True focus requires the discipline to avoid or ignore distractions and place your priorities in a way that will produce lasting joy, energy, and effectiveness.
Obsession, on the other hand, is the result of irrational and hyperactive focus. It limits your ability see things around you for what they truly are, and causes you to ignore the things in life that really matter. In essence, obsession is mental addiction; like any addiction, it can lead to a downward spiral of destructive behavior.
Mastering The Art of Focus
In order to master the art of focus in your personal and professional life (as well as avoid both distraction and obsession) you need to know the rules:
Rule #1: Identify Your Distractions
We live in a world of constant distraction. Often, distraction comes in the form of digital media, and the statistics would agree—the average American can spend up to 12 hours a day online using mobile apps, watching television, and listening to music. And while digital media can provide effective tools for information and communication, it can also be an incredible waste of time, and even an obsession for some people.
One way to identify digital distractions in your life is to keep a media diary. This self-reported tool measures the frequency, duration, and type of your media use throughout the day. Try your best to stay as close to your normal habits as possible during the recording period. After three to five days, examine your media usage and look for ways to cut down on the time you spend being distracted.
|12/13/2013||9:00 AM (1 hour)||Television||Watched Morning News|
|12/13/2013||10:00 AM (15 min)||Internet||Checked Emails|
|12/13/2013||1:00 PM (2 hours)||Internet||Facebook, Pinterest|
Rule #2: Prioritize Your Focal Points
Granted, not everything that requires your attention and focus is a distraction: family, physical health, relaxation, studying, working, and worship can all be valuable focal points that will enrich your life and make you a better person. However, while all of these focal points are good, they are not of equal importance or urgency. Investing too much time in any one activity can leave other areas in your life lacking, and is the essence of obsession.
A good way to prioritize your focal points is to organize them on an Importance-Urgency Chart, or a Time Management Matrix (see Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People). This tool allows you to plot your focal points according to their importance (measuring the size of the impact of this activity on the quality of your life), and their urgency (measuring how soon you need to turn your attention to this activity).
It should come as no surprise that most of your focus should be dedicated to important activities. For example, while checking emails from work may require your immediate attention, most of the time it is of little importance and should therefore rank lower on your list of priorities. On the other hand, spending time with loved ones is very important, but is not often a matter of urgency or emergency. These activities should rank higher on your priority list.
Rule #3: Maintain Mental Presence
Recognizing what is important in life is one thing, but maintaining mental presence is the tricky part. Your effectiveness in your personal and professional life will be significantly lowered if your mind is always somewhere else. Thankfully, employing a few different exercises each day will help you stay focused on what’s most important.
Meditate: Perhaps one of the most simple focus techniques, meditation requires you to isolate yourself from your distractions, clear your head, and relax your body.
Avoid Multi-Tasking: Nobody can be in two places at once. Avoid taking your phone or computer out when it is not absolutely necessary.
Create a Morning Schedule: A morning schedule that includes exercise, a healthy breakfast, and study will increase your alertness and ability to focus throughout the day.
Improving your focus on what’s most important, or what’s more important and urgent can be difficult, especially when you are surrounding by distractions and non-emergencies. However, if you employ the right techniques, focus is possible!
Joseph Carney is a sports fanatic, and loves writing about anything competitive. He’s also tries to keep up on the latest in health and fitness-related news. To learn more about yoga retreats, and yoga-based vacation spots, he recommends you check out Seek Retreat.
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