Ya, you're not alone!
In fact, I don't think you have to look too far to find an individual that admits struggling with relevant or sustained attention from time to time. And though certainly there can be biological/neurological/genetic reasons for this difficulty in focus that could warrant a psychological diagnosis of ADD/ADHD. For the majority of us, we are likely in a different camp. And that camp being a difficulty in concentrating that is a by-product of our environmental circumstances.
What do I mean by environmental circumstances?
Well a couple of things. First off, we have our social environment. And in today's society, there is no shortage of distracting shiny things. Whether it's social media, increased email, a 24/7 news cycle, push notifications, an endless rabbit hole of website/youtube/Netflix glory, and the plethroa of other distractions that a technologically advanced society throws at us, it is incredibly evident that our current world...is a distracting one.
Secondly, we have our own personal environment. Though we wake up everyday living on a foundation of societal distractibility, we also don't do ourselves any favors. We often overdo, overcommit, overschedule, and overtask ourselves. We say yes to too much and say no to too little. Hence, our personal environment is also cluttered with a wide array of roles, responsibilities, reservations, and requests that add to the cocktail of distraction.
To say the least, we are living distracted and for good reason. But it doesn't mean it has to stay that way. In this blog, I want to describe four streps that can help you FINE tune your focus....even if its just 1% more.
Your Four Step Guide To Leveling Up Your Concentration:
The first step we need to consider is what are the roles, responsibilities, requests, and reservations that are actually the most important or critical to us. Not everything is created equal. And though sometimes we feel like we have to do it all, in reality, we don't. As such, by funneling out the essential from the non-essential you clear up some extra bandwith. You de-clutter your mind and can begin to focus on the activities that actually move the needle the most for you.
For example, though I want to grow my business, lose weight, blog, learn guitar, increase my Spanish, learn the stock market, write a book, manage a social life, and plan a wild paddle board adventure, the reality is I cannot possibly do all these things at once.
As such, I need to funnel out the activities that I feel are the most important right now. Which, for the sake of simplicity, include marketing my business, losing weight, and learning guitar. Already this seems more manageable and less distracting. Now this doesn't mean that I will never get to or focus on those other activities. But I do need to get equipped at focusing on those essential three. Getting those maintained and sustained. And then I can start adding on others.
Can you funnel out the various roles, responsibilities, requests, and reservations that you have. Can you rank them in a hierarchy from most important/critical to least important/critical? Notice what stands out?
Now that you have identified the most essential activities (i.e., roles, responsibilities, requests, and reservations), now you want to identify what are the key area(s) of focus within that activity that tends to lead to success. Sometimes we can get distracted by behaviors that actually don't move the needle in our chosen pursuit.
Take for instance guitar. Through funneling, I've decided that this activity is a key activity for this year. But now I have a choice...what should I focus on within guitar? I can't possibly learn soloing, chord finger placement, chord changes, scales, etc all at the same time. That's way too much as a beginner. Instead, I need to identify what are the key areas of focus for me as I begin this guitar playing journey. And for me, it is getting good finger placement on the essential major chords. Start to increase my chord changing speed amongst those chords. Honestly, thats it. By focusing on those essential identified elements of focus, I am able to decrease the likelihood of other distractions creeping in.
So ask yourself...of those key activities that you've funneled out, what are the key elements that you need to focus on in order to do that activity well? Remember, less is more. Get good at focusing on one or two elements before you add on another.
Now that you've funneled out the key activities and you identified the critical elements of focus within each activity, now you want to nurture your focus. What do I mean by this? Well, again, we live in a distracting world. So you need to prime yourself before working on your activity in order to enhance the likelihood that you are able to focus effectively. So we need to visualize ourselves being able to lock in as well as set up our work environment in a way that leads to focused success.
For example, I'm not going to play guitar in a busy coffee shop. Instead I need to have my own quiet, private space, where I can mess around, look at my chord tabs, and maybe listen to a YouTube lesson. I'll also need to make sure I have my guitar, my pick, my capo, and my phone or iPad available. In addition, I need to remind myself and even visualize myself pursuing those essential focal elements. Perhaps I identify a practice plan that only includes those key areas of focus (e.g., major chord finger placement, chord changes, song play) along with a set amount of time for doing each.
So ask yourself, how can you nurture your focus? What can you do or not do that will enhance your ability to focus in on the things that you need to focus in on?
Finally, we need to evaluate what's working or not working. It's one thing to proactively identify what the key activities are and the essential elements to focus on. But things change. Life happens. So we need to evaluate where we are at currently and make adjustments as needed.
For instance, maybe business starts to really take off and I need to devote some additional time to effectively managing that. And instead of taking time on marketing efforts, I have to get presentations ready for a new organizational client. In terms of guitar, I might find that I am having difficulty with one particular chord or chord change. In which case, I would need to change my areas of focus in order to meet this particular demand.
So occasionally give yourself an opportunity to evaluate your focus. Are you still focusing on the right things? Are you still focusing on the essential elements of those things? Are you nurturing your focus appropriately? What tweaks might you need to make?
In conclusion, the goal of this blog is to help you FINE tune your focus. It's not going to be this huge game changer, because remember, we are human and we live in a distracting society where we take on distracting things. That's life. And that's cool. It's ok. Just be aware and mindful that that's what we are dealing with. However, by more deliberately applying the FINE steps mentioned above you will be able to enhance your relevant and sustained focus 1% better.
1) Funnel: What are the key roles, reservations, responsibilities and requests that are most important/critical to you right now? List them in a hierarchy
2) Identify: Of these most critical activities from above, identify 2-3 essential focal elements in each. Try not to identify too many, remember less is more.
3) Nurture: For each activity, identify ways in which you will mentally and physically nurture your focus. What structures or places can you implement that will make focusing easier or more effective for you? Remember these may be different for each activity, that's ok.
4) Evaluate: Finally, after a few repetitions, check in with yourself and assess how you're doing. Are there any tweaks that need to be made? Does your focus need to shift? Is there something that requires more attention now, than something else?