I am incredibly excited to share these focus tips from Joanna Jast, author of Laser-Sharp Focus, a book that has made a huge difference in my life. Here’s Joanna:
How to improve your focus easily, quickly and without spending a dime
Many people think that to improve your focus you need a mountain of motivation and a truckload of willpower. After all, it’s about changing bad habits or developing good ones. And that takes a lot of effort, time and even – money.
Just look at the top ‘How to improve your focus’ advice in your favourite browser: Motivate yourself. Meditate. Learn to do this or that. Invest in this awesome app, or that brilliant focus-boosting music.
So whatever you do, there is no quick fix.
I beg to differ.
I don’t ‘do’ motivation, meditate, use fancy gizmos, or listen to music and I have laser-sharp focus.
Don’t get me wrong. Of course, motivation to improve yourself is crucial. Meditation will boost your mental powers. Listening to music can positively affect your concentration. And one day, we’ll have brain gizmos that really work.
But here’s the thing: all those strategies require time and effort and dare I say – motivation.
What if you need to improve your focus here and now?
I want to challenge you to try at least one of the strategies I use every day; strategies that have already helped me and many other people improve focus instantaneously.
Yes, you heard me right. Instantaneously.
Tip #1: Forget motivation – environment is king
Let’s get the motivation myth out of the way first. Motivation is important. But since you’re reading this post, I can safely assume you’re well motivated to improve your focus. What you need is a strategy matching your motivation level to achieve your goal.
And if you like me, motivated, but not too good at delayed gratification and like to see results quickly, then you need to find a quick fix.
Here’s more good news: I’ve found a quick fix for you. It’s your environment.
There is plenty of evidence from behavioural science (and behavioural economics in particular) that changes in the environment are powerful at effecting change in human behaviour.
Instead of searching for another inspirational quote, or repeating motivational mantras, look around you. Which element of your physical environment is the biggest killer of your focus?
Spend some time exploring, and tackle it. Or – jump below for some sure-fire suggestions.
Tip #2. Sort out your desk
First of all, you work at your desk, or another dedicated workstation, don’t you?
If not – try it. Abandon your sofa, garden bench or the coffee table in the lounge and try doing your job at a desk or a table, even if it’s for an hour only.
Sofas are best for slouching, garden benches – for bird watching and coffee tables – well, for coffee and biscuits.
Once you’re sitting a your desk/table, clear it of any clutter. Find the gear you use most often and put it where you can easily reach it.
See how much time and frustration you can save on searching for a working pen, your notebook, or a pad of sticky notes.
Tip #3. Reduce noise
That focus-enhancing music, how much does it actually enhance your focus? Can you quantify it?
Now, try working in silence, or with some white noise in the background. Turn off that music, radio, TV etc. And if you can’t turn the noise off – put a pair of noise-cancelling headphones/earmuffs or find a quiet corner. Get up earlier and try working when everyone else is still asleep.
Now, how does your productivity in noise-free environment compare with your productivity ‘on music’?
Music is tricky. Songs not only tell stories, but also evoke memories and emotions. And emotions and stories are great at getting our attention – and hence diverting it from what we are supposed to be doing.
If you really need to use music to focus, use instrumental and emotionally neutral or moderately emotional music.
Tip #4. Manage technology
I’ve saved this one for last, because it’s really powerful and because many people ignore it.
You may have already tried this, but if not, listen to what some of my readers have said:
‘I’ve done what you suggested and my productivity doubled’
‘I can’t believe how much more I can do now!’
‘… I can do more and I don’t get stressed so much’.
So, would you like to be able to achieve more, in less time and with less stress?
Then, start controlling technology so it doesn’t control you.
First, turn off notifications: on your email (that blimmin’ Outlook pup-up message!), your phone, social media.
Turn off both – sound and visual notifications. I recommend you do it permanently. You can always check your messages whenever you have time.
Then, put your phone on silent when you’re working. Set up a voicemail message and let your callers know when you check your messages (e.g. mid-morning, mid afternoon). If you need, you can set up an alternative, ‘urgent access’ route of communication.
And if you still feel adventurous, try turning off your Internet connection, or if that feels too scary – work in full screen mode for a while. The fewer the distractions on the screen, the better you’ll focus on what’s right in front of you.
Are you ready?
So how was that? Easy-peasy, just as I promised, or not so much?
You don’t have to commit to anything permanently – just try it for a day, or a couple of hours at least. Give yourself a chance to improve your focus today – right now!
If you got immediate results (or not), let me know by commenting under the post. And if you did, could you do me a favour?
Share this post. Not just to get Micah or me some traffic, but to help other people improve their focus instantaneously with little effort. Maybe reading this post and implementing these tips will double their productivity, too.
After all, not everyone can afford fancy productivity gizmos, spend months improving their habits, or is able to sit still for minutes to meditate.
I just wish more people knew there are easier and faster ways to sharpen their focus. Let’s change that, shall we?
Bio: Joanna Jast is passionate about helping people learn faster and accelerate their personal change using evidence-based strategies. Grab a copy of her free Laser-Sharp Focus Quick Action Guide and start improving your focus today.