Today’s post is by Achim Nowak, author of THE MOMENT: A Practical Guide to Creating a Mindful Life in a Distracted World (CLICK HERE to get your copy).
Let’s face it. Pretty much every facet of our work lives conspires against us staying focused. We rush from one meeting to the next. We have too many emails to answer in any given moment. There are days when it seems we do nothing but respond to last-minute requests and fly by the seat of our pants.
And yet, the leader who stays focused is the one who creates exponentially more success.
Focus, at its very best, is our exquisite commitment to a goal, and our full engagement with the process of attaining this goal. Before we explore some common-sense focus practices, let go, once and for all, of the notion that multi-tasking works. Yes, you know how to do it. You are likely quite good at it. Research, however, consistently shows that multi-tasking dilutes the effectiveness of the tasks we perform. We tend to confuse motion with achievement. Instead of our relentless focus on achievement, why not focus on the art of focus?
One activity at a time is a fine place to begin. Successful focus, however, is defined by the levels of awareness you and I bring to the performance of this single activity. The following four aspects of focus help us shift from the purely transactional performance of a task to a deeply conscious engagement with this task:
Focus #1 – Our Task: We give our rapt attention to a task we perform. We choose to immerse ourselves in the challenges and joys of this task. Fully. We refrain from incessant distraction – email-checking, texting, web-surfing, hallway chitchatting. We choose depth of engagement over speed or efficiency of engagement.
Focus #2 – Our Mind: Moment by moment, we stay conscious of our thoughts, and the beliefs and emotions that fuel these thoughts. As we engage with a colleague or a task we perform, we consider the possibility of shifting thoughts that inhibit our ability to be effective. We enjoy the pleasure of dual-tracking ourselves – being fully engaged in activity and, at the same, witnessing our thought process.
Focus #3 – Our Energy: In order to stay focused, we require energy. We observe our energy levels and conduct regular “energy checks.” If we need to re-energize ourselves, we drink a liquid, consume nutritious food, stretch our bodies, or take a meditation break. We remain energy-conscious and take satisfaction in the act of energizing ourselves.
Focus #4 – Our Surroundings: We stay aware at all times of what is happening around us. Unlike the airport-traveling-zombies with heads buried in their smartphones, we remain alert. Alert to people walking past us. Alert to shifts in our environment. Open to the peripheral energy of fellow humans who toil in our work sphere, and whose presence has the potential to uplift and stimulate us.
Our 4-part-focus ensures that we get things done. It ensures we do so without becoming rigid or myopic. It invites self-correction if that were helpful. It prompts us to stay connected to a larger collective spirit.
The ultimate reward of a 4-part-focus? When we stop and look at the clock, we’re astounded. Whew. Time flew by. What we thought had lasted mere minutes has actually taken hours. That’s the magic of full absorption.
Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, our foremost authority on the psychology of optimal experience, calls this experience “flow.” When we’re in flow, we deeply enjoy the activity we’re performing. And there are some surprising factors that facilitate this state of flow. Flow doesn’t happen when we coast. If an activity is too easy for us, we are likely to get bored. If it is too challenging, we are likely to get frustrated. Flow happens when there is a balance between challenge and skills.
Choose your activities well. Pay attention to our four aspects of focus. That’s where success begins and where it ends. You will suddenly experience the joys of full absorption. You will, for just a little while, know the thrill of making time stands still. Who knew that focus could get you all that?
– Achim Nowak, president of Influens, is an international executive coach to Fortune 500 executives and entrepreneurs. He is the author of the new book, THE MOMENT: A Practical Guide to Creating a Mindful Life in a Distracted World (CLICK HERE to get your copy).
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