That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains – Steve Jobs
Losing Focus On The Road
When I was studying at university I was extremely disciplined and focused. I had a clear goal to graduate with a First Class Honours degree.
I knew what I needed to do to achieve that goal, and like a bulldozer, nothing was going to stop me on that path getting there.
After 3 years of dedication and discipline, I achieved my goal and graduated from University with a First Class Honours.
But then I decided to go travelling with the ambitious goal of creating an independent lifestyle.
But it was so easy to get distracted.
Let’s go to the market, visit the temple, go drinking, or do one of 1000 other things on offer.
I waved goodbye to my focus and discipline, because I couldn’t say no, and if I did, what if I missed out on something?
Eventually, I realised that I was spreading myself thin and something had to change.
It was clear that if I wanted to create an independent lifestyle, my way of life wasn’t sustainable and instead of getting distracted, I needed to focus on doing things that would help me build this kind of lifestyle.
The simpler reality was that I needed to find my focus again.
Focus is Power
This five-letter word is one of the most important words you’ll ever hear.
When you have focus you know what you want and do what’s important. You have clarity, direction and a clear goal to work towards.
We get what we ask for in life. If you are vague in what you ask for, then the universe can only give you vague returns.
However, if you are focused, and really understand what you want, the universe will reward you with clarity and results in return.
But how do you improve your focus?
How to Improve Your Focus
In the middle of 2015 I decided to find a base and stop travelling so that I could concentrate on regaining my focus and building good habits. I’ve tested lots of different ways, and I want to share a few things for me that have helped me find my focus:
Focus depends how you start, and you need to begin by doing the right things. Focusing on the wrong things, is like walking in the wrong direction, you’re not going to reach your destination.
The Pareto rule says that 80% of your results come from 20% of your tasks. I found it incredibly useful to monitor what I was doing for two weeks then prioritise each task on a scale of 1 to 3 with 1 being the most important tasks and 3 the least.
Everyday, whether I liked it or not, I’d sit down and start by giving the number 1 tasks my pure focus, and only move to the next tasks once I had finished these tasks. This proved to be a very simple and effective technique that worked very well for which I still use today.
On average it takes 25 minutes to regain focus after a distraction. That’s a lot of time, and in a notification orientated world, one of the biggest killers of our focus is social media. The harsh truth is that you need to cut it out if you want to find focus.
Here are a few things that I’ve been experimenting recently:
• Only check social media/email 2 times a day. Once in the morning. Once in the evening. 30 minute sessions. Check, respond.
•Disable all push notifications to your phone or laptop.
•As Mark Twain famously said, “eat the frog first thing”. Wake up at 5am while everyone else is sleeping and use the next 3 hours of distraction free time to engage in deep work on your MIT (Most Important Task). Save the menial till later when your will power has diminished.
•Do small/menial tasks like shopping, cleaning, shaving in bulk rather than spreading them out and letting them break the flow of your day.
•If the internet is a distraction, disable your connection for a certain period of time using this software.
Less is always more. By subtracting the unnecessary from your life, you make more space for what’s important.
Make a list of everything you have in your life – friends, materials, habits, hobies – and then get real, asking yourself whether each thing is adding to your life or taking something away?
This binary way of looking at things will take away the hesitation and decision-making. Eliminate everything that isn’t serving you, and be ok with having less in your life.
For me, exercising first thing in the morning, even if it’s just for 20 minutes, is a great way to shock my body, get the blood flowing and give me the clarity I need for the day ahead.
There’s a lot of literature written about successful people who all share in common the fact that they start the day with exercise for at least 20 minutes in the morning.
For example, Richard Branson, founder of Virgin, wakes up at 5am in the morning to kite surf, swim or play tennis. He claims that he gets 4 hours of extra focused work by doing this.
Another useful tip: Between sets at the gym or on a run, try visualising and thinking about what you need to focus on during the day and what you want to achieve.
Focusing on the things that serve us in in life can be very powerful indeed.
It’s not about working longer, it’s about working smarter, and that requires intense focus and discipline.
Be patient because intense focus is not going to come over night. Like anything we do in life, focus is a habit, so start small, consistently show up, and don’t break the chain.
Thanks for reading and all the best,
Daniel Beaumont, Thursday 3rd March 2016
About the Author
Hello everyone, I’m Dan – a 28-year-old social entrepreneur and writer from the north of England, living in Bucharest, Romania. I’m currently writing my first book about my 4-year journey around the world seeking wisdom and life-lessons from everyday people I met hitchhiking and Couchsurfing.
I discovered that travel, if approached with the right mindset, can be life-changing, and a trip combining travel, purpose and introspection is a great way to learn, challenge oneself and change for the better. Now my mission in life is to share what I’ve learned to inspire others to embark on their own journey of self-discovery and use travel, entrepreneurship and technology as a means to make the world a better place.
I’m also the founder of Podstel – a vision to help humanity belong and grow by creating a worldwide network of ‘homes’ that bring locals and travellers together to share their stories, passions and skills. The first two Podstels are open and thriving in Bucharest, so if you’re passing through, be sure to come and say hi, or stay the night with us.
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