5 instant tips for more focus (+ free video training and worksheet)
Being a Multipassionate is great, but sometimes we’re just butterflies on speed. Fluttering from one flower to the other, without actually getting the nectar, a.k.a. getting the work done.
When you’re interested in a lot of things, I know how hard it can be hard to stay focused on completing one task at a time.
I don’t know about you, but my world is full of shiny objects: I want to read every book I hear about, buy every course I see, work with all the coaches that promote themselves, learn about all languages I hear, and start every new hobby that crosses my path.
You probably know what that’s like😏.
It’s easy to get distracted, especially in modern times where you have access to almost everything you want almost instantly.
But being flaky and distracted all the time is going to keep you stuck. I know it, and you know it. If you really want to move forward in multiple areas of your life, you need to focus and get things done.
Today’s blog post offers some tips to get more focus. Read this blog if you:
- Generally have 20 tabs open (in 2 browsers)
- Combine answering your emails with checking Facebook, messaging your friends, and ordering something online (or any other combination of tasks)
- End your days with 10 new ideas but zero work done
- Feel overwhelmed and frustrated by your to-do list
#1 Stop. Multitasking. a.k.a. Multifocusing
I know, being Multipassionate and multitasking often go hand in hand. You often have so much to do it seems like you’re more efficient when you’re combining multiple tasks and projects.
Even though we can DO things at the same time (like doing the dishes and listening to a podcast), we can’t FOCUS on more than one thing at a time.
Maybe we feel very productive when we’re checking our emails, while texting our friend, and at the same time ordering those new yoga leggings, we’re actually not.
Here’s what happens when your brain switches between different tasks:
This image shows that when task A is interrupted by task B, the 2 tasks together take a longer time than when you would perform A and B without switching tasks. This is because every time you change to a different task, it takes your brain a few moments to switch gears to a different context. That context switching happens every time you switch. The more interruptions, the more time you lose.
#2 Take breaks
I know you want to get everything out of life. You want to fill every minute of your life with the things you’re passionate about. You hate wasting your time, and if you had superpowers you would just skip your 8 hours of sleep, right?
Unfortunately, our brains need sleep. And not only that… We need regular breaks to keep functioning properly. Even when you think you’re still going strong after 3 hours of constant working, your attention will be weaker and you’ll be more likely to make mistakes.
If you really want to get everything out of life, you need to learn how to manage your energy.
One of the best ways to keep your energy levels high throughout the day is taking plenty of breaks. You should take short breaks every 25 to 50 minutes, and longer breaks every 2 to 4 hours.
I personally love to work with the Pomodoro technique: You set a timer for 25 minutes and take a short 5-minute break before starting the next 25-minute block. After 4 blocks you take a 15-minute (or longer) break. Even when you feel in flow, you need to take your break. You’ll see you get back into that flow right away after your short break.
The key is to take actual breaks in those 5 minutes, and move away from your computer and your phone.
Here are some quick break ideas:
- Go to the toilet and drink a glass of water
- Do 1 or 2 sun salutations to get your blood moving
- Meditate for a few minutes
- Go for a walk
- Make yourself a good lunch
- Go to the shop to buy your groceries
The Sandwich method
One of my favourite ways to force myself to take enough breaks is the Sandwich method. I came up with this after a good friend (and very successful entrepreneur) told me how she made sure she got out of bed in the mornings: She would schedule a meeting, or a coffee date with a friend. To make sure she wouldn’t work until very late she made sure she scheduled dinner plans, or booked a fitness class.
I personally don’t have trouble waking up, so I use this technique to sandwich my working hours in between a lunch- and an evening activity. An important thing to make this work is external accountability: making an appointment with someone else, or booking with an external organisation. Especially when taking breaks is not yet a habit, just putting a block in your calendar with ‘me-time’ is often not enough to keep you from working. I obviously speak from personal experience 🙂
#3 Meditate daily
Maybe you wonder what sitting in silence has to do with getting anything done… Let me explain.
Meditation is not about having no thoughts at all, as many people think. Though that can be the result when you become a master in meditation. Meditation in the first place is about learning how to step away from your daily stream of thoughts, and become the observer. Most meditation techniques teach you how to focus on one point, or one thing, like your breath, or your third eye. Every time you notice you get lost in thought, you bring your attention back to that focus point. This in itself literally trains your mental focus. The more you meditate, the more you learn how to focus on just one thing at a time.
#4 Stop the phone addiction
Our phones are the biggest triggers to interrupt our focus. Working on your phone addiction, in general, is a good idea, but here are some instant things you can do to make your life easier (and increase your focus):
- Put your phone behind your computer screen. Honestly, out of sight, out of mind. Your reflex to pick up your phone will drastically change if you can’t see it from the corner of your eye
- Put your phone on flight mode or ‘do not disturb’ when you need to focus on a task.
- Install screentime limits. Every smartphone has the option to limit your screentime, and choose specific hours in which you can use specific apps. On Android this is called ‘digital balance’.
#5 Use focus blocks, Batch tasks
My weekly calendar looks very busy and colourful. That’s because I batch all similar tasks or activities together, and plan them into my calendar in 2- or 3-hour blocks. I do this for my professional life ánd my personal life. I have a block for content creation, for play, for admin and finances, personal to-do’s.. etc.
For some people this might seem like too much, and it revokes some resistance: ‘I don’t want to plan everything, it messes with my freedom’
I understand that feeling, but in fact, I experienced it gives me more freedom, and I get more out of life. Here are 3 reasons why:
1. Being present
During a focus block I can have 100% attention on the thing I want to focus on. I am not worried about all the other stuff I need to do, because I know there’s also a time and space for those things. By consciously choosing what I want to spend time on, and when, I move forward in all areas of my life, and that to me feels like freedom.
By the way, I am not super rigid with my planning: I move my blocks around all the time. I just make sure I don’t delete them from my calendar.
2. Taking time for everything that matters
When your calendar is only filled with external appointments and events, what does that tell you?
It tells me that the external world is deciding how you spend your time.
I want to make the most out of my life. There is so much I want to learn, see and do. The way I can realize this is by consciously making sure that I block out times for all the important areas in my life. If I am being lived, I am out of control, and when I am out of control I don’t have my freedom.
3. It holds me accountable
When there’s nothing in your calendar, it’s easy to let life happen, or to let other people fill up your calendar. But when you have an actual event in your calendar that says ‘Me-time night’, it will help you to keep this night just for you. I use time blocks as a way to hold myself accountable to do the things I tell myself I am going to do.
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