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The Complete Guide To Increasing Your Focus In Life

The Complete Guide To Increasing Your Focus In Life

We all know how important focus is.

Think about it, when was the last time you were so focused on your task that you weren’t distracted?

Focusing nowadays is harder than ever. You know what it’s like when you’re at your job and you think about “just checking” your Facebook feed. One thing leads to other and you’ve spent over an hour looking at what your friends are up to.

The traditional view of procrastination is as that “a stitch in time saves nine,” that in order to be efficient we should not procrastinate. But can you really stop procrastinating?

We have this one-sided belief that procrastination is bad, but if you look at well-known philosophers, they literally just sat around and spent time thinking. Now I know what you’re thinking: it’s because they did not have many distractions. Well, yes and no.

The lives of ancient philosophers like Descartes, Socrates, and Plato were filled with government roles and societal responsibilities, but they chose to think, simply think. Their “overthinking” led to many founding principles today, like Descartes’s mind and body principle.

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Scientifically, procrastination is really just a battle between two parts of our brain — the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex. The limbic system fights for short-term pleasures while the prefrontal cortex for the long-term goal. However, given that the prefrontal cortex is the only thing that makes us different when compared to animals, there is nothing automatic about this part. Thus, we constantly need to give it a push to get stuff done. Our limbic system, on the other hand, takes over as soon as we stop pushing forward, leading to procrastination.

Procrastination is only natural and not always something to label as negative. Now that we have that out of the way, let us introduce 6 powerful methods to increase focus in your life.

1. Exercise

Have you ever had those days when you just don’t want to go to the gym because you’re very tired, but then you end up going?

If you’re like me, then you probably felt a euphoria of energy flowing through you. The reason for this is because when you exercise, your muscle contracts and releases a protein called IGF-1. This very protein travels to your brain and releases many chemicals, one of them being BDNF. The BDNF stimulates further connections between neurons, and these connections form the basis for learning. Even though this takes some time, an immediate response to this change is increased concentration and focus.

2. Make a plan

When I say make a plan, I mean be as specific as possible.

Let’s say you want to finally start writing your book. Instead of adding “Work on novel” to the to-do list, be a little more specific. How about:

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  • Make a character list
  • Write down what the book is about in less than 150 words
  • Break down the chapters and summarize each one in a line or two

When we get specific on what our target goals are, our attention is invested in accomplishing these small tasks. As our beautiful brains have it, they can only handle two complicated tasks at a time, so why not make them focus on the specifics instead of broad concepts?

3. Discover your most productive environment

The relationship between your brain and you is interdependent. If you want a peace of mind and calmness, you have to treat and exercise your mind. Here, we shall focus on treating it right. You see, the environment in which you study really does affect the brain — after all, this is why coffee houses are filled with students studying.

There are many factors existing in the environment that end up affecting our focus — noise, smell, music, appearance, and comfort are some amongst many. Good and calm music, for instance, helps us be more productive as this background noise is more soothing. It’s no surprise why it’s recommended to listen to Beethoven instead of Eminem while working. To find out how other factors in the environment affect our focus, read this article by Western Governors University.

4. Wake up early

Okay, so let’s say you went for your 7 AM jog, made a specific plan, and currently are sitting at your local Starbucks, trying to work on a paper and still finding it hard to focus. Why’s that? Maybe cause the energy you are working with is minimal.

It’s said often that the reason why the greats sustain their greatness is because they wake up early in the morning and get most of the important stuff done well before the world wakes up. You see, after all that sleep your brain got, it’s re-energized and ready to help you learn new things and change the world

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “but I’m a night owl.”

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So am I, but creativity and productivity are two different things. The former is more about thinking about that one idea, for your next song or your next artwork. The latter is more about order, and that is why they are managed by two different modes of thinking: focused vs diffused.

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    Productivity goes well with the focused mode of thinking wherein information in your brain enters and travels in an orderly fashion. On the other hand, creativity requires a diffused mode of thinking.

    Thus, if you’re looking to learn how to increase focus, it’s important to wake up early, as that’s when our energy levels and creativity peak.

    5. Prioritize your tasks

    This one goes without saying, as mentioned before: our brains can only focus on two complicated tasks at one time. Ever wondered why to-do lists simply don’t help you get stuff done? Because there isn’t any scheduling done. Why not try this approach: list everything you think you can achieve in one day and then number them.

    Focus on 1 and 2 (the most important) in the morning and then worry about the rest later.

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      Let’s say you are working in the middle of the day and you get an email that distracts you. There are two approaches to tackling this. First, you could turn off all connections to the outside world. This means no checking email. Second, you can react less.

      Those urgent urges to check your phone happen because your prefrontal cortex is tired later in the day and the limbic system is taking charge.

      6. Meditate

      We have this belief that focus is all about retaining attention. However, this leads to our minds becoming strained. What if our attention was more natural than manual? Meditation simply helps you do that. Human’s have an attention span of 8 seconds. Meditation changes the game and it helps in increasing your consciousness.

      bi_graphics_meditation

        In short, meditating helps our brain filter out the noise, particularly the distracting and negative noises. Even with 10 minutes a day, your brain can start filtering your thoughts and provide you with the clarity you need to increase your focus.

