By: M. Kasirye- Head of PR Pearl Lemon
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” This quote was written by Blaise Pascal in 1654, and as the decades go on, it becomes more and more relevant.
The world is full of distractions, which divert our attention from what we genuinely need to do, stifling our productivity.
This is why you can’t be afraid of isolation – sometimes you do need alone time.
That is the only time you have to slow your inner world, gather your thoughts and focus on what you have to do and what is important.
But what is focus?
Put simply, focus is a choice.
Instead, it’s a series of choices – it is saying yes to one thing and no to others.
You are actively shutting out distractions and deviations, all for the sake of completing your primary goal.
This requires a level of rationality since it may not be what you want to do but what you have to do. Work is rarely the goal; merely the means and visualising this can help to achieve it.
Picture your end goal as a destination, and then think of the car as the mode of transport i.e. a car. A car journey can be short, long, fun or boring but ultimately must be undertaken to get to your destination.
And focus is your key.
The same way you need the key to start the car is the same way you need to focus before you start your work. Starting is always the most challenging part; after that, it’s just a matter of keeping up productivity.
Productivity isn’t a straight line, it can waver and dip, but as long as you maintain that focus, then you will end up where you desire.
Productivity without focus isn’t impossible, but it isn’t consistent. You may have short bursts, but that won’t be enough to take you where you want; focus is what will take you to where you deserve to be.
However, I understand this can be easier said than done, so let’s discuss some practical tips to help you focus.
How do you stay focused?
One of the biggest obstacles is knowing what to say yes to. Short term gratification will make you want to say yes to your messages, social media, netflix etc. but this is why you need to be rational.
Start with Why
Find your raison d’etre – your reason to be. What is your ultimate goal, and why? Establish that, then work backwards. Figure out what smaller steps you need to get there.
Hetal Sonpal, an Os.me member, believes that asking yourself “why” is important. Sonpal states, “My simple approach to enhanced focus is to Start with Why. Why am I doing what I am doing? What do I get out of it? How badly do I want it? If I don’t get it, how sad will I feel? Will I have the will and energy to make a second attempt? Even if that is fine, then will I have enough time for the same.”
Sonpal continues, “In a highly distracted world, where digital screens and sweet pings are grabbing our attention all the time, attaining focus is a big deal. Hence it’s important to have a digital detox from time to time, to first question, then minimise and finally get free of most of the tech distractions.”
When you are doing the work, you must get rid of all distractions. This is everything that doesn’t pertain to your current work and goal.
All they would do is remind you of your other desires and constantly make you have to refocus. Every time you see your phone, you will ask yourself whether to say yes or no again, and there is no point so hide it and any other distractions until you are done.
For example, your ultimate goal could be to become the youngest judge the UK has ever seen. The smaller goals you could work towards would be to do a masters, and to do that you need to complete your law undergraduate, and to do that you need to study hard for your next test.
These are the types of micro-goals you should be making.
Komal R, a PhD researcher and Os.me member states, “It’s very easy to feel overwhelmed with several pending projects but breaking down anything big into smaller tasks, helps us maintain a deeper understanding and remain focused and productive.”
Breaking things down in smaller tasks or “micro-goals” is useful in maintaining productivity. Once you have decided on your micro-goals, write them down and put them in places that you will see every day.
Practical Tips to Improve Focus & Productivity
We asked a few Os.me members to share their insights about focus and productivity. Ravi Trivedi, an Os.me Member lists his top two tips on maintaining focus and staying productive.
These are Trivedi’s top two tips:
- Focus on only one thing at a time – don’t try to multitask.
- He uses the Pomodoro method where he fixes his focus on one thing for 25 minutes, then takes a 5 minute break after.
Komal R adds on to this by emphasizing the importance of contemplation and silence. She states, “In a world where we’re inundated with tasks, it’s hard to remain focused. Before starting any activity, it’s helpful to contemplate on what needs to be done for a few minutes and decide upon which task needs our immediate attention.”
Komal also recommends:
- Frequent breathing exercises that can increase mental clarity and focus
- Realize that not everything is important and use strong discipline to focus on one task at a time
The more tasks you divide your attention with, the less focus you’ll have. With this and many other tips shared in this article, remember that it’s possible to maintain focus, discipline, and productivity.