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Focusby mudlee - September 28 2014

How many times do we hear the call to „focus!”... In the movies, when the hero attempts something that exceeds his power, he merely needs to focus very strongly. This is what regular people can't do nowadays. And what they do instead? Just dab at it. Because they're always very busy. They have a lots of things to do.

„I have to do this. And this. Oh, and this too. God, this also has to be done!”

People (particularly office workers) can't seem focus on a simple task. Or, if they can, they lose it quickly. They always want to do more and more. Or, they don't want, but they must (because of their boss or their own expectations). E.g.: They have their day job, but the boss comes and says „do this task now quickly, please”; his colleague asks something; his phone rings (his wife wants to know what she should buy in the mall); etc. The attention is always wandering. They are always distracted.

Why isn't it good if we don't have clear focus?

You might have to ask yourself :) Do you think that a boxer can fight if he has not present 100% mentally and physically in the arena, or if his mind is not there? Is it possible to have a conversation with one of your loved ones, if you aren't there 100%? Is it possible to talk to someone, if you don't look into their eyes? Is it possible to do something in high quality and with maximum attention, if you are doing lots of other things at same time? Is it possible to invent something, have a breakthrough, if you’re doing other things? Think about big, crazy thinkers and scientists. They have focus! I heard a very good quotation in a presentation, it went like this: „Go to a zoo and find a tiger. Look into its eyes. When the tiger also looks at you, it's actually looking at you and not just turning its eyes towards you. It's really looking at you. You have the tiger’s attention in 100%. It's not thinking about what it do in the next hour.” Trust me, you'll feel the difference between the tiger's focus and the focus you think you can have :) If the tiger can't focus as I described above, it wouldn't have any chance to survive in the wild.

The reasons why we can't focus

Nobody was born without the ability to focus. OK, it's a partially studied area, but in our childhoods, we had a very clear ability to focus. Remember when you played with a simple toy. You didn't care about anything else, but the toy. Unfortunately, we've lost this ability. Nowadays, in this great civilization everything is conspiring against our ability to keep focus. Actually lots of things try to teach us, how not to focus. Yes, it's crazy.
  • Media. Movies, TV shows, newspapers. I like old movies because there are only long, extended scenes which I can understand. I can watch for the details. I can clearly understand what's actually happening. TV series, movies you can see in the theater don't give you this gift. You watch a scene, then an another one, then an another one, and so on. Many in one minute. Yes, the visuals are great, but the cuts are awful, too fast, and usually the direction is terrible. If you watch these kind of shows, you also have to put up with ads every 20 minutes. Crazy I say. Newspapers are the same. Too much information on one page. A little bit of everything that is enough to divert your attention. You cannot be completely immersed.
  • Communication. Phone, Skype, Internet, Whatsapp. These are very useful. But, we use these as an extension of our mind. These things are almost part of our body. Anybody can reach us any time. It means, we always distractible. It's not so bad while you can handle it. But most people can't, and they do this instead: if their phone is ringing, they immediately pick it up. If someone writes to them on Facebook, they feel like they immediately have to answer. It happens during a conversation between friends; during dinner with their spouse; even during sex (?!); etc. They want to know everything at once.
  • „Live for today.” It's a very common phrase, isn't it? „We only live once!”. And because of this, we have to do everything fast as we can, because we may die tomorrow. I have written an article about why you should do everything slowly. If you hurry, you cannot focus on anything.
  • Other people. If you're surrounded by people who can't pay attention to anything, after a while you'll adopt this mentality. Then if someone reads an email while their having a conversation with you, next time (or after a while) you'll also read something during a conversation. The next step will be when you ask something from someone, while actually you're doing something else.

