The Strategist

How to become, and stay, focused

08/17/2018 - 15:33

To be attentive means to focus on what you are doing. This skill can be used anywhere and anytime: when driving a car, reading, talking, solving a problem, servicing machines, working alone or in a team. Yet, the most important thing in focusing is that it cannot be achieved by coercion.

RL Johnson via flickr
RL Johnson via flickr
Tricks of focusing 

it is impossible to concentrate when you are desperately trying to do something. Stressful situations cause frustration, fatigue and limited vision. The focus is the result of interest, and the interest does not need to be forced.

The soft hand

When you try to focus, you may be more prone to influence of distractions. Being angry with yourself because you lost your concentration means reinforcing factors that distract you from the task. But if you notice what exactly distracted you, it will be enough to weaken this distracting factor and achieve a greater focus.

Yet, switching attention does not necessarily mean loss of focus. Once you learn to notice the moment your attention re-focuses, you can determine whether it is useful or distracting. When you drive, attention constantly shifts to receive all the information you need to be safe and drive carefully. Such swings of attention do not make driving difficult. On the contrary, they are important for safe driving and can be used to enhance focus and increase efficiency.

A simple awareness of where attention is directed, improves your focus. To focus on is to fully understand and remember meaningful variables. When you notice that you are distracted, your priorities become clearer, and the focus improves. As the focus adjustment improves, self-interference decreases, and effectiveness increases.

Focused communication

One of the most valuable areas for using focus at work is communicating with other people. Effective work implies good communication, and the focus of attention is an essential element of effective communication.

Start with unbiased observations. Have you ever noticed how dialogue develops in your head while you talk to someone else?

Internal comments and feelings often distract us from the interlocutor.

You catch yourself thinking that you already know what he is going to say, so you really do not need to listen to him. You think you agree with him or not, and rehearse your answer. What part of attention does this inner dialogue take? What do you think, how do you feel when you receive a message?

"Now I am being condemned or criticized for my weakness" or "I do not agree with this." The listener enters the cycle of self-interference. Rapid breathing, flushed face, tense posture and other physiological reactions disrupt the harmony of his inner environment.

Do I have to comment inwardly or rehearse my answer while the other person is talking? What happens if you get rid of control mechanisms and give your full attention to the speaker? When you try to listen as closely as possible, the interlocutor notices that he has all your attention, and usually begins to speak and listen more closely. As a result, quality of communication for both participants can generally improve.

Based on “The Inner Game of Work. Focus, Learning, Pleasure, and Mobility in the Workplace” by Timothy Gallwey