How to focus in an always on, always connected world

How to focus in a noisy world

How to focus in a noisy worldIf you want to master any skill or achieve your goals in today’s world, you need to learn how to focus. Tune out from the noise and distractions and concentrate on what matters most. I know that’s easier said than done, which is why I wrote this article and created an infographic to help you.

People so accustomed to short videos, infographics and bite sized pieces of information online that we forget true mastery involves so much more focus, commitment and immersion.

Fortunately for you, I have caved and created an infographic, which gives you a few quick tips on how to focus. If you want more detailed tips, check out a few of my other articles about how to focus.

Why you find it hard to focus

Some sources estimate, a person living in a major city is likely to be exposed to up to 10,000 advertising messages each day. At the risk of being an alarmist, we are under attack from marketers! Okay, perhaps it’s not that extreme (says the marketing major in me) but still; focus is a dying art.

Technology is also arguably causing a decline in people’s attention spans. You may find it difficult to focus these days because you get interrupted with phone calls, voice mails, sms texts, instant messages, tweets, friend requests and email notifications; just to name a few. Compare that to just 20 years ago, when mobile phones were much bigger and much less common. Social media and text messages were’nt really a thing.

Please feel free to send and share this infographic to teach your colleagues, clients or followers how to focus. It gives a few simple ideas that anyone can follow. If you’re a manager, feel free to print this out and hang it on the pin board at work.

6 tips to find your focus

Here are some simple tips on how to focus:

  1. Turn off social media and email notifications, unless they are relevant to the task at hand
  2. Block or redirect any phone calls not related to what you are working on
  3. Focus on what you are working on right now by saying no to everything else
  4. Concentrate on a single task, rather than rapidly switching or multi-tasking
  5. Lock your office door or turn your chair to face away from colleagues
  6. Wear a pair of big, obvious headphones, so colleagues can see you are working
  7. Remove your visitor’s chair, welcome sign and anything else that invites drop in visitors

Print out this infographic on how to focus, as a handy reminder of how to minimise distractions and focus at work.


How to focus infographic

10 tips to stop time wasters at work

Time wasters at work

Stop time wasters

We all know a few time wasters. They’re the people who prevent you from getting your most important work done.

  • Members of the public who walk in unannounced for a long chat;
  • Colleagues who constantly interrupt your most important work;
  • Friends who think studying or working from home is your day off;
  • Co-workers who constantly interrupt you with phone calls or instant messages, as though everything is urgent.

The problem with time wasters

If you’re a nice person, you probably try to accommodate every request. If you have trouble saying no, pretty soon you will get a reputation as the person who will drop everything, help anyone and listen to anyone who wants to talk for hours.

Everything you do has an opportunity cost. Every time you say yes to someone’s request, you are saying no to something else. Imagine if you get to spend less time on your work, your goals, your health or with your family because your can’t say no to other people.

That’s exactly what is happening when you accommodate time wasters.

How can you stop time wasters?

So, how do you stop these time wasters from interrupting your most important work? We’ve put together 10 ideas, so you can politely refuse unwanted visitors:

  1. Close or lock your door: If you have the luxury of a private office or workplace that’s not open to the public, you might be able to close or lock the door.
  2. Remove your visitor’s chair: If you have a visitor’s chair in front of your desk, most people will take that as an invitation to come in and sit down. Move the chair out of site, so unwanted guests don’t get too comfortable.
  3. Put your big headphones on: Headphones are a great way for you to signal to people that you are busy or concentrating. This works well in a shared office or public space where you can’t shut the door.
  4. Change your status to do not disturb: Instant messaging, VoIP phones, shared calendars and other office applications often have a presence indicator. Mark yours as ‘do not disturb’ when you need to work on something important.
  5. Turn your phone ringer down or off: There are some circumstances where you will need to answer the phone, particularly if you are an office receptionist. Otherwise, consider making a roster with colleagues and diverting calls  to each other. Make sure each person gets one day free of incoming phone calls. You should each schedule your most important work for that day.
  6. Place a do not disturb sign on your desk or door (only while you’re working on something important): Not very subtle I know. At least people will know they’re genuinely interrupting your work. If they still feel like they should interrupt, make it clear you need to get on with work.
  7. Schedule time just for interruptions: Part of your job might be to deal with people by phone or handle walk in enquiries. Invite people to make appointments or tell them they are welcome to just drop in during the hours you specified. Incoming calls are the same. For example, you could tell people they can reach you by phone any morning between 9am and 11am. After that you’ll be away from your desk.
  8. Brainstorm a few polite ways to say no: Take some time to write down a few common requests you receive and how you might politely refuse them. For example, if you experience a lot of people just walking in and sitting down for a chat, you might delay or dismiss them by saying, “That sounds interesting. Will you be around for a little while? I’d love to come and talk to you about that when I haven’t got so much on my plate.”
  9. Stand immediately when someone enters your office space to interrupt you: Stand when someone enters your office space and walk around the front of your desk. Don’t let them walk in and feel comfortable. Cut them off at the door.
  10. Step out of the office: In case you honestly can’t avoid interruptions in your workplace, you might need to get out for a while. Work from another desk, at your home office, in a park or a cafe.

