Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Activating your blinders

How many times do you start a task and struggle to finish it because of distractions? The routine is usually the same: You begin a task, a few minutes into this period you lose focus for a few seconds by looking at a photo on your desk. You start thinking about some good places to visit in future, then you start thinking about your future and what it may hold. Fifteen minutes later you snap out of this daydream; your task is still not complete and now your whole day’s plans are derailed because of a 15 minute daydream.

The ability to stay focused is perhaps the most important attribute to possess for ambitious individuals. You must learn to stay on task in order to accomplish your goals. However, it’s easier said than done. Staying focused is extremely challenging, but by adopting a few steps you can learn to focus on your tasks until completion.

Think about this image for a second:  A child aged 9 is playing with a magnifying glass in his backyard. He has seen his older brother burn paper and leaves with it by holding it under the sun. He decides to mimic his brother and after a few unsuccessful attempts he learns how to burn leaves and paper with the magnifying glass.

The child, although unknown to him, has discovered the power of focus on two levels. Firstly by concentrating all his efforts on burning the paper and leaves he has maintained his focus and completed his task. Secondly, the magnifying glass only burns paper when the light is focused. This indicates the power of focus, which is that if your efforts are concentrated the results will be desirable.

Below are 5 different tips to help you maintain focus when completing a task:
  • Put your phone on silent – a slight beep could put you of your task and lead to back and forth texting or even an unnecessary phone call
  • Work in an area where people cannot disturb you (or put a sign on your door)
  • Use a timer to heighten focus  - allocating times to different tasks lets you know how long you have to complete the task
  • Remove all distractions from your work space such as phones, computer games, iPods  – (work on a computer that doesn't have the internet, or to avoid using social networking sites deactivate them until you've completed your task)
  • Break your task down into manageable portions – the reason for doing this is that if you’re completing a task and get sidetracked and lose focus, it’s easier to get back on track if you’re following a set of steps.

The most important thing is that you  activate your blinders when going after a goal. Make a conscious decision to stay focused. In horse races, the horse has a blinder placed on its head so that it can only see ahead in one direction. Activate your invisible blinders and stay focused and your mind will follow because as Mark Twain puts it:

 ‘You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus’

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