We live in an era where we are distracted more than ever before, and it happens through our smart gadgets such as cell phones, TV, social media, and internet. You are already disrupted at this moment while you are reading this article either by text messages, emails, phone calls or notifications. It becomes challenging to find some solitude without getting bombarded with advertisement or people trying to get hold of our attention.
It is time to start shutting down all of it and learn how to focus. Focus is defined as the act of giving full attention to one particular thing. Subject matter experts like Robin Sharma, the author of The 5am Club, defines focus as giving special attention on priorities and being superb at what we tend to achieve. The author outlined the formula of focus which is (Focus + Time = Mastery).
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Let us imagine that we are driving a vehicle, but unable to control it. The car drives randomly and does not follow the instructions. If we want to go in the left direction, it takes us to the right direction and if we want it to speed up, it starts to slow down. We start to feel powerless and unable to rely on it to take us anywhere safely.
COVID-19 pandemic is a historic global crisis, and it is not likely to become the most productive period of our lives, so there is no need to feel pressured. It is a good time for self-compassion and self-care by leaning on basics such as eating healthy, sleeping well and exercising because everyone is doing the best they can
Controlling our attention
It is the same thing when we cannot focus on our life goals and tasks. Our mind keeps speeding and engaging with unrelated thoughts, pulling us to a different direction. Reaching our destination requires us to be able to control our attention and guide it towards our goals.
The author Daniel Goleman describes focus as a muscle, which requires similar tactics as building body muscles. We work on it gradually every day to strengthen our ability to focus, and it is vital to have the willpower to do it every day till it forms as a habit. He described three types of focus, and there are techniques we can follow to improve them. The first type is the inner focus is the ability to monitor our own feelings, thoughts, emotions, and we can improve our inner focus by practising mindfulness and being fully present in what is going on in the mind.
The second type is the ability to understand and sympathise with others by knowing their feelings and thoughts and being able to assist them if they need our help. Enhancing our other focus requires us to be a good listener and willing to ask for feedback. The third type is the outer focus which is the ability to understand larger systems that are at work. It includes organisations and societies that require from us to think strategically and seek guidance from people who have the experience and are willing to mentor.
Anxiety and stress of the unknown
Many people have lost their focus during the COVID-19 pandemic for many reasons — anxiety and stress of the unknown, juggling between work, family and feeling unproductive. This is totally normal as many research studies show that the focus of human beings suffers when they are under stress, and that’s exactly what we are all going through for many months now.
COVID-19 pandemic is a historic global crisis, and it is not likely to become the most productive period of our lives, so there is no need to feel pressured. It is a good time for self-compassion and self-care by leaning on basics such as eating healthy, sleeping well and exercising because everyone is doing the best they can.
To sum up, it is very easy to get distracted because distraction gadgets are everywhere. The focus is not about doing the most work, it is about doing the most critical work at the highest standard. We produce incredible work and end up with positive results when our focus is aligned with our actions.
Asma Al Blooshi is an expert in educational teaching and technology