Table of Contents
Chapter 1: The Psychology of Staying Focused 9
How the Brain Chooses What to Focus On …….. 10
What’s the Problem Here? ………. 11
Notifications are Just as Distracting as Phone Calls ……. 12
Chapter 2: Find Your Willpower . 15
The Pareto Principle ……. 15
Goal Setting and Objectives ……. 16
Chapter 3: Create a Focus Haven ………. 20
Turn Off Social Media and Email 21
Turn Off Your Phone ……. 21
Close the Door …. 22
Turn on Some Classical Music … 22
Organize . 23
Chapter 4: Staying Focused In a Digital Age …. 26
The Distraction of Our Phones …. 26
Digital Minimalism ……….. 27
Chapter 5: You’re In Control of Your Time …….. 31
Parkinson’s Law .. 31
Pomodoro Technique …… 32
Eat the Frog …….. 34
Single Tasking vs. Multitasking :Which Is Better? ………. 36
Chapter 6: Don’t Forget to Take a Break ……….. 39
Increases Your Productivity …….. 39
Can Be Your Creative Fuel ……… 40
Physical Movement Keeps the Brain Sharp …….. 40
Chapter 7: Fuel Up ……….. 43
How Sleep Improves Focus …….. 43
Getting the Right Diet …… 44
Chapter 8: Make It a Habit ……….. 48
What is a Habit? .. 49
How to Create a Habit ….. 50
Conclusion ……….. 53
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How the Brain Chooses What to Focus On
During the day, your brain is always on and trying to gather and take in important information. This means that it has to sort through the noise and decide what it wants to focus on. This is called selective attention and there are two main forms that come with it:
This is also known as voluntary focus and it is one of the best types. With this focus, you pay attention to your goals. You look at the bigger picture and come up with a plan that helps you get there. You know that your phone and emails keep you from reaching these goals so you ignore them. You get stuff done on time, if not ahead of time.
This is more of a stimulus-driven focus. When a thought starts to creep up to you or a notification shows up on the phone and you get distracted, this is a sign that you work with bottom-up focus. You have to pay attention to what is going on around you, rather than the thing that deserves the most attention for you.
What’s the Problem Here?
The ultimate goal is to become a top-down thinker. This allows us to focus on what is important and avoid all the rest. Unfortunately, because of our natural instincts, we are often bottom-up focusers instead. Willpower and focus are finite resources, which means that the more you are distracted, the harder it is to get back on track. And since we are bottom-up focusers, every little thing is enough to distract us from our goals.
Since most of us can be easily distracted by little things like emails and notifications on our phones, we need to prepare for this. We need to be aware of it and limit the amount of distractions that we have during the day. Turning your phone off and staying away from social media, for example, can help keep the distractions down so your brain will not even realize they are there and you can focus on your work.
There is just too much that is adding to our focus problem and trying to draw our attention away from what is important. Those notifications, those emails, and those little things have a way of drawing us in, even if they are not that important at all. We think we just give them a few moments of our attention, but it does not take long for them to take over and then we get nothing done during the day.
Notifications are Just as Distracting as Phone Calls In the past, we would not know anyone was trying to contact us on our phones unless it rang. This was less frequent because most people had to have something important to talk about before they would go through the effort because it took some time for a phone conversation. Today, our phones often do not ring as much. But we may here a single beep or a vibration for a text or a Facebook message. And since these take the sender just a few moments, we may get a lot of them during the day.
A study from three researchers at Florida State University suggest that getting one of these notifications, no matter how small they may be, could distract us as much as responding to a text message or a phone call, even if we do not respond to it. During this study, there were about 150 students who had to complete a test of sustained attentional performance. During this test, the subjects are given a series of single digits on a screen and a new digit will show up every second.
During this, the students are meant to tap on the keyboard each time the digit changes, unless the new digit is a 3. Each person did the test two times. The first time they did it without their devices there to interrupt them. The second time, they could have their phone and assistants to the test would text or place phone calls to these phones.
Through this, researchers found that the performance for that assessment suffered if the student receive audible notification on their phone of any kind. Each type of phone distraction, whether it was a phone call or a text, was destructive to how well they did. It didn’t seem to matter if the student didn’t answer the phone or ignored the text. If they got the notification, they still knew they had that notification and their performance suffered.
This is telling to our focus and it is an example of how bottom-up thinking works. Something as small as a text notification is enough to send our focus out the window and can make our performance suffer. Recognizing this and finding methods to limit the impact it has on our work can be critical if you want to improve how well you do at work.
Chapter 2: Find Your Willpower Even if you get easily distracted and you have bottom-up focus, there are steps that you can take to limit the effect of this. If you are tired of having your time eaten up by looking on social media or checking your phone each time it dings, and you do not want to work overtime in order to get the work done, then there are steps that you can take. This will not always be easy, but finding your willpower and what motivates you can make a difference.
Before we dive into some of the specifics on how to manage your focus, we need to look at how to find your willpower.
Understanding the Pareto Principle, and learning how to set clear goals for yourself can help make this happen.
The Pareto Principle
The Pareto Principle specifies that about 80% of the consequences in any situation will come from about 20% of the causes. This shows that there is an unequal relationship between the inputs and outputs. It often referred to as the 80/20 principle.
While this principle was originally applied to the relationship between wealth and population, it can be applied to many other areas including human resources, management, and manufacturing. It can also be applied on a more personal level.
Time management is a common use of the Pareto Principle.
Many people tend to spread out their time rather than focusing on the tasks that are the most important. In this case, about 80% of your work-related output may come from 20% of your time at work.
Goal Setting and Objectives
To help you get more out of your time at work, you should set goals. This helps you to stay focused better and gives you something more to work towards. Your goal should not be, get more done. It needs to be more focused and specific to help you get results.
The best way to set a goal is to have. SMART Goal. These stand for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. These can give you the specifics that you need for goals that will get you ahead. They can also be motivational so you keep working on them rather than giving up halfway.
You can set goals based on what works the best for you. Do you want to make it a goal to stop getting distracted at work? Then decide how much time you will allow yourself to check emails and phone calls and set that as the goal. If you have a big project at work, then use the SMART Goals idea to help you stay on track.
Let’s say you have a major project to get done at work and you are often getting things done at the last minute. This time we are going to use SMART goals. List out exactly what you want to get done in the goal. For this one, we want to get the project completely done by the deadline.
Then we will split it up into more manageable parts that are measurable, giving each part a due date that is attainable for our needs. The way that you split this up will depend on the exact project that you need to get done but having it in smaller and more manageable chunks can make life easier and gives you something to check off as you go. This along can be motivational for many people.
Always remember to put a time-limit on any of the goals that you would like to reach. It is easy to just list out the items that you want to finish and then do nothing else with them. This is the fastest way for to get in trouble because you will keep putting them off. Set the goal with a time limit that is reasonable for that part of the project and stick with it so you no longer need to leave the work until the last minute.
Goal setting can help you use the Pareto Principle to its full advantage. When you are organized and can keep on track, it is amazing how quickly you can get work done and move on to something more important. No more wasting time at work or home, no more waiting until the last minute to get things done; you have clear goals that will help you succeed.Other Details
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