In today’s always-on, information-overloaded world, it can be hard to stay focused throughout the day. How often is one distracted by inner chatter during meetings? Or finds that emails are pulling one away from more important tasks? Most of us may relate to such situations. A survey found that 73% of leaders feel distracted from their current task either “some” or “most” of the time. As a result, 65% of respondents fail to complete their tasks. While these numbers are alarming, they also represent a massive potential for improving performance and effectiveness. “If there is one secret to effectiveness,” said leadership pioneer Peter Drucker, “it’s concentration”. The ability to apply a calm, clear focus – to the right tasks, at the right time, in the right way — is the key to exceptional results.
In our age of information overload, this is truer now than ever before. Without focus, career success can be difficult to attain. Thus, for aspiring leaders, focus should be a daily mantra. Below mentioned are two steps, which can help in managing and maintaining focus:
Understand Your Daily Focus Pattern
One should observe and make note of their focus pattern during the day, like How well does one focus during different time of the day? This will lead to a pattern that will vary from person to person. Understanding this pattern can be very useful in understanding how one could plan their day. With this pattern in mind, consider which activities to do at various times during the day. This will help in planning the most important activities, and meetings, around the times when one’s focus is strongest, and in planning practical and active tasks during the hours when it tends to be weaker.
Know What Influences Your Focus
Focus is dependent on many physical and mental factors. Some are good for focus, while others are not.
The most obvious is sleep; if one doesn’t sleep sufficiently, focus and judgment would suffer. Moreover, exercise and the types of food we eat, significantly impacts our ability to stay focused. Surprisingly, coffee, contrary to what many of us believe, is not useful for our focus. The caffeine in it suppresses drowsiness, but scatters our focus. Needless to say, alcohol is bad too.
Our mental states also impact on our focus. Negative emotions generally decrease it. Paul Ekman, of the University of California, San Francisco, described, how difficult emotions create a refractory period that narrows one’s focus to the object of that emotion. In other words, if one gets angry, it is hard to be focused on anything else than what made them angry. The same goes for desires. Positive emotions, generally, have the opposite effect of enhancing and opening one’s focus to see the bigger picture.
The team at Actuate Business Consulting, a knowledge-based management consulting firm in India, believes, that focus can be achieved by training and planning. With a bit of effort and by adopting the aforementioned steps – understanding one’s daily focus pattern, working around them with a bit of planning, paying attention to the activities & emotions that derail focus and avoiding them – focus can be sustained throughout the day.