If you really want to get back in control, you need to stop time wasters from interrupting your work. When you learn to say no, you will find there’s more time in your day to get things done.

How to stay focused in a noisy world

How to stay focused in a noisy worldI believe the future belongs to those who learn how to stay focused. Keep reading. There’s gold in this article.

Every day we are bombarded with thousands of advertising messages, thousands of ‘must read’ articles, hundreds of updates from friends, hours of new must watch videos and 24 hour news.

Are you still there?

People’s attention spans are becoming shorter, thanks to technology. In fact, one study suggests our average attention span is less than that of a gold fish. 8 seconds to be exact. Just picture yourself scrolling through social media. How long do you see an ad before you either click it or keep scrolling. If you’re like me, it’s about 2 seconds.

If you want to do anything worthwhile, like study a subject in depth, see a project through to completion, master your craft or build something big; you will need to learn how to stay focused. In my new course, Find Your Focus, you will learn a few tips and tricks about how to stay focused.

You will learn how to improve your ability to focus by addressing 4 parts to focus:

  1. Environment -learn how to minimise distractions and set up your workspace, so you have far fewer interruptions.
  2. Energy -learn how to stay focused by eating the right foods and engaging in good practices, so you maintain good energy levels throughout your work day.
  3. Clarity -learn how to set your best goals yet and be clear about what you want, so you know exactly where to direct your time and energy.
  4. Attention -learn how to give any important project your undivided attention and how to say no to other people’s expectations.

If you want to do anything worth doing, you will need to learn how to stay focused. I know that’s easier said than done in a world of constant noise and distractions. If you learn to master the elements above, you have a significantly better chance of success.

If you want to be successful, pay attention

Focus on your goalsIf you want to be successful, you need to pay attention. You need to focus on your goals if you want to achieve them. Focus, however, is something that’s in steady decline. In fact, our attention spans are getting so bad, that only 1 in 5 people will finish reading this brief article.

Just 15 years ago, Myspace, Friendster, Facebook and Twitter didn’t exist. According to one study, today’s average user reads 54, 000 words on social media and watches 443 minutes of video. That’s the equivalent of 12 hours per day. We’re reading the equivalent of a novel but we’re not focused enough to master anything. We’re not focused enough to really appreciate what we are reading.  In one day, we partly consume 285 separate pieces of content.

What’s remarkable is that we have changed the way we search. A 2012 study showed 21% of our time online is on search engines. 22% of our time is on social media. Information is presented to us on social media, which is based on our likes, shares, friends and browsing history. The problem is we’re not using our brains for original, creative thinking. Social media is showing us what should be important. They’re getting really good at it too. That’s why so may of us spend our days in a click frenzy, following one distraction after another, never really seeing much through to the end.

In 2007, The New York Times Reported, market research firm Yankelovich estimated that just 30 years ago the average city dweller was exposed to 2,000 advertising messages per day. At the time the article was written, the average person living in the city was exposed to 5,000 messages per day. Facebook and Twitter advertising hadn’t even begun then.

This morning I logged on to Facebook. 4 of the top 8 posts on my news feed were ads. Add to that constant notifications that someone’s messaged me, tagged me, mentioned me, shared my photo, someone is live, I have saved links etc. Sometimes I feel like a trained monkey, with a banana dangling in front of me. “Maybe I should just check it,” I tell myself.

So now, instead of being distracted only when I log on to social media, my phone reminds me there is a distraction waiting for me. If I don’t check the screen, my phone makes a noise to alert me about something on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. I don’t use Snapchat but I know a few people that could add that to the list of constant, pointless distractions.

Steve Jobs once said, “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done, as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”

Oprah said, “You can do it all, just not all at once.”

If you want to be successful you need to set your own goals and then focus intensely on reaching those goals. You need to work out how to focus on your goals, instead of being slave to a world where you are constantly distracted from what you really want. If you want to be successful, start paying attention to your own dreams and goals.