Why Focus Makes Us Smarter--and 8 Ways to Sharpen Yours
Focus makes us smarter. In a recent study using mice, when their attention improved, so did their cognitive performance. The same is true for humans.
Focus makes us smarter. In a recent study using mice, when their attention improved, so did their cognitive performance. The same is true for humans. In any endeavor, whether it's to beat a world record in sports or become your company's CEO, when people learn to increase their focus, they get smarter, more productive, and perform better.
Here are eight ways to sharpen your focus and become smarter.
Stop putting out fires.
Stop allowing yourself to be distracted by dramas and emergencies. If you spend 80 percent of your time handling customer complaints about hold times, when will you find time to identify the problem and integrate a new scheduling system? Keep your attention on tasks that specifically contribute to solving the problem.
Quit focusing on problems.
The worst way to accomplish an ambitious goal is to focus on the problem itself. Focus instead on the solution. Assign yourself three tasks to do each day that will get you closer to your goal. These are your "process goals." Be relentless in your commitment to accomplish these three process goals each day. Don't let anything distract you until you've completed them each day.
Be willing to disappoint.
When focusing on getting your top three process goals done every day, you may disappoint colleagues, clients, and customers from time to time by not dropping everything to help them. That's okay. Prioritizing your tasks doesn't mean you'll never help someone else out. It just means you'll get to it after you've made sure you have time for your most important tasks.
There's only so much self-control in your personal budget, so spend it on what's most important. Limit temptations in your life so you don't deplete your reserve of discipline before accomplishing priorities. If you have a weakness for answering emails, then turn off your email alert. If you have a hard time turning people away from your office, put a note on your door saying you'll be available in 90 minutes. Do your priority tasks early in the day, before distractions intrude.
Just as baseball players practice swinging with a weighted bat so that batting feels easy when they get up to the plate, you can improve your discipline by pushing yourself to be more disciplined than usual. Choose one process goal to overachieve one time per week. If one of your process goals is to make 10 cold calls a day, then once a week do 15. If you choose Friday, the hardest day to stay disciplined, it will reinforce your ability to maintain discipline and focus the other weekdays.
Moderate "performance arousal."
You can increase focus by learning how to moderate your performance arousal. That's the feeling of being pumped up with potential energy when you're super aware, ready to rumble, and psyched. On a 10-point scale, with 1 being half asleep, and 10 performing at 1,000 mph, strive for a number in between that feels more like the perfect combination of calm, aggressive, and confident. The best way to control performance arousal is to be super prepared for the task at hand.
Maintain a healthy body.
Sharp focus is dependent on good health. Lack of sleep, depleted energy from overindulging the night before, poor nutrition, too much caffeine, and too little exercise can all interfere with one's ability to focus. When you have a big goal to achieve, "train" for it like a professional athlete. For optimal mental focus and performance, take a holistic approach to physical and mental health -- sleep, rest, low stress, good diet, and vigorous exercise.
Drill, baby, drill.
Among teams of equal talent, winning and losing are determined by preparation. Legendary NFL coach Vince Lombardi led his teams to greatness by drilling plays again and again and again. His power sweep (a simple play that relied on the perfect execution of the fundamentals of blocking and teamwork) dominated pro football for 10 years. Know every detail that goes into your process goals, and practice them over and over until they become second nature.
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Dr. Jason Selk is a mental toughness coach for individuals, businesses, and professional athletes and their coaches. He has two business bestsellers, both published by McGraw-Hill, 10-Minute Toughness and Executive Toughness. He's a regular television and radio contributor to ABC, CBS, ESPN, and NBC, and has appeared widely in print. Learn more at www.enhancedperformanceinc.com.
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You can use these to get ahead, no matter your age.
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According to TwoFold CEO Alison McMahon, a leader who doesn't care (or can't pretend to care) about his or her employees isn't much of a leader at all.
Why do people quit their jobs? Surely, there are a ton of factors: money, hours, location, lack of interest, etc. For Alison McMahon, an HR specialist and the CEO of TwoFold, the biggest reason employees jump ship is that they're tired of working for lousy bosses.
By and large, she says, people are willing to put up with certain negatives as long as they enjoy who they're working for. When that's just not the case, there's no reason to stick around:
Nine times out of ten, when an employee says they're leaving for more money, it's simply not true. It's just too uncomfortable to tell the truth.
Whether that's true is certainly debatable, though it's not a stretch to say that an inconsiderate and/or incompetent boss isn't much of a leader. If you run an organization or company, your values and actions need to guide and inspire your team. When you fail to do that, you set the table for poor productivity and turnover.
McMahon offers a few suggestions for those who want to hone their leadership abilities, though it seems that these things are more innate qualities than acquired skills. For example, actually caring about your workers or not depending wholly on HR thinking they can do your job for you.
It's the nature of promotions that, inevitably, a good employee without leadership skills will get thrust into a supervisory position. McMahon says this is a chronic problem that many organizations need to avoid, or at least make the time to properly evaluate and assist with the transition.
But since they often don't, they end up with uninspired workers. And uninspired workers who don't have a reason to stay won't stick around for long.
Read more at LinkedIn.
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