Today, the ability to focus is fading fast. The new reflex of checking in on instant messages, notifications and little red badges is stealing bouts of concentration and leaving ourselves vulnerable to shallow work.
For me, it gets worse. Even when I don't have anything interrupting me on my phone or laptop, I still feel the reflex to eject from a more difficult project or task and check in somewhere else.
Focusing is downright hard; it's like working out. We all know it's good for us; we all know we should do it, yet few of us do. At the time it doesn't seem like a big deal to break focus. It's only when we wake up years later and begin taking inventory, that we realize how much time we've wasted on being reactive instead of proactive.
Here are 3 reasons to fight for focus
1) Focus helps you take new ground
I have several goals, one being to share what I'm learning about entrepreneurship and startups with those just starting out through this blog.
In order to accomplish this goal I have set a task of writing no less than 100 fresh words per day. It can be more, and usually is, but it can't be less.
Writing 100 words a day, as any writer knows, is a tiny task. Easy peasy. But I purposely set it low so that I don't have to have a debate with myself about doing it.
I know if I just hunker down, concentrate, and get it done, I will not only follow through with my goal of sharing what I'm learning, I'll also build the habit of writing in my life. But the key ingredient is focus.
2) Good fortune follows focused action
You can wander into mediocrity, but you can't wander out.
The big secret is that times of heightened concentration and focus are where you build the greatest value for yourself and your company.
It's easy getting caught up in doing weak work, tasks that really don't make or break your startup (Is my new landing page pixel perfect? Did I add an image to every social post today?).
But it's those who diligently do the hard things that bring good fortune their way (I researched and sent out 40 emails to potential Strategic Partners this week and got two to bite. I personally spoke with three key customers today and got their much needed feedback on our beta).
Every time you exercise your focus muscle - even when it would be easier to bail - you're pulling yourself out of the pit of mediocrity and putting your feet firmly on the path to success.
3) Focus builds fortitude for the inner battles
We're complex creatures. It's fascinating how there is a part of us that will say, "I want to achieve "x" and I will stop at nothing to make "x" happen!" The very next day we begin making little justifications and excuses about why the-goal-that-we-would-have-stopped-at-nothing-to-bring-into-existence is going to have to wait.
Focus helps you say, "yes" to what your better side wants and "no" to what your lesser side craves.
Don't be surprised if your focus muscle has atrophied due to diminishing use.
You must persevere. Don't let yourself off the hook. Don't buy into the notion of "needing" a break every 20 minutes. Or, worse, that you're not "genetically wired" to focus on one thing for too long. These are excuses masquerading as explanations.
We need to fight for focus in the waking moments of our lives.
The only way we're going to maintain or strengthen it is by consistent exercise. I want to leave you with this beautiful progression:
That's why I'm practicing the discipline of focus. I know my destiny hangs in the balance.