        Please share your own tips and experiences in the comments section!

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        Last Updated on December 5, 2018

        How to Lead a Team More Effectively and Be a True Leader at Work

        How to Lead a Team More Effectively and Be a True Leader at Work

        Being an efficient manager and a charismatic boss at the same time can seem like an impossible task. Is there a way to deliver the desired results for your business while remaining liked and respected by your staff?

        We all know bad examples of team leaders who seem to fail at one aspect or the other, or even at both. But we’ve also heard of awesome managers who seem to juggle both things well enough.

        How do they do it?

        By sticking to few proven ways that let them maintain a positive karma score while remaining efficient. In this article, we’ll guide you through 11 smart management tips on how to lead a team and become something more than a boss – a leader.

        1. Find a Management Strategy and Stick to It

        There’s nothing worse than a boss that keeps changing his or her opinions and assignments depending on their mood or a book they read this week. Chaotic decisions increase the insecurity and frustration of your team, so you better find your strategy and stick to it.

        If you do find some new methods you want your staff to follow, make sure they don’t contradict the general direction you are taking. Otherwise, you risk making your team take one step forward and two steps back.

        2. Set Goals​ and Track Progress in Reaching Them

        Set individual and collective goals​ for your team and track the progress in reaching them. This might sound obvious at first, but too often we find ourselves stuck between daily customer requests and monthly reports, and the bigger goal or vision seems to fade away.

        According to Elon Musk (and many other successful CEOs around the Globe), it’s crucial to have a clear and motivating aim to where the company is heading. His aim for the space transportation company SpaceX is “to make humankind a multi-planetary species”.[1] That’s a huge goal but the company is slowly moving closer to it by reaching smaller steps and milestones, like launching self-landing rockets. This is also a very inspiring and meaningful goal that helps employees endure the company’s extremely high expectations and 60 to 70-hour work weeks.[2]

        Even if your goals are not as grand, setting and reaching milestones will give you a clear insight into the team’s overall efficiency and daily progress. With time, you will be able to see the weak spots and improve your results.​

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        3. Demand Learning from Your Team

        CEO of print on demand startup Printful, Davis Siksnans, believes that:[3]

        “The key for a company going through rapid growth is to empower your employees’ self-development.”

        His company with 500 employees spanning two continents demands a culture of learning and provides all the tools necessary to do it.

        Their idea is –  as the company scales, people have to grow in their positions too, which means that they have to be constantly learning. Siksnans says:

        “We try to hire people for what they might become, but they need to have that drive.“

        Alternatively, you can provide educational courses for your employees or invite informal lecturers to educate and inspire your team. You can also encourage peer-to-peer learning by asking employees to teach their particular experience or skill to co-workers.

        4. Invest in a Pleasant Work Environment

        Studies show that a well-designed office environment can increase your team’s overall performance by as much as 20%. You’ll be surprised to see that even very small interior tweaks that don’t require major investments can improve your workers’ performance.

        Some ideas for a more productive and pleasing work environment:

        • Invest in modern furniture – offer ergonomic chairs, standing desks, and individually arranged workplaces​.
        • Start an in-house library – reading for pleasure just 30 minutes a day is proven to be enough to become more effective at work,[4] improve focus, and deal with problems like depression and anxiety.​
        • Play jazzy office music – rhythmic background music will help workers feel more energetic and enthusiastic while doing everyday tasks.​
        • Set up entertainment or break rooms – being able to relax and have fun at work creates a strong commitment, helps employees relax and clear their minds, and boosts productivity.​
        • Bring in uplifting office decor – it’s been found that art in the workplace can boost productivity,[5] lower stress, and even encourage employees to innovate.​
        • Decorate the office with live plants for freshness and a welcoming feel. Furthermore, plants are found to ensure better air quality and increase workers’ productivity by 15%.[6]

        5. Be Kind and Sincere to Your Team

        Did you know that 50% of employees quit because they dislike working with their manager?[7] In fact, most times when people leave their jobs they actually leave their managers. Being friendly and sincere may not be enough to be a successful manager, but it’s a big part of it.

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        Some ways to show you appreciate and care for your staff:

        • Celebrate the progress and achievements of your employees. And don’t be shy to simply say thanks.​
        • Talk to your employees regularly and really listen to what they have to say. Address their concerns, help them reach their goals and do your best to improve their work and daily life.
        • If you’re having a bad day, don’t pour out your stress and anger on the staff. Instead, try to recharge yourself by appreciating the achievements of your team and setting the next goals.
        • Try not to overload your team with work. Every company has rush periods when it’s okay to have more work than usual. But remember that people cannot work under prolonged pressure and stress.
        • Don’t be selfish – it can be very demotivating to see that the manager only focuses on what you can do for him and doesn’t care about your goals and well-being.​ As the CEO of Xerox Anne M. Mulcahy put it,[8]

          “Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person — not just an employee — are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled.”

