Advertising
Advertising

10 Habits of Highly Unfocused People

10 Habits of Highly Unfocused People

In a world with information bombarding us from each and every angle and the daily grind moving at a breakneck pace, it’s hard to stay focused. With so many decisions and so much information to digest at every turn, being unfocused can be a detriment to your personal and professional life. Are you suffering from information overload? Here are 10 habits of highly unfocused people to watch for:

1. They don’t see the forest through the trees.

Many tasks, projects, and independent elements combine to complete projects. Often it seems like you have plenty of time, weeks even, to complete a task. You do what you’re supposed to and dive right in. You work, tirelessly, to complete each task. You make sure every detail is perfect, all the i’s dotted and the t’s crossed. But too many times, diving into the details takes the focus off the overall goal and sends you down a rathole from which you can’t recover. Save the optional bonus points until the end, keeping your focus on the goal of completion.

Advertising

2. They don’t plan.

It’s difficult, if not impossible, to stay focused without having a plan to execute. Whether the plan is internal or written down, it’s a vital stage for focused, successful people. Do you struggle making a plan? Start with the basics. Start each day writing down what you need to get done and the steps to get there. Keep that list with you and check off each step as you go. Keep track when you miss your goals and reflect each night on why. When you understand exactly what you need to get done, and hold yourself accountable, you’ll learn what to focus on, which can be half the battle.

3. They lose track of time.

It happens to the best of us. You look at the clock and it’s 5:00, time to leave for the day. But you still have so much to do! Does this sound like a daily occurrence for you? Understanding the time you have available and what you can accomplish in a specific amount of time can be the difference between success and failure. If you struggle keeping track of time, find tools that will help. Understand how long things take and you’ll have a better chance at keeping your internal clock on point.

Advertising

4. They are easily distracted.

Distractions are everywhere. Some of them are obvious, but others lurk in every cell phone, conversation, and task. Each time focus moves from one task to another, there’s a lag in time to truly focus. The human brain cannot truly multi-task, so attempting to do too much actually hurts productivity. Are you too easily distracted? The best way to improve is to be aware of the problem. Take note of distractions and understand the toll they take on your productivity. Practice makes perfect.

5. They run late.

Are you always running late? Find the reasons and fix them. Are you being honest about how long it takes to get to places? Too many times we have unrealistic ideas about how far we are from places. Make a conscious effort to time how long it takes to get places and take into account outside factors. Do you lose track of time and always have things to finish up that keep your running behind? Don’t start projects you can’t finish before you leave. Find the cause and come up with a plan.

Advertising

6. They struggle to prioritize.

Do you find that you always have too many things that have to be done immediately? It’s important to understand that not everything you do has the same priority. Make sure you set that expectation and you’ll find that your schedule will open up and you’ll get significantly more accomplished.

7. They wait until the last moment.

Procrastination may breed creativity, but it also can be the downfall of even the best-laid plans. Do you miss deadlines because you run out of time? Take your need for the adrenaline and use it to your advantage. Create your own deadlines for specific aspects of the project and attack those. By splitting up a large project into more manageable chunks and creating deadlines around these, even if you do wait till the last moment, you’ll be more prepared to stay on task and schedule.

Advertising

8. They are messy or unorganized.

Mess not only clutters up your desk, it can also play havoc on your productivity. Take a hard look at your surroundings and make a conscious effort to keep organized. You’ll have a better chance to stay on track and ensure nothing important gets lost in the mess.

9. They are flaky.

Following though is vital. Skipping out on appointments, canceling at the last minute, and being flaky in general hurts your reputation and can cost you more than you realize. While it’s easy to say “just fulfill your commitments,” there’s another important way to become less flaky. Take the time to fully evaluate and commit to everything you agree to. While for those being stood up see it as a sign of disrespect, it’s often more about planning and commitment. Before taking a meeting, scheduling a dinner, or agreeing to a project, make sure you can and will follow through. You’ll protect your reputation and help stay focused.

10. They worry about everything.

Do you worry about everything? Learn what’s important and focus on that. Anytime you’re taking the focus on what you’re trying to accomplish, it will hurt productivity. Don’t sweat the small stuff and you’ll have more time to hammer the big stuff.

Featured photo credit: Carousel/Jo Dooher via flickr.com

More by this author

Kyle Robbins

Founder, BrandingBeard.com

Why Helping Others Actually Helps Yourself 10 Things You Must Do When You’re Single 11 Types Of Friends You Will Have In Your Lifetime 12 Things Highly Productive People Don’t Do Visit a park 31 Things You Can Do Instead Of Spending Money

Trending in Productivity

1 The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain) 2 What to Do When Bored at Work (And Why You Feel Bored Actually) 3 6 Effective Ways to Enhance Your Problem Solving Skills 4 How to Concentrate and Focus Better to Boost Productivity 5 15 Productive Things to Do When Bored (So Time Is Not Wasted)

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

Advertising

Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

Advertising

One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

Advertising

But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

Advertising

It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

More About Goals Setting

Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next