It’s everywhere, and nowhere when you need it!

My Five Tips For Better Focus

With all the distractions of modern life, it can be hard to stay focused on the task at hand! It’s hard enough to remain focused on what you WANT to do, never mind the actual DOING part!

Focus is one of the top problems I hear creatives talk about. It’s one of the top 5 things they say they would LOVE help with! I hear ya! You must have focus to get clear on what you want to do. You must have focus to figure out what you need to do to get started. And you must have focus in order to see the project through to completion!

Focus…is everywhere and yet nowhere to be found when you need it!

So, what is focus anyway? Well, there are several ways to look at it. As a noun, it means a central point of attention, or activity. For example, “My focus right now is my online business.” As a verb, it means to concentrate. For example, “I need to focus on my art,” or “I need to focus on this class, so I can learn how to knit.”

Verb or noun, it doesn’t matter. If you don’t have it, not much gets accomplished. And therein lies the problem.

How do you focus in this unfocused, cluttered world? Here are a few tips that you can try to regain your focus and get back to creating.

1. Set small daily goals

I’m all for big, lofty goals and a huge vision for your success, your practice, your art. But the BIG simply can’t be accomplished in one day. Maybe not even a week or a month. But small daily goals can and will not only set you up for success on your long-term goals, but they are also much more easily processed by the mind. Easier to do equals easier to concentrate on.

Imagine arriving in your studio with a goal of finishing 20 pieces. That’s great, but it’s not something that can be achieved overnight. Setting daily goals or tasks like choosing the materials to include, setting up the supplies so they are within reach, or prepping one canvas for use are much more achievable. Once you’ve accomplished a small goal you will be much more likely to attempt the next. Small steps are easy to begin, easy to accomplish, easy to check off your list.

2. Time your concentration blocks

Instead of thinking you have to get it all done now, block your time to work in shorter periods with frequent breaks. There is this neat thing called the “Pomodoro method” which blocks out short 20-to-30-minute bursts of focused energy followed by a short 5-minute break. This method recommends that after every four focused blocks, you take a longer break. The idea is that if you can give 90-100% focus for several short periods at a time, you’ll get more done than if you tried to go for hours and hours on end at say 50% power.

3. Reduce clutter

Clutter is the enemy when it comes to increasing your focus. Clutter significantly decreases your ability to concentrate, and it’s not just the physical clutter. Physical clutter causes mental clutter.

Keep only what is necessary in your immediate work area (you can keep a plant or motivational quotes though) and use organized storage for everything else. Keep what you have on your workspace tidy, even if that means spending an extra 10 minutes to tidy up and get things in order for the next day. If you keep on top of it, things won’t get out of control, and you’ll be able to work more efficiently and see an improvement in your focus too.

4. Have a notepad next to you

Basically, don’t multi-task.

Studies show we aren’t that good at it anyway. We might think we are, but….no! When your brain is switching back and forth between tasks, it becomes exhausting, and most likely ends up taking more time to do things then it would if you simply did them one after the other.

Prioritize what needs to be done, and work through your projects one-by-one, so when each is finished you can start fresh on the next one. Here’s a good tip for tamping down the temptation. Have a good ole pencil and paper within reach and put those rouge thoughts down on paper. Once recorded, you can forget about them and circle back later. Distracting thoughts pop up without warning and jotting them down prevents them from stealing attention away from the things you need to finish. And, that notepad might help on the next one….

5. Notice what makes you lose focus

Noticing what makes you lose focus is the first step in improving your focus. This is similar to meditating, where you notice your thoughts and accept them, but then simply bring your mind back. So, when you notice yourself getting distracted, recognize it, but then choose to come back to the task at hand. If it’s an important point, jot it down and then get back to work. It will be there on the page when you’re ready.

The point is that we can’t eliminate all distractions, but we can choose to recognize when it happens and choose to come back to what we were doing, and that’s the important thing. This cycle of focusing, wandering, recognizing, and then choosing to return is normal, and the more you’re consciously aware of it, the longer the original focus will become.

I hope these tips help you regain some focus and help you get back to what you love doing. Let me know in the comments which worked for you or add your own ideas. I love hearing from you.

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