HOW TO FOCUS BETTER?
Focus, let’s talk about it.
“Where attention goes, energy flows and results show”.
I love the rhythm in this quote.
It wasn’t until later that I truly grasped its whole meaning.
For the last 5 years, I wondered why I never accomplished anything. Why did I give up? Why did I start a project to only drop everything later?
A personal experience
It is because I barely focused on anything. I lacked willpower and needed more discipline.
A project would excite me for 1 or 2 months then I will start another project. The same thing happened a lot in my relationships.
The first few weeks of a new relationship would feel amazing but when things get tough, I’d give up and search for another “interesting” woman.
In the end, I realized I never worked on any long term projects and barely experienced a fulfilling long-term relationship.
I learned from these two different experiences that what we focus on expands. “Life is a manifestation of where you direct your energy” Dandapani would say.
To understand it, try to water your garden and do that every day. In a couple of weeks, weeds and flowers would grow together. The water treated both plants either good or bad in the same way.
Now, replace water with energy. In a similar fashion, energy doesn’t make any difference between good or bad. If we put our energy into unproductive tasks, we will manifest failures in our life. By the same token, if we invest our energy in acquiring new skills, we can achieve success.
Our current situation is the sum total of what we’ve been pouring our energy in.
To succeed in life, we need to set goals and have a life purpose and then direct all our energy to accomplish it.
Understanding how the mind works
We have to make the difference between our mind and our awareness. Dandapani illustrates the mind as a glowing ball of light, like an orb. The mind is a vast space with different areas in it (money, love, hate, jealousy…). If you bring the glowing ball in a particular area, it will light it up and you become aware of that area.
If you direct your awareness into happiness for example, you will experience happiness. By using your willpower and the power of your concentration, you can take your awareness in any area you desire. As you become more aware of that area, you also strengthen that area, you bring energy into it. And once again, “life is a manifestation of where you direct your energy”.
How to focus better: Is it just a theory?
It is not a theory and we can actually experience the maxim “where your attention goes, energy flows and results show”.
For example, close your eyes and recall your very first kiss. With whom was it, how did you feel? How old were you? Were you nervous? Try to think as many details as possible. If you do this exercise, your face will light up and you will probably smile. But now, if I invite you to imagine the last time someone you’re close with passed away. Think about how the mourning experience was. When was it? How did you feel?
Dandapani in his lecture proposes these 2 exercises in a row. In 30 seconds, the audience’s awareness went from their first kiss to their last loss. He highlighted how the vibration in the room instantly changed and went from joy and bliss into grief and sorrow.
How it shows in our daily lives
“We need to control where our mind goes throughout the day”
All day, we undergo events that dictate where our awareness goes. Our energy goes where our awareness focuses on. And where we put our energy is what manifests in our life.
We don’t need to control our mind but we must direct where our awareness goes. “Don’t control your mind, control where your awareness goes within your mind”
Unfortunately, most people can’t concentrate for two main reasons:
– They never learned how to concentrate
– They never practiced concentration
Doing one thing at a time helps us develop our concentration. And we need to integrate that practice into our daily life. Observe your typical day and identify any recurring events. Practice doing one thing at a time during these repetitive tasks.
Learning the fine art of concentration
Concentration by definition is our ability to keep our awareness on one thing for an extended period of time. Concretely, we identify recurring events in our life. For example, we all wake up in the morning or prepare to go to bed at night. We can insert a new ritual, practice or skills into those recurring events.
For instance, if I want to meditate and do it continually, I’d better include that as a morning routine and practice every single day during these recurring events. Only by giving the task our undivided attention, practicing it as often as possible, would we get better at it.
“Modern society is so good at distraction”. We often criticize technology, smartphones and T.V. But these are only tools and they are neither good nor bad. We spend 3 hours a day browsing on social media for example and we practice that daily. No wonder then how distracted we become because we do practice it several hours a day, every day.
How to focus better: Habit stacking
To practice regularly, we need to create rituals. We do this by using the habit stacking technique. Actually, we all have our own habits: positive or negative. We might go to the bathroom, brush our teeth, and prepare a cup of tea or coffee. Observe your day and identify all of the habits you have. Stack a new behavior on these well-established habits.
If your habit is to sip a morning cup of tea, you can implement a new routine based on it: for example a 5-minute meditation. As you repeat these rituals over and over again, you will need less conscious effort. Your subconscious will take over and you will function in auto-pilot mode. Once you get your tea, you would instantly have your 5-minute meditation.
Therefore, if you want to develop the habit of concentration, stack that new routine on your deeply ingrained habits.
3 ways to develop willpower
Just as we get better at what we regularly practice, we can develop our willpower. Dandapani recommends 3 practical ways for doing it:
– Finish what you begin
– Finish what will be on your expectations
– Do a little bit more than you think you’re able to do
We become more mature when we have a more stable relationship and when we work consistently towards our goals.
So concretely, how to focus better?
In addition to the first principle: “Do one single thing”, here are a few tips for us to develop our focus:
Plan your work and work your plan: It allows you to get better organized. Chunk your big projects into smaller tasks. We can easily evaluate the tasks ahead. Taking into account the scope of work gives a sense of control. The more we progress in a project, the more motivated we become. What are the small achievable tasks you can do right now? What is next? Just do it.
Focus on one thing at a time: multi-tasking is a myth. A large body of research showed that our brain is not designed to concentrate on multiple complex things. According to a study by the National Institute of Health and Medical Research, we are likely to make on average 3 times more mistakes when multitasking than when we concentrate only on one thing at a time. To help you focus and avoid mistakes, work on one single thing and finish until the end. As you finish the first task, go onto the second and then the third and so on.
Eliminate all distractions: The best working environment is a distraction-free one. We must deliberately create a place conducive to concentration. Put your phone and laptop into airplane mode. Turn off your internet connection and eventually use earplugs to fully focus (I do this all the time).
Practice self-discipline and do not stop until the task is completed
You want to learn how to be more disciplined because once we get side-tracked, it is difficult to refocus. If you are tempted to do something else, remember that it takes around 15 minutes to get back to the initial focus. David Allen, in his book “Getting things done” recommends one simple tip to be more organized. He suggests us to write down on paper the task we want to do. We might forget that task later and we will not be able to fully focus on the current task.
A journal of experimental psychology highlights that we lose on average 40% of productive time if we multitask. Actually, we lose a lot of time re-focusing. Execute one task at a time and do not stop until the task is completed.
Try and practice time-blocking
When and at what time exactly are you going to work on a specific task? You are more likely to achieve it when you set your mind and fix a specific time. For instance, did you plan to go to the grocery store tomorrow at 11:30 am? If you don’t define when you’re going to do it, you will never feel that it’s the right time so you just wander throughout the day doing nothing.
Developing our focus and our concentration won’t happen overnight. We need to follow the techniques above mentioned. Choose one single action, repeat it again and again until it becomes a habit.
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