“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.” -- Zig Ziglar
Here is my collection of 101 Proven Practices for Focus. It still needs work to improve it, but I wanted to shared it, as is, because focus is one of the most important skills we can develop for work and life.
Focus is the backbone of personal effectiveness, personal development, productivity, time management, leadership skills, and just about anything that matters. Focus is a key ingredient to helping us achieve the things we set out to do, and to learn the things we need to learn.
Without focus, we can’t achieve great results.
I have a very healthy respect for the power of focus to amplify impact, to create amazing breakthroughs, and to make things happen.
The Power of Focus
Long ago one of my most impactful mentors said that focus is what separates the best from the rest. In all of his experience, what exceptional people had, that others did not, was focus.
Here are a few relevant definitions of focus:
A main purpose or interest.
A center of interest or activity.
Close or narrow attention; concentration.
I think of focus simply as the skill or ability to direct and hold our attention.
Focus is a Skill
Too many people think of focus as something either you are good at, or you are not. It’s just like delayed gratification.
Focus is a skill you can build.
Focus is actually a skill and you can develop it. In fact, you can develop it quite a bit. For example, I helped a colleague get themselves off of their ADD medication by learning some new ways to retrain their brain. It turned out that the medication only helped so much, the side effects sucked, and in the end, what they really needed was coping mechanisms for their mind, to better direct and hold their attention.
Here’s the surprise, though. You can actually learn how to direct your attention very quickly. Simply ask new questions. You can direct your attention by asking questions. If you want to change your focus, change the question.
101 Proven Practices at a Glance
Here is a list of the 101 Proven Practices for Focus:
- Align your focus and your values
- Ask new questions to change your focus
- Ask yourself, “What are you rushing through for?”
- Beware of random, intermittent rewards
- Bite off what you can chew
- Capture all of your ideas in one place
- Capture all of your To-Dos all in one place
- Carry the good forward
- Change your environment
- Change your physiology
- Choose one project or one thing to focus on
- Choose to do it
- Clear away all distractions
- Clear away external distractions
- Clear away internal distractions
- Close your distractions
- Consolidate and batch your tasks
- Create routines to help you focus
- Decide to finish it
- Delay gratification
- Develop a routine
- Develop an effective startup routine
- Develop an effective shutdown routine
- Develop effective email routines
- Develop effective renewal activities
- Develop effective social media routines
- Direct your attention with skill
- Do less, focus more
- Do now what you could put off until later
- Do things you enjoy focusing on
- Do worst things first
- Don’t chase every interesting idea
- Edit later
- Exercise your body
- Exercise your mind
- Expand your attention span
- Find a way to refocus
- Find the best time to do your routine tasks
- Find your flow
- Finish what you started
- Focus on what you control
- Force yourself to focus
- Get clear on what you want
- Give it the time and attention it deserves
- Have a time and place for things
- Hold a clear picture in your mind of what you want to accomplish
- Keep it simple
- Keep your energy up
- Know the tests for success
- Know what’s on your plate
- Know your limits
- Know your personal patterns
- Know your priorities
- Learn to say no – to yourself and others
- Limit your starts and stops
- Limit your task switching
- Link it to good feelings
- Make it easy to pick back up where you left off
- Make it relentless
- Make it work, then make it right
- Master your mindset
- Multi-Task with skill
- Music everywhere
- Narrow your focus
- Pair up
- Pick up where you left off
- Practice meditation
- Put the focus on something bigger than yourself
- Rate your focus each day
- Reduce friction
- Reduce open work
- Reward yourself along the way
- See it, do it
- Set a time frame for focus
- Set goals
- Set goals with hard deadlines
- Set mini-goals
- Set quantity limits
- Set time limits
- Shelve things you aren’t actively working on
- Single Task
- Spend your attention with skill
- Start with WHY
- Stop starting new projects
- Take breaks
- Take care of the basics
- Use lists to avoid getting overwhelmed or overloaded
- Use metaphors
- Use Sprints to scope your focus
- Use the Rule of Three
- Use verbal cues
- Use visual cues
- Visualize your performance
- Wake up at the same time each day
- Wiggle your toes – it’s a fast way to bring yourself back to the present
- Write down your goals
- Write down your steps
- Write down your tasks
- Write down your thoughts
- Work when you are most comfortable
When you go through the 101 Proven Practices for Focus, don’t expect it to be perfect. It’s a work in progress. Some of the practices for focus need to be fleshed out better. There is also some duplication and overlap, as I re-organize the list and find better ways to group and label ideas.
In the future, I’m going to revamp this collection to have some more precision, better naming, and some links to relevant quotes, and some science where possible. There is a lot more relevant science that explains why some of these techniques work, and why some work so well.
What’s important is that you find the practices that resonate for you, and the things that you can actually practice.
You might find that from all the practices, only one or two really resonate, or help you change your game. And, that’s great. The idea of having a large list to select from is that it’s more to choose from. The bigger your toolbox, the more you can choose the right tool for the job. If you only have a hammer, then everything looks like a nail.
If you don’t consider yourself an expert in focus, that’s fine. Everybody has to start somewhere. In fact, you might even use one of the practices to help you get better: Rate your focus each day.
Simply rate yourself, on a scale of 1-10, where 10 is awesome and 1 means you’re a squirrel with a sugar high, dazed and confused, and chasing all the shiny objects that come into site. And then see if your focus improves over the course of a week.
If you adopt just one practice, try either Align your focus and your values or Ask new questions to change your focus.
Feel Free to Share It With Friends
At the bottom of the 101 Proven Practices for Focus, you’ll find the standard sharing buttons for social media to make it easier to share.
Share it with friends, family, your world, the world.
The ability to focus is really a challenge for a lot of people. The answer to improve your attention and focus is through proven practices, techniques, and skill building. Too many people hope the answer lies in a pill, but pills don’t teach you skills.
Even if you struggle a bit in the beginning, remind yourself that growth feels awkward. You' will get better with practice. Practice deliberately. In fact, the side benefit of focusing on improving your focus, is, well, you guessed it … you’ll improve your focus.
What we focus on expands, and the more we focus our attention, and apply deliberate practice, the deeper our ability to focus will grow.
Grow your focus with skill.