You can do each of these focus exercises in under 1 minute to get instant focus and get back on track with increased focus and drive towards whatever your goal is. It could be a sport, important study, an exam, a work commitment or any other personal goal or challenge.
Instant Focus: Pretend It’s An Emergency
- This is great for getting small annoying tasks done with minimal pain.
I used this just this morning by yelling (I was home alone)
“F… the Dishwasher needs emptying again! Quick!”
I unloaded it, cleared the table and loaded it again in under 5 minutes with no feeling of “Do I have to do that again”. And yes, technically, I could have left it, but getting one extra thing done around the house is always appreciated by partners.
- Yell out (or say to yourself) a phrase that makes the task into an emergency.
- It is quite OK for the phrase to be completely ridiculous. It’s about energy and focus, not about making sense. I’ve also tried the anger approach like “You dishwasher are full again, I’m going to fix you this time so fast that you will never dare to look at me full again”
- Work as fast as you can and finish the task
- Sometime the energy will allow you to go onto several other related tasks because you finish faster than you thought. Complete the first task, then go with the flow.
Ask Yourself “What Am I Focusing On Right Now?”
This is so simple, but powerful for staying on track and in the moment. If you catch yourself wandering then just keep asking the question….
Rubber Band Slap
Good for training your subconscious mind that when you say want to stay focused, you mean it.
Take a rubber band ad put it around your wrist.
Each time you find that you have drifted off and are not focusing pull it back and let it go on your wrist. It should be painful enough to serve as a reminder but only so it lasts a few seconds.
Now get back to what you are focusing on.
This is a technique which you can use in a few different ways like increase focus, help remove bad habits, eliminate negative self talk, etc.
Accept That Getting One Thing Done Means Not Doing Other Things
- Good for avoiding distractions
You can’t do everything, so be realistic and do what’s most important.
- Think of your focus goal and how you will feel when it is done.
- Think of all the other things that you could or even should do.
- Say to yourself “I am focusing on my goal for X minutes because it is more important to me right now than those other things”
- Get to work.
Summary: Let the million other things go and focus on your goal.
Focus Exercise: Match The Task To The Time You Have
- Good for making continual steady progress
Focusing on one thing at a time is more efficient than attempting to multitask. But it is easier said than done for most of us. I certainly have issues with this. The best approach is as follows.
- Decide on what goal you want to focus on and imagine for an instant how you will feel when it is done.
- Decide on the amount of time you know you can spend on the task. Even just 5 minutes and certainly not hours where you know you will be interrupted.
- Decide on one sub-task related to your focus goal that you absolutely know you can complete in half the time you have allocated. Even if it is only reading one page, completing one section or putting one thing away.
- Do that one task and complete it.
- Take another instant to just know that you are a little closer to your goal.
- Now do the same for the next sub-task.
Summary: Decide how much time you have, choose a sub-task that you can easily complete, imagine how it feels when done, do it, celebrate for an instant and do the next! This is one of my favorite focus exercises when I’m short on time because you can often squeeze in one more thing
Have A Pre-Prepared Excuse
- Good for avoiding or cutting short interruptions
Everyone has their own agenda. You can only focus on one at a time, so it might as well be you own.
- Think of your goal and how it will feel once it is done
- Smile feeling the sense of achievement.
- Think of an excuse that other people will accept why you … didn’t turn up/didn’t answer the phone/had to leave early/seemed in a hurry, etc, etc…
- Smile a wry cheeky smile
- If someone interrupts you, tell them your pre-prepared excuse even if it means lying to them.
- Get back to working on what is important to you.
Summary: Have an excuse at hand, lie if needed.
Far-Near Point Focus Exercises
- Good for instant focus on any physical task
This focus exercise is a mindfulness exercise which will dramatically increase your ability to focus and allow you to operate focusing on what you need to achieve without distractions or fear. It is particularly good where you have a physical task of some kind like sport or outdoor activity, but also any kind of physical work because it increases spacial awareness.
- Focus on a point somewhere in front of you ideally, slightly above your eye level.
- Keep focusing on that point until it feels like it is coming towards you or you are being drawn to it. Let your mind play with the feeling of changing distance. Allow your mind to drift nearer to the point you have chosen.
- Now become aware of your breathing an breathe deeply and regularly. Control your breathing. If you can sense your heartbeat, breath in time for example four beats in and four beats out or 3 in, 6 out, whatever feels comfortable. Maintain your controlled breathing.
- Now while still focusing on the point or object ahead, become aware of your peripheral vision and notice that you can see and be aware of the other things around the point.
- Keep your eyes on the point but shift your mind to the things in your peripheral vision. play with this until the urge to move your eyes diminishes.
- Now become aware of the space around you, the other things around and behind you, above and below you.
- Finally. relax and continue with what you are working to achieve.
Summary: Focus on a point up and ahead, play with the feeling of rubbery distance, breathe, become aware of everything around you, refocus on your goal.
Instant Focus: Get Emotional For 10 Seconds
- Good for finding additional energy to stay focused
Anything you are excited about is easier to stay focused on. Similar to pretending it’s an emergency, get instant focus through:
- Imagine how it will feel when you have completed what you want to achieve.
- Tell someone else what you are doing and why. Include how it will feel when you succeed then rush off and focus!
- Imagine for one second how others will look at you once you have succeeded. Get to work.
Utilize Edge Theory By Taking Timed Regular 1 Minute Breaks.
- Good for increasing the average time you spend in a highly focused state.
Typically people get more done when they are either fresh or approaching a deadline. Spend more time near the start and end of times working periods and you will get more done. Experiment with what times suit you (eg 1o minutes between breaks) and treat each break like a deadline.
- Set a timer
- Focus on your work aiming to get as much done as possible in the allocated time
- Take a short break – relax, stretch, do one of the other exercises, etc.
Summary: Regular timed breaks artificially create points around which focus increases.
Do It With a Friend
- Good for forcing yourself to focus and get something done.
Working with someone instantly increases the accountability and focus.
- Agree on a time for your friend to help you
- Take pride in getting what you need ready (tools, materials, paper, pens, etc). Assume you will get 5 times as much done as you think just to be on the safe side.
- work together to get it done
I use this with neighbors to get things done around the house. We do a swap. 8am start, four hours work at my house then 4 hours at theirs. Two people get lots done like this and keep better focus. Remember to prepare, it is easy to run out of things to do or waste time looking for things.
- Good for increasing focus any time and building up your ability to focus.
Focusing on doing just one thing is really hard, but regular practice helps.
- Take a minute to listen to all the sounds around you, smell the smells, notice new things and other sensations.
- Try eating a piece of fruit just concentrating fully on eating – the taste, texture, smell and how it feels when you swallow. You might want to stick to one mouthful to keep from feeling busy initially.
- Do one stretch concentrating fully on just that.
- When you are looking at something or someone, look as if it is the first time you have ever seen it/them. Try mixing it up with looking as if it is the last time.
What works for you? What are your favorite focus exercises and what do you find tricks you into instant focus??