Are you easily distracted?
The chances are high you'll start reading this article and before you finish it, be distracted. Your watch or phone will buzz with an alert. You'll get twitchy and feel the need to check social media. The doorbell will ring with a delivery. Your dog will start barking and you'll wonder why. There's a 50% chance you won't finish reading it. At the end of this article, if you get there, I'll share with you some ideas that can help you sharpen your focus.
I'm reading a very good book at the moment titled Stolen Focus. The author, Johann Hari, discusses 12 reasons why we can no longer remain focused for any length of time. He's done his research and writes well.
Did you ever receive school reports saying you needed to focus more? You were easily distracted. I certainly did. I'm sure we all had teachers happy to share with us that we needed to be paying more attention. What was lacking was how to focus more? When I was 15, it seemed perfectly natural for me to be distracted when Trigonometry was mentioned, or we were learning the Periodic table.
Successful leaders in 2022, need a range of skills, one of which is agility, another, is laser like focus. We live in times of rapid change and need to be able to embrace change as opposed to avoiding it. Be careful. If you're too nimble and too quick to change, you'll never get anything done properly. They'll always be something new and shiny competing for our attention. Starting a project or a task is often the easy part. Seeing it through to the end, requires tenacity.
Speaking of being easily distracted, when I was in my early 20's, I had a cricket coach who used to say to me, "concentrate". My mind would race ahead, and think, on what? The ball, my feet, the sky, my thoughts? When I learnt, a few years later, to really watch the ball, trust my process, and quieten my mind, I became a much better player.
In addition to being a famous Hong Kong martial artist and actor, the late Bruce Lee had many memorable quotes. One that sticks with me is "The successful warrior is the average man with laser like focus".
If you've made it this far, without getting distracted, well done, you're almost there.
5 tips to help you sharpen your focus:
- Reduce the distractions in your life. Be disciplined with your phone. Work out when to turn it off and when to turn it on. You need a break from it and it certainly needs a break from you. Think clearly about your notifications, alerts, and the many different WhatsApp groups you belong to. Do you really need all those distractions?
- Review your approach to social media. The primary aim of all social media platforms appears to be to keep you on them. They use a range of algorithms to ensure you, much like a drug addict, are being drip fed pieces of information that will, above all else, keep you on the platform. Be careful how much time you spend each day seeing edited and air brushed highlights of your long-lost friends.
- Train your brain, using mindfulness or meditation techniques. Spending a few minutes each day, focusing on your breathing, sitting still and learning how to stay on task, can be very powerful. I love the The Dalai Lama's quote “I'm so busy today, I'll need to meditate for twice as long". You might try doing a daily puzzle, like Wordle, Sudoku or a crossword.
- Read books regularly. Twitter forces you to make a point in 280 characters, which is between 2 and 5 sentences. Good luck with that. Facebook and Instagram posts are a collection of edited images with a few words on someone's daily highlights reel. Reading them doesn't count. By reading books daily you are training your mind to concentrate. Your mind will wander when you read, but over time, with some discipline you will improve. You might want to start with 5 minutes uninterrupted reading and then slowly increase your reading time each day. Aim for 30 minutes a day. Our 14-year-old son, Zac, when asked if he's done any reading today, will say, yes, I read the subtitles on a Netflix show or a You Tube clip. Sorry Zac, that doesn't count.
- Exercise and diet. Research shows that when we exercise, blood pressure and blood flow increase everywhere in the body, including the brain. More blood means more energy and oxygen, which makes our brain perform better. If you incorporate some daily meditation with exercise and reading, your ability to focus and stay on task should start to improve quickly.
We include content and ideas to help leaders sharpen their focus and reduce distractions in the NRG Leadership Express program. The program can be delivered as 6 x 2 hour weekly VC modules or as a face to program.
For more information or to discuss your teams requirements please get in touch.