Why Can’t I Focus?

According to the well-known motivational speaker, Tony Robbins, Your life is controlled by what you focus on. So, what if you can’t focus on anything these days? I imagine that life might feel a bit out of control.

This is a big theme across many of my clients right now – the inability to focus. It is fact that COVID-19 and the prolonged uncertainty, worry and stress we are experiencing is impacting the part of our brain that helps us think critically and supports our ability to focus.

Since February, there has been a 300% increase in people searching “how to get your brain to focus”. Add to this our current working environments and the fact that it has never been so easy to get distracted. We are home, spending hours each day in front of our computers on zoom meetings; it is easy to let ourselves get distracted by the dog barking during a meeting, the kids coming in and out of the room, the emails & IM messages popping up on the screen and in my case, the funny shapes of people’s heads when they move too quickly in front of a virtual background.

It is a perfect storm and the result is longer workdays, getting less accomplished!

If you are like so many others, you have a hard time focusing, you are faced with many things that distract you throughout the day and you quickly fall deep into the bad habit of multi-tasking.

You may think you are good at multi-tasking and it may make you feel more productive, but research shows just the opposite. It takes us much longer than expected to get back on task with frequent interruptions and context switching. While sometimes we have to do it, ultimately, we know that to maintain focus and block out distraction, we have to set clear priorities and dedicate blocks of time to certain activities.

Multi-tasking is not a high-performance habit. It prevents us from being fully present and actually makes us less productive.

We can’t eliminate the stressors we are experiencing in our world right now and the prolonged anxiety that has our primitive minds in overdrive, but we can get creative and introduce new approaches to help us regain our attention.

If you find yourself googling “how to focus better”, here are some things you can do to avoid shifting gears and bring your life back into focus and more in control:

  1. Set your day’s intention: Starting your day with clear priorities will improve your productivity and focus and it will also reduce stress and more importantly, help you create better boundaries for your day. Sometime before bed, take a few minutes to write down your intentions for the next day. This simple exercise helps you walk into the next morning clear on your own priorities and allows you to plan your day in support of them.
  2. Find Your Flow: We all have a natural rhythm in a given day to when we are most focused and our energy is the highest. If your day is full of meetings and interruptions, it is hard to get into your flow and realize the benefits of this productive time where you are really “in the zone”. Notice when you are most energized and creative during the day and schedule important tasks & activities that require your full attention during this time.
  3. Block Your Time: Some of the most successful people in the world use time blocking, dedicating specific time “blocks” for certain tasks and responsibilities in a given day. Different than a “to-do” list, time blocking tells you when you are going “to-do” the tasks on your list. Focus is about eliminating distractions. Time blocking allows you to guard against distractions and pursue your own agenda rather than reacting to everyone else’s agenda.
  4. Find an Accountability Partner:  A strong accountability partner will help you stay focused, motivated and on track. It is harder to make excuses as to why you didn’t get something done when you commit to doing it with someone you trust and respect. Find a friend, colleague, coach who will take the time to understand your goals, is willing to support you in achieving those goals and set a standing appointment to check-in on progress.

Lastly, having perspective around the unique place we are in and the fact that a lack of focus is completely normal for so many of us right now should also go a long way in gaining back a sense of control and understanding that it won’t always be this hard.

Try these strategies to help you avoid the trap of multitasking, minimize distractions and regain your focus. But also remember, be kind to yourself, especially now 💜

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