Today’s world is an endless, omnipresent circus of distraction.
We’re in the process of learning how to integrate all of this new technology into our lives. It’s trial and error on a gigantic scale. Because ubiquitous technology is so new to our species, we’re overwhelmed; bombarded with emails, Facebook notifications, text messages and unlimited information at all times. Perhaps the biggest casualty of this has been our ability to focus.
Technology isn’t going anywhere, so we must learn how to master it as opposed to being a slave to it. So instead of passively letting our world of distraction deteriorate our focus, we must proactive maintain mental mastery or suffer from scatterbrained madness.
Training yourself to consciously focus on one thing at a time is transformative and freeing. The ability to focus brings you into the present moment, allowing to peacefully and deeply engage in whatever you’re doing without being assaulted by the daunting worries of the past and future. A focused mind is far more relaxed, clearer, and sharper than a wandering, distracted mind that wastes energy on minutiae.
Life becomes simpler when you’re focusing on what you’re doing in the present moment. Life is chaotic and overwhelming when you’re worrying about everything at once.
Here’s a little secret too. If you consciously focus on one thing at a time, you’ll get a lot more done without any of the paralyzing anxiety, worry, regret, fear…etc. This state of conscious focus is what Buddhists call the one pointed mind.
Think about the situations in your life where you were fully immersed in whatever you were doing, completely undistracted and in the zone. Didn’t it feel great? It’s like you freed yourself from the heavy burdens of the past/future and dipped into the peaceful ocean of the present moment. In addition to the serenity is a sense of clarity and sharpness that is far beyond the murky and turbulent waters of a distracted mind.
There’s no need to believe that focus consists of grinding effort either. Focus simply means that your point of attention is being consciously directed towards something. Focus should ideally be effortless, a natural byproduct of a clear mind.
Everything is a muscle that can be strengthened through practice. Here’s how to build your focus muscles.
6 Simple Ways to Improve Your Focus
1. Gazing Meditation (Trataka) – Sit and gaze at a specific object (most people use a candle) for a certain amount of time. Then close your eyes and visualize the object in as much detail as possible. The practice of gazing meditation hones your powers of concentration and visualization. It is the ultimate one pointed mind builder.
Really, any meditation practice helps with focus, but gazing meditation is the most effective if your goal is specifically to improve your focus.
2. Set blocks of time for specific tasks – Choose a specific task, set a timer and only focus on that task for the allotted time. This is essentially an agreement with yourself, a commitment to focusing on only one thing. Close your email, turn off your phone and all other distractions while doing this. Start with a small chunk of time, like 15-20 minutes, but no longer than 50 minutes.
I set myself blocks of time to write and it has produced amazing results. I get deeper in the zone (flow state) and produce many more words per minute (and better quality writing) than I did before using this technique.
3. Read more books – Remember those things called books? Start reading them again. While reading a book, you focus on that book and that book only for significant amounts of time. This greatly hones your focus.
If all you do is read click-bait listicles online, watch silly cat videos, read tweets and creep on people’s Facebook photos, your ability to focus is going to be pretty pathetic and you’ll be relegated to the mediocre purgatory of ceaseless, unfulfilling distraction.
4. Practice presence – Practice being present in everyday situations. If you’re with someone, or eating dinner, or going for a hike, or playing with kids or your dog, turn your phone off and put it away. Be completely present in the moment. This will teach you to focus on what you’re doing and deepen your experience of the present moment (which is all we ever have).
5. Listen to music – When you listen to music, just listen to music! Don’t do anything else. Listen mindfully and hear the subtleties that you’re usually oblivious to. This is an easy and enjoyable way to hone your focus.
6. Make sure your body is healthy – A healthy body makes everything easier. It also optimizes your mood and cognitive function, which will naturally enhance your ability to focus.
Eat well and exercise regularly. Eat real food and healthy fats for brain function, walk a lot, hike, do yoga, resistance training, HIIT workouts, kettlebell training (my personal favorite)…etc. A healthy diet (like this one) combined with exercise allows your mind to function at its highest capacity. If you’re eating fast food and sitting all day, your mind isn’t going to work nearly as well as it could.
Now focus on applying those.
– Stevie P!