        Whenever you are having doubts about your kind attitude, remember – satisfied employees are productive employees which lead to satisfied customers and eventually – success for your company.

        6. Offer Flexible Work Hours

        The traditional Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 job is beginning to slip away. Increasingly more people are working remotely or having flexible work hours, and we can expect this trend to continue. To adapt to these changing habits and remain competitive in the labor market, more employers are offering the chance to choose your own work hours, work from home or even from another city or country.

        Offering flexible hours is a powerful way to inspire your existing staff and give them intrinsic motivation. Why not let your employees choose their preferred working hours while keeping the 8-hour day? For example, night owls are unhappy and unproductive if they have to come to work before 10 AM, while others might prefer to start at 7 and finish earlier.

        You can go even farther and hire remote workers – this way you’ll be able to recruit from a global talent pool and even save money on office expenses like desks, stationery, electricity, etc.[9]

        7. Track Your Team’s Productive Time

        Not monitoring your employees’ progress and efficiency can result in poor performance and slacking. Instead of letting things go with the flow, you should consider installing time-tracking software on your employees’ computers and see who’s doing great and who might need a productivity boost.

        But don’t get it wrong – there’s no need to become big brother and watch every step your employees take. If you use the time-tracker as a spying tool, you will only see increasing suspicion and insecurity around you, and your employees’ happiness levels will drop.

        On the contrary, choose software that allows employees to mark private time that won’t be tracked. In addition, consider these time-management tactics:

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        • Allow flexible work hours. (see Tip No 6)
        • Encourage breaks – studies show that employees who take regular breaks are more productive than those who don’t.[10]
        • Enable remote work to show your employees that you trust them and that they can work from home or even from another country (if they can maintain sufficient productivity).
        • Consider offering bonuses to your most productive employees (those who show productivity levels above 90 or 95%).

        8. Use Only Constructive Criticism

        Constructive criticism means offering valid and rational opinions about the work of others, involving both positive comments and remarks about what should be improved. Constructive criticism is usually expressed in a friendly manner rather than an oppositional one.

        When you evaluate your team’s work, give them feedback that’s helpful, specific, and sincere. Don’t be shy to praise, but also be direct and even strict when necessary.

        9. Don’t Give Special Treatment to Yourself

        The boss’s actions are – directly or indirectly – observed by your team. This means that your employees look up to you and often mimic your attitude towards your work and the company – especially if your actions don’t show commitment. Nobody wants to work for a leader who doesn’t go all in or inspire motivation.

        What you should do is lead by example. If you expect your employees to arrive at work on time and work 8 hours, do the same yourself. If you want them to show initiative, show it yourself and encourage others to do the same.

        Jeff Weiner is the CEO of LinkedIn – a company of 3,000 employees that consistently ranks as one of the best workplaces with a 92 percent employee-approval rating.[11] Weiner’s workdays are reported to be equally long or even longer than those of his employees, allowing him to stay “extremely credible as a leader.”

        10. Empower Your Employees

        Here’s a common mistake many managers make:

        They don’t motivate their staff and assume they simply love to work for their company.​ Such belief can result in painful losses for the company – especially these days when many companies are in desperate need of a reliable workforce.

        Instead of directly thinking about bonuses and perks, consider intrinsic motivation. For example, enable flat organization in your team and listen to your employees’ ideas when they come up with opinions and suggestions. Your company might actually benefit a great deal from the feedback, and the unique ideas employees come up with.

        You can also start an initiative where employees can freely share or pitch their business ideas to you or the founders of the company. If the idea is accepted by the management, the project can be developed, and the employee can have equity options.

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        If people feel they have an impact in the company, they become more motivated, engaged and interested in the company’s growth.

        11. Nurture Your Company Culture

        Company culture is the personality of a company that defines the overall work environment and relationships between teammates. It also includes company mission, values, ethics, and goals.

        Some examples of company cultures are the Horizontal corporate culture (collaborative and equal; popular among startups and free-spirited businesses) and Conventional corporate culture (a more risk-averse and hierarchy-based approach common in traditional companies).

        However, you don’t have to stick to pre-existing boxes when creating your corporate culture. You might think of your team as a family, a sports team, or even a hippie camp if it fits your business and purpose. But keep in mind that by the time a company’s size reaches 20 employees, the company culture is set,[12] and any changes will need to be implemented in smaller teams.

        Whichever personality you choose for your company, make sure to live by it and nurture it. Some things that might help:

        Team building events, relevant books in your office library and proper on-boarding for the new employees to get everyone on the same page from the very beginning.

        Be a Leader, Not a Boss

        Using the words of Printful’s CEO Davis Siksnans, the ultimate goal is to “Hire great people who don’t have to be managed.”

        However, when you do need to demonstrate some initiative and control, act as a leader rather than as a boss.

        In other words, don’t be afraid to show the personality behind your role. And keep these 11 tips close to your heart.

        Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

        Reference

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