Now that you’re on your way to Ngo-Getter-ism (Is that a thing? Can we make that a thing?), now’s the time to really get down in the weeds and (cue 90’s nostalgia)
I’ll unabashedly admit my love for the internet and its (over)abundance of dank memes, but hell, it’s given us so many new ways to procrastinate and waste time. I can’t tell you how many times one of my “research” sessions turned into some sick Alice in Wonderland-type of digression (too many that I care to admit–once I went through the Disney Mulan soundtrack, insisting I needed to sing it aloud to get into focus).
But there’s hope for us yet. In the words of my high school Japanese teacher, “Let’s get serious!”
And by serious, I mean for us to gain focus on our day-to-day, to practice self-discipline and spending our attention on the things that matter, when it matters.
Spend Less Time Wasting Time
We’re not robots, so I don’t expect even the most motivated to live, breathe, and eat their passions. But there are times in the day that we can probably utilize a little better. That three-hour Netflix binge fest on Friday evening? Why not take it down to an hour (or even two) and devote some time to your goals instead? I understand it’s easy to let yourself fall victim to becoming a couch potato, but I never said this was going to be easy. Strengthening your willpower is easier said than done, but you’ll thank yourself later for it.
Another time sink for most people is the internet, particularly social media. While I think it’s important that we use these tools that we have to connect with one another, to find inspiration, as well as to de-stress (e.g., r/aww), we shouldn’t be so dependent on them that they get in the way of us getting things done. Admittedly, I’ll find myself lazing on the couch, flicking through my Facebook newsfeed, then BAM! A whole hour came and went.
When we waste time, we’re sabotaging our own opportunities to do more.
Give Yourself the Ability to Get in the Zone and Stay There
Another part of staying focused is sticking to your schedule (see Becoming a Ngo-Getter through Time Management) and making sure you give yourself adequate time to get in the zone. If you find that the one-hour block of writing on Wednesdays isn’t enough for you to achieve at least a half hour of an uninterrupted flow, then consider moving around your schedule to find the perfect timing. If your schedule isn’t as flexible, then consider either moving your practice to another day or finding more efficient ways to force yourself into focus.
And whatever you do, do not multitask! We’re not meant to continuously shift focus on one activity to another, and it gives very little return for the time and effort you put in. This includes checking your phone while you’re in the middle of, say, a writing session. By interrupting your flow, you’re distracting yourself from valuable focus time, and now you have to spend even more time to get back into it. If staying in the zone means turning on the “Do Not Disturb” setting on your phone for an hour or two, do it. You won’t be missed (and that’s okay).
You don’t have to start signing up for yoga classes any time soon (unless it’s part of achieving your goals), but practicing mindfulness is a great way to reset your thoughts so that they don’t interrupt you when focus is key. Over the years I’ve put in countless hours of practice on commutes, driving long distances, and even in the morning when I’m getting ready for the day. There are plenty of self-help articles that can get you started, but if you’re willing to try out an app, Headspace has a few free samples you can try out before committing to it (Note: I don’t get anything from mentioning Headspace here; I just liked the user interface when I tried it out).
Getting into focus on a regular basis will take time and practice, so even if your early attempts seem slow on the uptake, don’t fret. As long as you’re consciously putting in the effort to get into gear, it’ll become second nature and you’ll be going from zero to sixty in no time!
On to you: how do you stay focused on your goals?
Until next time,