The biggest challenge we face today is not finding information or being unable to contact the right people to help solve our problems. The biggest challenge we face is staying focused on what is important to us.
History shows that the most successful people are the ones who have been able to maintain a single focus on one thing. Right back to Aristotle with his incessant curiosity about how the world worked to Isaac Newton and his single-mindedness on understanding gravity and scientific principles to Steve Jobs bringing the principles of simplicity and minimalism to a complex field.
If history has taught us anything, success in any field has nothing to do with our backgrounds or education levels; it is predicated on where we decide to place our focus.
“We are equal in our potential. We are not equal in the decisions we make.”
Your success at anything is determined by how much focus you are prepared to give something. And that is where our greatest challenge is today. Filtering out the noisy world, so we remain focused on our goals and objectives.
It’s as if the world and society are conspiring to prevent us from succeeding in our endeavours. Fantastically entertaining films and TV shows. Unlimited learning opportunities through places such as YouTube and Medium and seemingly never-ending ways to communicate with people worldwide. Is it any wonder we don’t have time to work on the next big thing?
To succeed today, you don’t have to be good at time management, but you do have to be outstanding at distraction management.
Here are four ways you can change to become better focused on important things to you.
Know what you want.
It amazes me how few people really know what they want to do with their lives. Ask them about where they are planning to go for their next holiday, and you’ll get a detailed account of where they are going, how they will get there and what the hotel will be like. Ask them what they want out of life, and they have no idea.
If you don’t know where you are going, how will you ever know when you get there?
If you put half the effort into planning your life as you plan your next summer holiday, you would be very dangerous.
If you do not know what you want, you will waste your time and life dabbling, leading to a lifetime of regret and unhappiness.
Figure out what you want out of life. Use the Areas of Focus Workbook to help you and plan out how you will get there. Once you have a bigger vision of what you want, you will find your focus becomes much more precise, and you will not allow yourself to become distracted by the little things that won’t matter next week anyway.
Stay away from the negative news cycles
Watch or listen to the news anywhere globally, and you could be forgiven for thinking we live in a depressing hateful world where people from different races and backgrounds hate people from other races and backgrounds. But that is not the world we live in. That’s the world the media wants us to believe we live in because it creates intense emotions and gets clicks on websites.
Sure, there are isolated pockets of hate, but the vast majority of the world is a kind, loving place where strangers help each other no matter the colour of their skin or background. Every day there are more expressions of love than hate in the world. Just look up from your screens and look around the real world.
The problem with the negative news cycle is it depresses you. It creates a negative emotional reaction, and it distracts you from what is truly important — making the world a little better than it was before you came into the world.
Instead of following the mass media, subscribe to sites like Positive News or the Good News Network — sites dedicated to positive news. Working on your ideas, goals, and dreams in a positive frame of mind is one way for you to do your part in making this planet a little better.
Have a plan for the day
A plan for the day is like setting the destination in your car’s navigation when you go on a long trip. You only arrive at your intended destination if you follow the plan.
I come across many people who claim to have no time to plan out the next day, even though they have time to follow the negative news cycle and doom-stroll through social media. Yet, all you need is ten to fifteen minutes to review your calendar and task list at the end of the day.
If you want to be more focused, the real question is: what do I want to accomplish today? That single question will bring you more focus than any tool, app, or device ever will.
We are not in a race to see how fast or how many tasks can we complete each day. That’s not what your life is about. Life is not about boasting how many emails you get each day either. Life is about getting done what you have chosen to do that day.
That could be to complete your biology paper for university or contact your unhappy client and solve their problem while turning them into your best advocate. Or it could be to spend a relaxing day with your family.
That’s the beauty of knowing what you want out of the day. You choose what you do, and you stay focused on doing it.
Like a car’s navigation system, it doesn’t matter how many times you stop for fuel, eat, or take a bathroom break; once you get back in the car and drive off, your navigation will continue to guide you to your destination.
That’s what your daily plan does. No matter how many times you are pulled off your plan to deal with emergencies, customer requests and questions from your boss. If you have a plan, you will always be able to return to your plan and get back on track.
Be mindful of how you spend your time
Our time on this earth is limited, and we all share the same destination. So, the most valuable asset we have is not the money in our bank accounts or the value of our investments or house or car. It’s time.
If you are mindful about what you are spending your time on each day, you will soon become aware of how much of that precious time you are wasting. This does not mean you have to be working, working, working. It means that whatever you do with your precious time is intentional. If you have a nap, it is because you chose to have a nap. If you choose to write an email, you chose to write that email not because you were forced to do it.
Make your choices deliberate and be intentional in doing what you are doing. If you find yourself mindlessly scrolling through your news feed while having dinner with your partner, or laying down on the sofa, mindlessly channel surfing, stop and ask yourself if this is the best use of your time right now. If not, decide what to do instead. Something more meaningful might be better.
The act of focusing on what is important to you is not difficult. It does not involve a lot of sacrifices. All it takes is a firm decision about what you want, a strategy for achieving whatever it is you want, and being a lot more mindful about how you are spending your time. Do that, and you will soon find yourself giving back to this remarkable planet rather than taking from it.
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