Symptoms

I just give you some tips for how to notice that you can't focus, or you're being distracted. I use this advice, to try to improve myself. I've successfully done some of these, but I still have to work on them, a lot. If you notice one of these symptoms, try to stop yourself doing it, and remind yourself of this article.
  • Your phone is ringing and if you cannot answer, it disturbs you. If you can, you'd like to answer immediately.
  • Sometimes when you're in a conversation, you lose the thread of the conversation, because you weren't there mentally.
  • When you talk to a person, you don't look into their eyes. You do everything else between.
  • You used to write emails during phone calls. And sometime, you say something to the phone that you wanted to write in the e-mail. Or vice versa.
  • You're catching yourself out that you've started to say something 10 minutes ago, but now you're talking about something really different. You're a notorious topic-changer!
  • You usually talk fast, discursively. Even you don't know what you said 5 minutes before.
  • Every time you have the chance, you interrupt your speaking partner. It's because you cannot pay attention to the other person. When it happens, while the other speaks, you don't listen to it, but you're thinking about what you will say after the other has finished.

Recipes

I use these:
  • I always look into my speaking partner's eyes. Always. It helps you to pay attention only to them, and not your thoughts. And you may not interrupt them every second. Oh, and I forget the most important: you honor them by listening to them.
  • Check yourself periodically. Even every 30 minutes check how many things you are doing. Stop everything, and continue with the most important task. Maybe all the tasks are important, but there is always one, that is the most important. Do it, then the rest. Lots of people have the excuse that „it's because my boss will scold me!” Well, in this case it means your boss just overloading you with work. Just tell him that you're doing a very important thing, and he has to tell to you which one is the most important. The point is, do one thing only at a time.
  • Encourage your friends not to call you because of anything. Fortunately my friends don't do this, but I see some people in my environment, who don’t have friends like mine. It's because they let them call anytime. Don't forget that the phone is an open gate to our private life if don't care. Will it bother your friends if they cannot call you anytime? Yes. But think, would you let them to enter your bedroom anytime? No.
  • Disable every notification – except the most important – on your phone.
  • Watch old movies and TV series. Watch the movie „Shogun”, or „Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring”, or watch some „Little House on the Prairie” and you'll see what and why I'm saying. It'll be as if time had stopped. You can feel there is no hurry, no rushing. There is ethics and morality. If I was recommending cartoons, I would say that you should watch the Japanese „Hauru no ugoku shiro” or the classic „Winnie the Pooh”. Even „Wall-E” is one of my favorites.
  • If you read something – whether it's on the internet or a book -, just read. Don't do anything else. Don't think about if you've given a new mail or not. Don't talk, don't eat, just read.
  • Don't check your emails every hour. It's stressing you. If you have email notification, turn it off, because it's distract you. Use this: if you don't answer instantly, it's not the end of the world.
  • If it’s not necessary that you have to be available, keep your phone away from you. Look at it every hour. One of my friends told me, he uses a technique that if some person is calling him, he just doesn't answer. After 5-6 minutes he'll call him back, and in most cases the problem has been solved. Why? Because people often rush and call him immediately if they have a question or problem. If they don't get an answer, they try to solve it. Usually they succeed. Actually I used to do this that I would call my friend immediately when faced with something I couldn't solve. Sometimes they were not available, but they called me back after 5-6 mins, and I'd solved the problem already. Well, am I a good example? :)
  • If somebody interrupts you, don't continue talking as much louder than before, and don't try to take back the attention you've lost. Let things continue. Maybe your partner wasn't interested in what you've tried to say. Maybe he'll find out that you didn't say anything. Then you should explain why. „I was quiet, because you didn't let me say anything.”
  • It's being tested, but: if you notice that your speaking partner doesn't look into your eyes while he's asking you, try
    a) Not to answer until he pays attention to you
    b) Look at him deeply, and talk as he's also looking into your eyes. Maybe he'll notice there is a problem with him and he's forced to look at you.

Conclusion

It's important to try to keep your focus. If you do something, pay attention to it, and only to it. Do one thing at a time. If you are dealing with someone, honor them with your complete attention.

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