3 Ways to focus on one thing at a time.

“I can do only one thing at a time, but I can avoid doing many things simultaneously. “~unknown

Multitasking is a myth.
Habit stacking is not task shifting.
Habit and discipline are not the same.

These phrases are tossed around. What they all really mean to say is, “focus on one thing at a time.”

As I write this I notice that I have four browser tabs open, one iphone next to me, 10+ people around me chatting. We live in a world of distraction. Let’s face it.So how do we build this super important practice in a modern world?

If you struggle with focusing on one thing at a time, I’d like to share a few ideas on how to build a habit of focus [below]

I have found that I can be more productive, creative, and inspiring when I am present and focused on one thing at a time. However, my creativity decreases when I am interrupted. I get irritated. My presence gets anchored on something or someone else. I’m partially focused. I’m waiting for this girl from eharmony to respond to my message. focus lost.

There is a power when we focus on one thing.

Think of the man in rage. He is focused on doing one thing – destroying his target.On the other side think of the running back that will get to the goal line no matter what. He becomes the hero from his focus.One more example is the fund raiser who is focused on making a mission trip or a volunteer project happen. This person will find anyway and any method to make it happen. Focused.

Having focus is a nice ideal.

But there’s a catch. Shift happens all around us. How do we stay focused with all the changing demands and distractions? I think the answer lies in habit. Creating a habit of staying focused for a specific period of time can work wonders.

The requirement for getting there is sustaining discipline long enough to let the habit solidify. 66 days on average.

How to build a habit for focus.

The simplified version of habit design is mastering the loop of trigger, action, reward. Simple, right? We can create habits of doing things that require focus.

1. Don’t check email in the morning. I read this advice in many books and on many blogs. It serves as an example of using elimination as a method to build a habit of focus. Eliminating the distracting triggers of email itself can leave space for focusing on something, on one thing.

2. Jam Sessions and Pomodoros. The guys over at tropicalmba.com  often do jam sessions to focus on doing one thing for a specific period of time. They have a setup [trigger], the session [action] and report an outcome [reward].

Jam Session = stated target to friend -> 50 minutes of focused work -> Reporting when time is up.
The reward is in the feedback here.

The pomodoro technique has gained popularity the last two years. It was featured in a harvard business review article against franklin covey and the getting things done system (GTD).

Pomodoro= make an inventory of stuff to do -> select one -> set timer for 25 minutes -> focus on work until the timer stops -> break for 5 minutes -> go again until the task is done.
Every four rounds, take a longer break. About 30 minutes.

3. Breathing to 9. I became aware of this method from a ninjitsu instructor. There are a lot of sources that say breathing is the root of meditation. However, no one else really gave me an exercise like this before to focus on only on my breathe – one thing!

How to do it = Get in your position, which ever you choose. it could be a full lots, taking a knee or sitting on the toilet. Doesn’t matter. What matters is that you get totally focused on your breathing.
As you breathe, count each breath. When you get to 9, start over at 1. See how many rounds you can do this without drifting off.

When I first practiced this exercise I got to 28 once without realizing it. There is no judgement. just practice and keep doing it. Those are three ideas for helping you get focused like a ninja.

Your Turn

What do you do to practice getting focused?

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