I said, humans aren’t meant to multitask, so turning down the number of outside stimulus is important to staying focused.
When Its Time To Rest, Rest:
One of the most simple and effective ways to remain focused and task-oriented when doing work, is to appreciate and enjoy the moments you have to unwind. I am able to get so much more done during the week by removing the pressure to be productive over the weekend or evenings. Not to say there aren’t evenings and weekends where I work on things, but keeping those times in mind as my rest time has helped me remain focused during the work heavy parts of the day.
What do you do to stay focused?
I’ve shared with you what helps me, but these aren’t the only ways to work on single-pointed focus. What have you tried? Are there certain tasks and techniques that help you zero in your focus?
Leave a comment below and let me know your favorite focus techniques!