Stop Allowing Your Focus to Run Wild (365 Days of Spirited Living – DAY 106)
(30 Things To Stop Spending Time On If You Want to Be Successful #15)
“You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.”
— Winston Churchill
The direction of any good goal is always ahead. But so many people get sidetracked because they lose focus of where they want to go and what they should be doing. They spend time chasing too many things at once that everything escapes their grasp. What gets your attention will ultimately control your life. Staying focused takes discipline. Discipline is courage.
You know the feeling of getting distracted. You have a task to do and you’re intent on finishing it. But the phone rings, the baby cries, a beep goes off for a text message, a disorganized coworker enters your office for the third time in an hour — and you just give it all your attention.
When you get back to your task, you’ve forgotten where you left off and feel demotivated. Your failure to stay focused on the task at hand or the goal ahead causes you to feel anxious and less productive. There is no guarantee that we will ever be able to shut the world out while we work. But we can choose to stay focused on priorities, plans, and purposes.
Staying focused requires that you intentionally, but respectfully, turn down opportunities that are not beneficial to you. You do not have to attend every event you’re invited to, or answer every text message and phone call, or always be reachable. While we are surrounded by people and near situations every day, we do not have to allow them to cut off our momentum.
Cal Newport, a computer science professor at Georgetown University believes that deep work is very important in the 21st century workplace. He said, “Deep work is when you focus without distraction on something hard for a long time.” He goes further to say that workers of all kinds spend 100% of their day getting distracted and pay attention to trivial pursuits that they cripple their own productivity. Value is diminished and results are almost non-existent.
This is precisely the thing that many people have a problem with. To focus on something, however difficult it is, for a very long time requires effort and discipline. It also requires self control and the ability to make good decisions. The people who recognize the value of setting goals and pushing through obstacles to reach those goals often do succeed. Work that extends outside the scope of your focus lens is no longer work; it’s busyness. “Deep work” as Newport calls it requires focused concentration.
Sometimes people think they need willpower to work on their behalf and that they need to choose to do the worst first (the hard stuff) instead of allowing distractions to invade their path. There are times when this is necessary and it works for some people. But what about those days when willpower is dead and you fall back into your old habit of doing the easiest first (which, in most cases, is nothing)?
This is where intentional choice comes in to play. We allow distractions because they are inviting, engaging, and often fun. But we also leave the door open for them because they are so much easier than the work we know needs to be done. It is so much easier for me to scroll through social media messages on my multiple accounts than to write this article. But those messages aren’t very beneficial to me right now as much as getting this article to you is.
If you want to stay focused, you need to make it difficult for you to be distracted. Yes, this involves willpower to a certain extent. But it also helps to simply block out all distractions and take action on the one task or goal in front of you. It is no secret that focused people are successful people. Successful people not only focus, but they focus on the right things, and they stay focused on the right things. Limited focus creates half-developed ideas, half-implemented plans, and half-realized goals.
“When obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal; you do not change your decision to get there.”
— Zig Ziglar