As long as I can remember, I have had a difficult time focusing. In grade school, I had to go to a special class with other kids that had a hard time focusing. I remember having to take Ritalin, then they doubled the dosage. I can't remember if it helped or not. I do remember how I felt though—stupid and below “normal students.” Then out of nowhere when I was in junior high, the classes stopped and so did the Ritalin. The experts told me my brain simply woke up…? I guess I had ADD before they had a name for it. Personally, I think in a lot of ADD cases people don’t really have “disorders,” they focus differently.
You see, I discovered something later on in life: I have an incredible ability to get in the zone and be highly productive. What’s crazy is a lot of leaders I talk to are the exact same way! A lot of highly productive people have a hard time focusing. One of the secrets, for me at least, was less clutter.
In an age of instant news, live feeds and push notifications, it is more difficult than ever to get focused. I can’t tell you how many times I have zoned out of a conversation because my phone when off. When I finally check back into the moment, I have to say something like, “I’m sorry, could you repeat that?” Don’t fool yourself, successful multi-tasking is a myth. You may think you handle several things at the same time in order to save time, but you are actually wasting time switching between task.
Everyday, hundreds of things are begging for our attention. It’s just noise distracting us from the things that are really important. Clutter! It’s keeping us from being present in the moment with loved ones, and it also keeps us from being productive.
Here are several ways to help clear the mental clutter and focus on productivity:
1. Turn off push-notifications- (except for your Overflow app 😂) Even if it is setting the Do Not Disturb feature on for a couple of hours a day. I have done this for all of my social media platforms. (There are some seasons where I will delete the apps off my phone altogether if I feel like it has too much of a hold on me.)
2. Limit your access- If you work from a desktop, use an app that will help you. I use an app called “Self-control” often when I work. (https://selfcontrolapp.com) It keeps me from going to social media websites (or Amazon-which I frequent, #onlineshoper) when I am working so that I can remain focused.
3. Set timers to focus on one thing- I have a number, 105, written on the chalk board in my office. When it is time to study I set a timer, turn on “Self-control,” and work on one thing for 105 minutes. This has been incredibly helpful for my capacity to focus. I seem to get done in less than two hours what used to take me four to five. I more than double my efficiency. I would recommend that if you are putting your time into a project, never spend less than 40 minutes of total focus on the task. You will get more done if you work harder longer, rather than coming back to it multiple times for shorter amounts of time.
4. Leave your phone in the other room- Some of my favorite times at the house are when I forget that I have a cell phone. I am sure it’s some of my family’s favorite time as well. I need to do it more often.
5. Environment- This is huge for me. In my office, I always have a candle and a blend of essential oils to help get me relaxed and settled. I also try make sure to keep my office and my desk tidy and organized. Nothing distracts me more than a lot of reminders laying around telling me something else I need to do.
6. Go old-school- Every once in a while, I have to pull out paper & pencil and start writing. I’ve noticed that I don’t have the temptation to check email or waste 10 minutes scrolling through my Instagram feed when a pencil is in my hand. For my devotionals as well, I have quit reading the Bible on a device because I am able to focus on the word so much better that way.
I hope these ideas will also help you to have a more focused and present time. If there is anything you do to help you focus, leave them in the comments below!