“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.” ~ Alexander Graham Bell
I’m at Starbucks, but my mind is off contemplating what my workout for this afternoon will look like. I’m working on my Willpower ebook, but I have tabs open for my Audible.com Wishlist, my website analytics, an article on meditation, and HotNewHipHop.com.
Oh yeah, and now I’m writing this article. Also, I haven’t had breakfast yet, do we have eggs at home? Damn. I need to go to the grocery store at some point. And do I have any clean underwear? When’s the last time I did laundry?
My headphones are blaring the Weeknd’s new album. Shit, I forgot to finish filling out that paperwork for the gym I just applied for. And Kels wants to go do something this afternoon. What should we do? I want to do something fun and turn on my “woo-ing” skills.
Sounds like ADD, huh? Not really. This is a typical morning for me, and I would guess for many of you too.
With Facebook, Twitter, building a career, sleeping, and cheeseburgers with avocados and fried eggs on it, how are we suppose to do anything else in a day? Throw in a blog post, customer support emails, and wooing, not only do I have a full day, but a full week!
Focus may be a more valuable skill now than ever. With all the bells and whistles, places to go, and things to see, focus is becoming less and less of an easy task.
When we focus, we perform better, we learn better, and we are a better friend. It’s so annoying when I’m telling an awesome and hilarious story to a friend that picks up their phone and checks Facebook. We become productive rather than just busy. We become more effective and efficient in our day-to-day lives.
The Myth of Multitasking
“If you chase two rabbits you will not catch either one.” ~ Russian Proverb
When we multitask, we fall victim to context switching. Context switching is the idea that if we work on one task at a time, that task gets 100% of our energy and time (duh). BUT, but.. when you have two tasks, you have approximately 45% energy and time on each, and the other 10% goes to finding the tab you were on or where you placed your pen. If you are a real OG, like me and all my tasks this morning, and work on 5 tasks at once, you can lose up to 75% of your time and energy. Leaving 5% for each task. Not a good look.
So here are a few tips to let go of the multitasking myth, be more focused, and how to be a better friend when I am telling amazing stories.
Saying “No” More
“The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.” ~ Warren Buffett
This is something I’ve been practicing lately. It’s difficult to say no to things. We don’t want to hurt people’s feelings or we get FOMO and don’t want to hear about how much fun we missed out on.
We are all very good at to-do lists, but we need to also have a don’t-do list.
Shane Parrish from Farnum Street Blog writes about having a “Stop Doing List” and quotes an exercise by legendary business writer Jim Collins:
“Suppose you woke up tomorrow and received two phone calls. The first phone call tells you that you have inherited $20 million, no strings attached. The second tells you that you have an incurable and terminal disease, and you have no more than 10 years to live. What would you do differently, and, in particular, what would you stop doing?”
An interesting thing to ponder, no? My guess is you’d stop caring about the Duggar Scandal, or hanging out with people that drain you, and even start engaging in work you love.
An eye-opening exercise I recently did that really put things in perspective for me is Warren Buffett’s 2-step process to finding your true priorities. Try it out, and then stick with your true priorities.
Rest Based Living
When I use to write on health & fitness for college students, one of my favorite topics was study tips and how to pull a “healthy” all-nighter. At the end of every semester I would launch a Q&A and put out a blog post on how to increase focus.
Here are some of the tips I use to share:
- Take breaks: Tony Schwartz writes and teaches on energy management and one idea that has really stuck with me is his idea of Ultradian Rhythms. Schwartz says that “we oscillate every 90 minutes from higher to lower levels of arousal (no, not that kind of arousal) and alertness.” Taking short, 5-10 minute renewal breaks – by reading, meditating, taking a leisure walk – can rejuvenate you and allow you to perform at high levels all day long.
- Block Time: I picked this up from Brendon Bruchard, a speaker and entrepreneur. Block time is when you eliminate all distractions – internet, news, radio, other humans, puppies, and sandwiches – set a timer (I’d recommend 90 minutes, remember the rhythms from above!), and go to work on ONE task. It’s an all out sprint of focused time.
- Elevate Your Feet: Research has shown that when blood rushes to your head, it can “make you smarter.” Every 90 minutes, try sitting back, kicking your feet up, and rejuvenating your brain for 5-10 minutes.
- Blitzes: 60 seconds, 1 exercise, as many reps as possible. Blitzes get blood flowing and reenergize you. Try doing a one-minute blitz every 30 minutes. You can even do them in Times Square –> Check out how to here
- Cocoa Powder: If there is a natural form of the study drug Adderall, this is it. Here’s how to make a focus cocktail.
- BCAAs: BCAA supplementation has been shown to maintain muscle mass (and even build muscle!), decrease hunger & cravings, and balance blood sugar. When your hunger, energy, and cravings are in check (shout out Metabolic Effect), you are able to remain focused longer.
Now that I gave you 20 things to focus on, good luck focusing this week!