Turning away from social media sites can be a daunting task. Its always a riddle finding out how to stay focused with all the informational distractions. The effort it takes to lift that finger and click on that little x button at the top right corner of your browser or the bottom right corner of your phone’s screen is ginormous. You just cant seem to focus your mental energy on such a small thing. It goes to shows just how powerful mental agility is when compared to physical strength. Most of the time we give the excuse that we are too tired to do something while referring to actual physical energy but truly half the time it isn’t the muscle it’s the nerve that’s involved. The first battle in focusing on a task is always some stubborn idea that works against your intention to start something else. For instance if your glued to Facebook, the reasons to stay on your homepage pour in second after second in the form of status updates. But why do such trivial things become so important at these moments when more realistically urgent matters await to be attended to elsewhere. The reason is simple. They entertain the irrational mind.
The Lizard Brain
This is what Seth Godin refers to as the lizard brain. The lizard brain wont tell you exactly how to stay focused but it works both ways – negative and positive. Negative is when you have a new client to meet and somehow you feel its going to be a bit different this time so you’re really afraid of screwing up. You probably don’t have a solid reason to be scared. Solid meaning, you don’t have evidence of anything that will surely go wrong but still you’ll find yourself fretting your hairs off because the lizard brain tells you so. The lizard brain will keep millions of people from ever taking a chance and starting on big business ideas they come up with ever year. They more they hold back, the more supporting proof they offer the lizard to feed on. It will keep them from trying again when they face challenges that they were at first unable to take on. It could be a marketing deal you couldn’t close that convinced you that every other prospect will turn you down the same way. We are all breeding lizard brains each and every day of our lives because we are afraid of failure and losing control.
Sometimes we are distracted positively from focusing on stuff. What this means is that we always find something else that grabs onto our attention and keeps us locked onto it. The lizard brain always awakens swiftly to the inviting odour of a relatively new and entertaining distraction. “Uuu! its a new friend request on Facebook” or “Wow, a new trend on twitter”, or maybe its your iPod and you’re thinking, “Let this song end then I’ll get down to work.”Personally I’ve been guilty of accommodating such on so many occasions. I tend to get distracted by new ideas and just find myself thrilled with each new development of the idea in my mind that it can take hours to switch back to action mode. The obvious and smart thing to do is to simply write the idea down and carry on with it later when I’m free. These fast hand innovative breakaways can save you an enormous chunk of your most valuable resource- Time.
The truth is your goal in finding out how to stay focused is to find out how to keep your time well utilized. The problem we face, in a simple overview, is somewhat like this. We always define some new goals we wish to achieve then we’ll have an idea of how soon we’d want that to happen. We then figure out the stuff we need to do to get there. Problem is we don’t get very specific on how long each small nitty gritty detail will take. Its easy to feel like we’re experts on the subject so compromises on time schedules are easily welcomed. You pick off 5 minutes here and 10 there and you lose 15 in an hour. The importance of keeping time is only best understood once someone really understand what value is lost by compromising those 15 minutes. How much further away from a goal are you when you take time outs to watch random stuff on T.V. Are you in time? If so, you deserve those 15 but if you are lagging it’s good to either know how to make up or just quit and get back to work.The problem with taking your eyes away from the prize for a little harmless distraction is that you make the distraction appear more important and consequently devalue your attraction to your goals. Alternatively you can some of the tricks I’ve utilized myself in the past
How to stay focused while multitasking
Then there’s the whole twist about multitasking. I once heard somehow say its not really multitasking its shifting back and forth from a host of activities. This is the best recipe for destroying focus. If you really want to gets stuff done and done well its utterly important to keep your focus on one thing at a time for a reasonable span of time. Some things are harder to focus on than others. To be categorical, its much easier to focus on the smaller details than on the big picture. But its the small details that make the big picture. That’s why we have millions of dreamers in society wishing to live like millionaires but only a handful who actually are millionaires. Making millions is the big picture and it comprises of a million tiny little frames of work. What millionaires do is they ensure that they have as many people focusing on the small frames of work in order to build the big ship for him. But for them it all started from that same point and they’re biggest asset eventually became being able to expand their focus zone to accommodate projects and actions on a much larger scale. To do this you need to be able to focus on running all those smaller portions of work as a one single unit which takes skill. A skill that is built over time. Its the skill that makes rich people rich and famous leaders great.
Science vs Art
Our minds naturally come with both a scientific and artistic make up. The scientist in us is always out to philosophically reason out stuff before doing anything. It will ask for a million reasons in order to justify any action. Finally it will settle for whichever reasons match their moods. Its a very subconscious process because we normally end up at a conclusion that we believe ws built on very rational judgments. In reality we just stuck to what our mood or conditioned ideas or reality told us to stick to. Quiting a job is really hard because most people assume the worst will come out. The idea that you will end up starved and homeless is what we refer to as solid argument. We obviously don’t have complete proof for that. The best way to take on a task and keep your focus is to accept the reasons that encourage it . Trusting in your reasons is the only absolute you will ever find.
The artistic mind on the other hand is drawn to anything it enjoys doing. It’s the creative part in us and it does not demand any rational thinking, it just flows. Painting, writing, singing, socializing, video games and so on. The problem with the artistic mind is that it gets easily addicted. If your loving it why should you stop. Just because your scientific mind tells you your spending too much time doing stuff that wont get you paid doesn’t mean you want to stop. So there is always that conflict between the artistic mind and the scientific minds. Switching between tasks that need you to exercise either can be a horror of a challenge in your plight to focus. The key however is to include both parts of our minds in each activity.
What if you could put in a bit of critical thought into what you do when you’re acting. The result would be recording yourself so that you can see where to improve on. Science rides on assessment, but art thrives on response. If you want to perfect your art you need to critique it. The artist in you will just want to act on and on until it hears someone clap. But the scientist in you will tell you those claps will come a lot faster if they first come from you. So, in general our mission for greater focus is to:
- Recognize and contain the lizard brain
- Be aware of the value of time
- Build focus from the ground up by starting on the small things one at a time.
- Involve both the scientific and artistic selves