One of the things that I have seen a rise in the past 15 years or so is the increase in diagnosis involving focus. Whether it’s ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) or OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder), the list of diagnosis that indicates a challenge in our ability to focus has America in the lead above any other country. The blame has shifted from the school system, to the household, and even the programmers of major television stations. Famed novelist Arthur Golden said, “A mind troubled by doubts cannot focus on the course of victory.” With this in mind, it is evident that no matter who’s to blame for our lack of focus, we need to discover a remedy now.
Focus, by definition, is the adjustment for distinct vision; a center of activity, attraction and attention. I absolutely love that last part of the definition, “the center of a person’s activity, attraction and attention.” Here is the real deal; you do not have focus if it has not arrested those three areas of life. That’s the difference between your hobbies and your passions. The latter captivates all you are and all you do. Many have failed simply because they have refused to bring their lives into a definite focus.
Focus allows us to harness our skills, intelligence and resources and put them to work on our lives’ goals. Most of us, at one time or another, has fallen into the trap of being a “Jack of All Trades.” What we miss is that we become masters of none. We spread ourselves thin in an effort to appear busy, but life’s successes come from a laser beam approach toward tasks. This may be the reason our country ranks nearly last amidst other countries with regards to productivity. We have more stuff than ever, but we seem to be doing less. The issue lies in our inability to focus.
Where do we begin? In a society that is screaming at us from sun up to sun down, how will we find the time to focus? Even on our jobs, we get assigned to one project only to be told the other five are really the priority. Everything was due two days ago. We eat fast food because it’s supposed to be fast and we don’t have time to cook a balanced meal. But that leads to fears of illnesses like cancer and diabetes. We seem to be in a losing battle with the clock. And now experts are telling us our biggest problem is really our lack of focus. I want to offer some solutions that may ease the pressure:
- Admit that other things are important too: One of the first mistakes we make is trying to go “cold turkey” when it comes to our distractions. You have had them long enough for them to become a new normal. Therefore, cutting them out will not be easy. First, devise a plan to lower the amount of distractions by setting guidelines. By checking emails less frequently and turning the ringer off on your phone, you increase your ability to focus instantly.
- Solicit the help of colleagues: People tend to interrupt you because that’s what you’ve trained them to do. Setting boundaries around yourself sends an instant message to people that you are in work mode. Let them know your times of “on purpose” focus and that you are not to be disturbed. Usually, people will honor it.
- Utilize technology, sticky notes and lists to your advantage: In your lap right now is the power to retake your focus. You probably have a smart phone, Kindle or some other device capable of helping you organize your time. I find if we don’t have a plan, we are planning to fail. Set reminders to study in your phone, read your morning paper on your iPad while commuting, or set a to-do list the night before. All these small tasks add up to big time savers in the future.
It’s become easy to blame our lack of focus on external events. In reality, the only thing we really do control is our behavior in any given situation. Take back your life and grab your focus. You will be amazed at how closely life imitates a camera. Until it’s turned on and focused, no memories are every captured.