Now image the impact it might have on those with whom you are interacting. How it might benefit all players if you were able to focus your full attention on the matter at hand rather than constantly trying to “be productive” by multitasking and processing multiple things at once.
Rather than focusing on yourself and the hundred issues you have bouncing around in your head, you would be in a position to focus on the situation that’s right in front of you. You would be able to give your people your best self and you would be in a position to affect decisions with increased intentionality.
So, how do you develop the ability to focus?
If you think about your ability to focus as a muscle that must be exercised and developed over time you can begin to understand what it might take to get to your ideal ability level. Here are a few that I use every day and have found to be quite effective.
- Take it slow and build: Just like when I am strength training, I start small and gradually increase the weight resistance over time. Trying to take on more than you can reasonably expect to handle at one time isn’t only dangerous but it can also diminish your motivation to continue. Building your ability to focus over time will help to ensure that you can be successful while also continuing to challenge yourself.
- Meditate: The practice of meditation has been gaining a lot of momentum in recent years and is one daily practice that I personally find extremely beneficial. Setting aside time every day to focus on yourself and on centering your attention while blocking out everything else takes a lot of practice. I find that daily meditation helps to reinforce the skill in my routine so that it becomes habitual.
- Study and practice mindfulness: I link this topic closely to my meditation practice but there are other ways to stay mindful of my goal throughout the day as well. I utilize visual cues in my workspace that subtly remind me to stay conscious of my goal of focus. This small action is unnoticeable to others but it helps to center me. Additionally, wearable technologies like the Spire stone can provide you with subtle feedback to help you refocus. The just-in-time feedback it provides help me to consciously changes my respiration rate. This, in turn, helps me to stay mindful and to refocus myself.
- Practice active listening skills during interactions: Active listening requires focus and true attention to an interpersonal interaction. It takes practice and is certainly a skill that must be practiced. Learning active listening skills and putting them into practice bit by bit can help you maintain your focus.
- Find someone to keep you accountable: Asking someone you trust to stay tuned to your focus and to provide feedback can also help ensure that your goal stays top of mind.
- Doodling: This one might surprise many of you but recent research out of Harvard Medical School suggests that acts like doodling, or fidget-spinning if that’s your thing, may aid memory and attention rather than detract from it. The thinking is that the act of paying continuous attention can be taxing on our brains and doodling or fidgeting can give us just enough distraction to be able to maintain high levels of attention.
For additional tips on how to train your attention, Brett and Kate McKay wrote a nice piece on other exercises to help strengthen your attention that you might want to give a read.
Navigating the fast-paced world today can be quite taxing on business leaders who find themselves having to effectively manage multiple priorities in an ever-changing environment. Despite the draw of attempting to divide our attention in the spirit of productivity, we may, in fact, not be doing ourselves any favors.
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