How to Harness the Power of Focus

In one of our previous posts, we wanted to give you an overview of Deep Work's power. Deep work includes removing distractions and efficiently scheduling your time, but it also requires a great deal of focus. We live in a world where people are quick to blame modern technology for the global crisis of reduced attention spans. Parents immediately place fault on smartphone manufacturers and social media developers for corrupting their children. After all, who else could be to blame?

A Much Needed Reality Check

The reality is that technology is an incredibly powerful tool, and we as users need to find power over it. When used correctly, technology can increase your productivity and quality of life. When used poorly, it consumes hours of your time, seemingly in the blink of an eye. While the algorithms present in social media platforms make the fight seem unfair, don't be too quick to underestimate yourself. Technology, whether we like it or not, isn't going away. Instead, it's getting more sophisticated by the day. So what's the solution? Focus.

Harnessing A New Skill

Most of us can remember countless instances where we've been asked to focus. We can also likely remember many times where we've asked others to focus. Few people have ever attended educational institutions where "focus class" is part of the curriculum. Focus indeed is a skill. It is a skill that requires learning with subsequent training through repetition to master. Focus provides you the ability to take control of your attention.

Putting It Into Practice

Here are a few great ways to practice focus:

Be Intentional

Multitasking is okay but set aside time to do so. Don't spend half or all of your workday performing multiple tasks simultaneously. This may provide the illusion of productivity, but in many cases, the work you are getting done is shallow and not providing much real value. When you first make the effort to focus on a single task, you'll find your attention quickly starting to wander. Notice this and pull your attention back to the task at hand.

If you have an idea that you don't want to lose, write it down and make time to come back to it later. Don't follow the rabbit hole of every idea that floats through your mind.

Limit Your Mindless Browsing

Social media platforms encourage you to simply scroll and enjoy the ride. Swipe through to the next video, and let the algorithm take you on a journey of your own data-backed preferences in video entertainment. The idea is not to avoid funny videos forever; instead, ask yourself beforehand, "How long do I really want to be doing this?" You'll find that most times, you'll set a limit for yourself far shorter than the time you would've spent otherwise. It will never be easy to stop when time's up either. The reluctance to close the app, however, is a good thing! The frustration you feel is just your discipline and focus muscle getting a little stronger.

Read

Whether you're an avid reader or not, you can likely recall a time where you glazed over a paragraph or page, only to immediately forget what you just read. Find a book to read, and the next time you are going through the words, practice honing in on each sentence. Make a dedicated effort to focus on the book. If your attention wanders, don't fret and don't judge yourself; simply bring your attention back to the pages and re-read whatever you missed. The frequency at which your attention wanders will lessen over time, and you will have trained your ability to focus in a way that applies to other areas of your life.

Be Grateful

Start your mornings with a routine of focused thoughts about things you are grateful for in your life. Research has shown that gratitude changes your brain for the better. Not only are you practicing control over your attention while reaping the proven benefits of gratitude, but by doing it first thing in the morning, you are also setting yourself up for success throughout the day. You are immediately putting your mind into a state of deliberate attention, making it more likely that you will continue this behavior as the day progresses.

Thoughts for the Future

Like anything else, mastery takes practice. Over time and with diligence, you will develop a greater ability to regain control of your attention.

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