Six weeks ago, the world as we knew it changed. Since then, we’ve all been working hard to make the best of this challenging time.
As some social distancing fatigue begins to kick in, it’s vital we find a way to stay focused on what matters, maximising this ‘pause’ to reset the priorities for now, and to keep these things at the top of our list ‘post Lockdown’.
The key to getting the best out of life is mastering the art of focusing on what really matters. For centuries, Philosophers have told of the importance of putting the ‘first things first’. Whilst most of us recognise and agree that this is indeed the right way, with so many people and tasks competing for our attention – how many of us actually practice this daily?
“Better a little which is well done, than a great deal imperfectly.”
How to Focus Yourself
As reported by BBC Science Journalist Caroline Williams in her article ‘5 Ways Science Can Improve Your Focus’, numerous studies have shown that human beings are best at keeping optimal focus for 90 minutes before needing a break. This is due to natural variations in our cycle of alertness and so something we are best working with when possible.
As our brains have to process thousands of pieces of information throughout the day, it has an inbuilt tool for deciding what is most important, and it’s called Selective Attention:
“Selective attention is the process of directing our awareness to relevant stimuli while ignoring irrelevant stimuli in the environment. This is an important process as there is a limit to how much information can be processed at a given time, and selective attention allows us to tune out insignificant details and focus on what is important.“
The trick for all of us, is to train our selective attention tool to focus on the right things, the things that matter, and push everything else to one side.
But harnessing the ability to focus on what matters isn’t about being nonstop all day. In fact, switching off and tuning out, is an important aspect of developing a ninja style level of focus that Mr. Miyagi would be impressed by.
“The brain operates optimally when it toggles between focus and unfocus, allowing you to develop resilience,
enhance creativity, and make better decisions too.“
Source: Harvard Business Review, Your Brain Can Only Take So Much Focus
The Multi-Tasking Myth
For decades the ability to multi-task has become a badge of honour. But, if we were to ask you to identify a time recently where you did your best work, and felt like your best self when you were doing it, we’d bet that you chose to invest yourself fully in that one thing.
Are we right? Damn we’re good!
Psychologist and Founder of The Pursuit of Happiness organisation Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, positions this brilliantly in his stirring TEDTalk on the concept of Flow Theory – Essentially ‘Flow’ is the same feeling as being ‘in the zone’, i.e. where you’re so fully invested in and enjoying an activity or task that you lose all sense of time.
“For a person to become deeply involved in any activity it is essential that they know precisely what tasks they must accomplish, moment by moment.”
Evolve’s Focus Philosophy
At Evolve we have a powerful motto that runs through our ways of working, living and striving that echoes Mihaly’s words of wisdom:
‘Simplify and Amplify’
Essentially, evaluate all the things that are vying for your precious head and heart space, and choose which you let go of, and which you place at the centre of your focus sphere.
The things that fall away can usually be divided into one of two (or both) of the following camps:
- Those that with some soul searching, don’t really matter to you.
For example: what others think or do, other people’s priorities or goals that no longer reflect who you are today.
- Those that with some soul searching, you realise that you cannot control.
For example: what others think or do, other people’s priorities, the weather.
Stephen Covey the legend of personal effectiveness and author of ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ put it brilliantly when he said:
“Rather than always focusing on what’s urgent, learn to focus on what is really important.”
Your Focus Philosophy
the above insights, you can begin to build your very own Focus philosophy, one
that mirrors your values and who you want to be.
Start today by reflecting upon everything on your to do list, as well as anything else that’s playing on your mind and decide:
- What really matters most
This is the big stuff – the activities that move you closer towards your personal & professional goals.
- What matters on another day
This is stuff that also matters, but with only so many hours in the day – today might not be the day to do it. Move it to another day when you can focus on it 110%.
- What really doesn’t matter, and so you’ll let go of from today
This is the nonsense that drains your energy and distracts you from what’s most important to you. For example: worrying about what others think or do. Notice when you’re investing time here, reclaim and reinvest this precious head & heart space into creating what you want for your life. Trust that the rest will follow.
We promise if you spend some time in the pursuit of simplifying and amplifying your day, it will transform your life.
“Make the best use of what’s in your power and take the
rest as it happens.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves Epictetus.
Stay safe. Stay focused. Stay thriving.