Staying focused on our work and self-development can be a very demanding deed. And our fullest potential a standard extremely hard to achieve. There are distractions and obstacles we have to face, and sometimes we don’t even know where to begin.
Does that sound like a discouraging introduction? It might “feel” that way if you believe that achievement, success, and prosperity need to be easily obtainable. Which is rarely the case. Most of the times, to reach our fullest potential, we need determination, persistence, and courage to show up in this world in all of our greatness- and that takes some training and effort.
If you perceive yourself as a person with high aspirations, a person driven by success you probably feel that reaching your fullest potential and enjoying the benefits of self-actualization are your life goals. And you, probably, know by now that “the path to the top of the Maslow’s Pyramid” can be much harder than you can imagine.
It’s not enough to know exactly what you want, or how to get it. The key is to stay focused on your path to achieving. Unfortunately, many people struggle with keeping focus these days. Procrastination, clutter, and lack of personal effectiveness get in the way.
Luckily, this is so common that there are a lot of information, tools, and techniques available to support you on your self-actualization journey.
Begin with Your Brain
Think of your brain as a muscle. If you ever when to the gym, you had a chance to see that it takes a lot of practice to get desired results. If you want to go from short and blurry focus to sharp and long-lasting, it will take some time and a whole lot of effort before you get there. Here are some tips and tricks that will help you during this process:
Know When and Where to Work
If you are determined on keeping your focus and giving your best during your “work” (or whatever is that you are doing to reach your fullest potential), you should listen to the needs of your body. Firstly, are you an early bird or a night owl? Do you work most efficiently in the morning and during the day or after the sun sets?
Researchers show that your brain will handle intensive tasks much easier in late morning – around 10 A.M. At this point, you should be fully awake, fed and ready to work. (1) Try to schedule your most demanding tasks during that period.
Also, don’t work for hours without stopping. Your attention is fully active for about twenty to twenty-five minutes. After that time your productivity starts to decrease. This is the point where training your brain starts to look exactly like training your body. Work in intervals and make pauses.
The famous Pomodoro technique will help you with that. Choose your task, and set the timer for twenty-five minutes. Work only on what you have selected during that time interval, do not check your phone, do not stand up to make coffee. When the timer rings take a five-minute break. You can do something during that time or simply relax. Then start the new interval. After every fourth session of twenty-five minutes, take a longer pause – from fifteen to thirty minutes.
Frequent breaks are supposed to keep your mind fresh and focused. They also make you more accountable for your tasks because there is an actual clock ticking above your head and it minimizes the procrastination. (2)
The last in this section but equally important is your workspace. It is hard to keep focus if you are sitting in an uncomfortable chair with your phone next to you and a lot of interesting things lying on your table. Also, you don’t want to be working in a dark and noisy room.
All of these tips may seem like common knowledge, but unfortunately, common knowledge isn’t the common practice. Be an exception and really make an effort to create an environment supportive to your inspired intentions. It is best to work in a place you find most suitable for your needs. However, try to minimize distractions. Well-lit space with the right amount of air and comfortable chair would be ideal. You can listen to some soft music if you want, but only if you don’t find the lyrics or the rhythm distracting. Some people find that they actually focus best in a busy coffee shop. Our Co-founder Matt is one of them!
Know Exactly What You’re Working On and How are You Doing It
After you determined when and where you want to “work”, proceed by clearly defining what is it that you want to work on (be as specific as possible) so that “the how “comes more easily to you.
As first, it is important that you invest your energy in work that keeps you genuinely interested and engaged. When you doubt if the task you are working on is essential to your success, you won’t be motivated to finish it. Therefore, you won’t be able to keep your focus. Your mind will wander off to a task that seems more urgent but is, actually, not that important overall.
Also, do not multitask. It seems useful, but it is a distraction. Our mind is able to focus on one thing at the time. If you pressure yourself to focus on more things at the same time, how can you expect that focus to last? Multitasking consumes your energy because you constantly switch between tasks. It is much more productive to make a list of your tasks in order of importance and work through it one by one.
Done is Better Than Perfect
When you enter your interval of twenty-five working minutes, just work as much as you can. Do a lot. Don’t do perfect, just get it done. It is okay to be sloppy at first; you will correct your mistakes later. Constantly searching for errors, revising and correcting yourself is dividing your attention. It is just as bad as multitasking.
One of the most important things for focus is mindfulness. Being in the present moment means being able to entirely devote yourself to the “thing” in front of you. Breathe slowly and concentrate on the work you are doing, if you notice your mind is starting to ramble, get your focus back to your breath and then keep going. (3)
Evaluate and Reward Yourself
What is the best way to train a cat, dog or a child?
The answer- treats. So why not trying to train yourself by creating a good rewarding system? That's what we do with our Intention Inspired Web App. You get a fun little reward from us every day you complete your Intention Inspired session. That seems simple, but there's incredible power to it as you make it a habit. Try it out free now.
Start by developing milestones toward your goals. It is hard to stay focused if your goals seem far or abstract, so this tactic should help. Break your goals into equal parts and set monthly or even weekly or daily milestones. That way you will track your progress easier and see the results of your work immediately. These little goals seem more reasonable and simpler to achieve.
After you reached every milestone, reward yourself in a loving (generous) manner. This way, your brain will be trained to work with the expectancy of reward. Get a treat, watch an episode of your favorite TV show, take a long bath or go out with your friends. Do whatever you like, whatever pleases you.
Of course, do not cheat. Plan your rewards upfront. If you don’t reach your milestone for the day or week, do not take a prize. Skip it. Experience the consequence.
After each day, evaluate your progress.
This will help you determine if you deserve a reward. It is also useful for developing self-awareness. See how much you have progressed, which goals were easy achieved and which required more effort. Notice if you are stuck with one particular task, or if you are consistently getting stuck with the same sort of tasks. This will help you approach work in a different way and keep more focus.
Embrace the feeling of accomplishment after every finished task. Do not distract yourself by thinking about future assignments, stay in the present and work with what you have at the moment. (4)
Implementing these guidelines may seem simple, but it takes a lot of effort. However, being willing to follow these and working on them is a great step toward reaching your fullest potential.
If you follow these gentle guidelines your focus will become sharper and more lasting, day by day but don’t forget that muscles don’t just get stronger, but also get sore. This means you might experience failures, yet that is not the reason to give up.
If you still haven’t heard – sore muscles are best healed by more exercise, so start working and enjoy the results! If you need some more help with that mindful exercising …
You got this.