Train your focus
Everyday the world is becoming more advanced and more connected. If we are not careful and vigilant we can succumb to only the desires of other people and companies. The more we attach ourselves to our devices, the more we can become distracted by the ever increasing adverts and notifications that vie for our attention and eat our precious time. Our day can be eaten up by mere distractions everyday without us even realising, if we do not find a way to stay on top of it.
We only have a finite level of willpower. At the beginning of the day our willpower is at it's highest and then throughout the day as we make more and more decisions are willpower slowly depletes. This makes it harder to avoid distractions as the day continues. If we think of our willpower like a battery that will run out, we can realise we need to minimise the amount of unimportant decisions we make so that we can focus on our own goals and stay in control of our own lives rather than be a slave to the outside world.
So how do we find a way out of the haze of distractions? Here are some tips I've learnt throughout the years.
1. For as much of the day as possible turn off your phone. Unless you know that there may be an imminent emergency e.g. your sister is pregnant and you know her due date is soon and you want to be there at the hospital with her or something of this sort. Most things can wait. You can create set times during the day when you can check on your phone. Perhaps you check it for 15mins in the morning just to see any updates. Then at lunch time, when you're travelling and in the evening. If you can't turn off your phone and you really do need it or use it either turn it on airplane mode or block all the notifications from your phone that aren't urgent. Either way, really try to limit how much you use your phone during the day. A brilliant app called, 'YourHour' tracks how much you use your phone. It also has a countdown clock which appears on every app you use. It turns orange to tell you it's been 20 minutes and red to tell you that it's been 30 minutes. It has statistics of how much time you spend on your phone, what are your most used apps, how often you turn your phone on and you can set mini challenges to avoid or limit different apps on your phone. It really is a great way to become more self aware and make reducing your phone usage into more of a game.
2. Try to stay device free the hour before you go to bed and the first hour when you wake up. The hour before bed is crucial really as the powerful lights in our phones keep us up and disrupt our sleep. You can put night shift on your devices for the evening which helps but it is better for the last hour not to be distracted by your phone. This can help set you up for success for the next day. A good night sleep will increase your level of willpower. For the first hour of the day it is really truly helpful as you can spend that time focusing and mapping out what are your priorities for the day and figuring out what is important for you to get done instead of focusing on whatever people want you to do or respond to.
3. Any apps that really tempt you either delete if possible or place it in so many folders that it becomes a pain to get to. This way you're more likely to use that app less and also only use it when you really need to.
4. Schedule email time. For me, the desire for a clean inbox is a strong one but it is unnecessary to clean out your inbox regularly. In fact, it is a really clever way of procrastinating because we trick ourselves into believing that we are being a bit productive. In reality we are draining ourselves and completing benign tasks that have no meaning. A really great way to deal with your inbox I learnt from Brendon Burchard. Write down: 'who do you need to hear back from?' and 'who do you need to reach out to?' Then do these tasks first when you go to your inbox, set a timer for how long you want to be doing emails and if you have time briefly scan the rest of the emails, see if there's anything important and deal with that. Then if you still have time, delete unnecessary emails and unsubscribe from anything that you don't want.
5. At the beginning of the day write out your top 3 goals that you want to achieve and focus on these. Until these are complete don't allow yourself to go on your phone. You can divide these 3 goals into: Must get done, should get done and want to get done. That way they are prioritised and you can focus on the most important thing first. A bit of an extra tip I do is actually create 3 goals for my work, personal life and social life. This way I feel I'm more balanced with taking care of the things that matter to me in all areas of my life.
6. Schedule browsing time and social media use during the week. If we let ourselves indulge in these activities during the week at some points than we won't feel as much
of a need to do these activities when we shouldn't be.
7. Don't beat yourself up for getting distracted. Think of it like a puzzle and a challenge to solve. How can you be less distracted tomorrow? What's one way that tomorrow could be better than today? It is far more constructive to view distraction as a game that we need to master and it will be more conducive in the long run to retraining ourselves to be more focused.
8. Train your focus with meditation and breathing. The more we practice this, the easier it will become for us to stay focused in every area of our life. By relaxing and meditating we will find it easier to avoid distractions when they arise in our everyday lives.
9. Increase your willpower with exercise. By increasing our strength of body we will increase our strength of mind and willpower. There's an idea in Yoga that what you practice on the mat you will take with you into every area of your life. This idea I have found to be so true for whichever sport/exercise I'm practicing. I find that whatever I practice translates and increases in other areas of my life too.
I hope these tips help you take back more control of your life and help you find more
flow and happiness.
Lots of peace and love
P.s. If you have any tips, that I haven't mentioned, on how to stay focused and beat distractions, please leave a comment below :)