How to focus - 3 strategies to help you achieve your goals

Neuroscientist David Rock says, “Every time you focus your attention you use a measurable amount of glucose and other metabolic resources. Studies show that each task you do tends to make you less effective at the next task, and this is especially true for high-energy tasks like self control or decision making.” [1]

So how can you ensure you put your limited attention to best use each day?

Here are the three main strategies that I employ to help me keep my focus where I want it to be.

1. Avoid temptation

“Willpower, like a muscle, becomes fatigued from overuse,” says Roy F. Baumeister, a professor of psychology at Florida State University.  “You have one energy resource that is used for all kinds of acts for self-control.” [2]

Willpower is a limited resource in all people and yet we tend to overestimate how much we have.  Instead of constantly taxing your willpower by tempting yourself with candy, TV sitcoms, or whatever your personal 'poison' is, simply eliminate your contact with whatever is doing the tempting.  Don’t buy or bring candy into your home.  Get rid of the TV.  

Sound drastic?  I haven’t owned a TV for years and I can tell you, it has made a huge difference in my life.  True, if I really wanted to seek out something to watch, I could do so on my computer but by not having the TV staring me in the face, just begging to be switched on every day, I have eliminated the temptation to just flick on the TV to see what’s on, which has saved me oodles of time.  (Not to mention the positive effects of not being exposed to a constant barrage of negative news, advertising and impossible standards of beauty!) 

2. Limit distractions

We work best and are most productive when we are able to focus on just one thing at a time.  So be clear what that one thing is for you in any moment and do whatever you can to keep distractions at bay.  

Meeting a friend for lunch?  Keep your mobile phone on silent and in your purse.  Need to finish that report?  Close down your email program and shut your office door until you are done or find a meeting room on another floor that you can book out for a couple of hours to not be disturbed. 

3. Put ‘em where you can see ‘em

Now, what is it that you DO want to be focused on?  Achieving your goals?  Living your core values?  Practicing a skill?  

Whatever you do want to have your attention on, put it in plain sight: your goals posted on the wall; a list of your values by the side of your bed; the guitar you want to practice in the middle of the living room.  Reduce the amount of activation energy (the energy it takes to start a task) required to keep your priorities top of mind by putting your reminder where you can see it - daily.

Now I’d love to hear from you.  What do you do to stay focused?  Tell me in the comments below.

[1] Source:
[2] Source: