Prior to retiring I remember talking with friends who had previously made that decision and were now a year or two into their “life of leisure”. I always found it interesting to hear some lament, “There just aren’t enough hours in the day to get done everything that I need to do! The other day someone said, I’m busier now than when I was working.” Being busy is good, especially when you are retired, it keeps you sharp and vibrant, but not being able to complete what we need to do, whether retired or still in the workplace is a matter of choice and focus. Making choices is a topic I plan to examine at a later date, but this week let’s consider the importance of focus and some ideas on improving this important skill.
Focus, when used as a noun is defined as the center of interest or activity, and when used as a verb means to pay particular attention to. In a world where multi-tasking has become an expectation, where the ability to communicate is instantaneous, and social media is an ever-present distraction, the ability to focus becomes a challenge. So how can it be embraced?
Blake Irving, CEO of Go Daddy considers the topic of focus in his July 3 post, “Could Focus be What’s Holding You Back at Work?”. Irving shares that he has always considered his ability to focus a natural instinct. However, after becoming familiar with Carol Dweck’s “Mindset” research (see EtC Blog of 12/4/16) he realized that he was viewing his ability to focus from a “fixed mindset” perspective. With this in mind he shares, “As I think about my goals this year, they’re not limited to goals I want to achieve. I also want to set goals on how I grow and get better at achieving what’s most important to me. I don’t think there’s any stage of life where personal growth isn’t important. Regardless of what you’ve achieved so far in your career, there is always room to grow—in your technical aptitude, your leadership skills, in your maturity, your wisdom and in your personal life. This year I’ve decided to focus on focus itself.” The article considers a number of factors impacting our ability to focus and concludes with the six areas Irving will be working on this year to extend and deepen the reach of his focus. These include:
• Gamifying Mental Endurance
• Adding Granularity
• Mental Toughness
• Nutrition and Exercise
• Living Passionately
Within his piece he touches on the ability to focus exhibited by many athletes. Let’s take a look at focus from that perspective!
Cara Brady, author of On the Verge: Wake Up, Show Up, and Shine provides some insight into the development of focus in her HUFFPOST Blog entitled, “Train Your Mind to Have the Fierce Focus of An Olympian”. Brady uses the term “Fierce Focus” to describe the mental state of athletes at the Olympic level. She contends that this does not happen by chance, but rather through a brain-training regimen that enables them to take on even greater challenges and turn in better performances. The good news is this training is not exclusive to olympic athletes. We can all benefit from her recommendations.
• Notice the Moment: Notice what your mind is doing. Are you focused or distracted? Take note and return to the moment.
• Ask the Question: “Am I distracted or present?”
• Breathe: Conscious breathing has the capacity to shift us from antsy and anxious to steady and stable within a few moments.
• Move in Rhythm: This can be as simple as a walk, but it serves to heighten decision-making.
• Recognize Doubt: The recognition of this feeling is a first step in shutting it down.
Another post, “ The Brain Training Secrets of Olympic Athletes by Carolyn Gregoire, a senior writer for the HUFFPOST, provides similar information. Gregoire shares five “mind hacks” from olympic athletes that can be used by anyone to improve performance in any part of their life.
• Visualize the outcome you want
• Meditate daily
• Evict the obnoxious roommate in your head (Doubt)
• Set smarter goals
• Go with the “flow”
Both articles provide some ideas that can be easily implemented. Now, let’s talk about getting ready to focus on the week ahead.
For some, tomorrow will be the first full week of the new fiscal year. For others it is simply another mid-summer Monday. Regardless, here is the question, “How will you start your day and will that routine improve your focus?. Ron Friedman considers this important question in his HBR post, “How Will You Spend the First Ten Minutes of Your Day?” He begins by considering a ritual followed by professional chefs called the “Meez”. He writes, “The Meez, as professionals call it, translates into everything being in its place. In practice, it involves studying a recipe, thinking through the tools and equipment you will need, and assembling the ingredients in the right proportion before you begin. It is the planning phase of every meal—the moment when chefs evaluate the totality of what they are trying to achieve and create an action plan for the meal ahead.” So the question becomes, how does this translate out of the kitchen? Friedman lays out a simple 10 minute routine that has you start your day with a question you would normally pose at the end of the day, “The day is over and I am leaving the office with a tremendous sense of accomplishment, What have I achieved?” This becomes the basis for you to establish your “Meez” and set the focus for your day! Friedman provides some solid ideas on how this can be accomplished.
Whether it’s at work, pursuing a hobby, or time with our family, the ability to focus is critical. Hopefully this week’s newsletter provided you with some ideas you can use. That being said, I must now focus and begin my “Meez” for this evening’s dinner. Have a great week and Embrace the Challenge.