A horse suddenly came galloping quickly down the road. It seemed as though the man had somewhere important to go.
Another man, who was standing alongside the road, shouted, “Where are you going?” and the man on the horse replied,
“I don’t know! Ask the horse!”
This is a famous Zen Buddhism story that teaches us to be the boss of our life. The horse in this story represents our habit energy. Your habits tend to keep us distracted from the actual goal in life. Bad habits can make you do many things but lead to nothing. At the end of the day, it is you who needs to be in control. You are the one who needs to be the boss.
Take control of your mind by staying focus
No one can take control of their mind if they are not mentally focused. Monks meditate to stay in focus every day. Once you learn how to focus, mindfulness, understanding and a beautiful flow come along. It is a gift that is so powerful and yet, often being disregard.
We are all big into our technologies so much that we lose focus on our life goals regularly. Think about it. How much time do you spend on your social media sites per day? How many gossips do you text your friends about? With all the time spent on social media reading rubbish, you could have done so much more useful things.
Focus on what is beneficial for your growth and mental health. Read articles, autobiographies, motivational or explanation videos. Read business strategies, news, economics or just anything that can make your life better. There are millions of information out there on the internet for you to consume. Be smart about what you choose.
Prioritize what is most important.
Guess what else is a distraction to us all? Urgent but unimportant tasks. These are the tasks that need to be done NOW but brings nothing to the table. You need to understand that things that show up last minute do not necessarily mean it is the most important.
What are the urgent but unimportant things? Your friend just texted you to go on a camping trip tomorrow. Your mum telling you to send her some fruits so that she can make some sorbet. Or replying to that email on a weekend when the receiver will most likely read it only on Monday.
Take a minute and re-evaluate the tasks at hand. If you can choose importance over urgency, you can manage your time better too.
Another cause of lack of focus would be due to our assumption that we can multitask. Do you know that studies have shown that only 2% of humans can multitask successfully?
An expert in productivity, Julie Morgenstern in an interview by Forbes, states that multitasking can do more harm than good. Studies have also shown that multitasking reduces our productivity rate by 40%. So, keep your focus on one thing at a time instead of multiple things.
“It has been scientifically demonstrated that the brain cannot effectively or efficiently switch between tasks, so you lose time. It takes four times longer to recognize new things so you’re not saving time; multitasking actually costs time. You also lose time because you often make mistakes. If you’re multitasking and you send an email and accidentally “reply all” and the person you were talking about is on the email, it’s a big mistake.”
– Julie Morgenstern in an interview with Forbes.
So, what else can you do to stay focus?
Now that you know that should not be multitasking and needs to prioritize your tasks, there are still more ways to be in focus.
20/80 Pareto Rule
If you are someone who is really so terrible at staying focus, you can start by listing down your tasks. In my last article on how to improve productivity, I wrote about the 20/80 Pareto rule. This rule helps you not only in productivity but also in staying focus. So, take your pen and paper out to construct your 20/80 checklists. Remember to prioritize the things that will benefit your long-term goals.
Self Motivation Talks
It is understandable that it is not easy to jump into focus just by having a checklist because you will most probably forget your checklist and start doing some other unimportant stuff. Next is to use self-motivation talks every day.
This is an age-old tip for anyone who lacks the confidence to achieve what they want. You can look yourself in the mirror while you wash yourself up, take a moment and tell yourself how good looking you are. Just kidding. Tell yourself that you can stay focus and remind yourself what are the most important tasks that you have to complete.
I have once seen a job advertisement that requires the candidate to call the client every morning at 6 am. You must be wondering why not use an alarm. Simply because it was not because the client wanted an alarm. The client wanted the caller to speak to him for 5 minutes to motivate him. The client needed someone to tell him that he can achieve everything he sets out to do. Some people think is laughable but let me tell you something, I respect that he has the self-awareness that he cannot do it alone.
Disconnect from social media whenever you can
According to a study done by Adweek, an average person spends about 5 years of their lives on social media. I find that pretty absurd but I too, am guilty of the same charge. These days I just put my phone in the bedroom whenever I need to work. I turn only important notifications on. In this case, I don’t miss out on what is truly important and necessary.
Mindfulness and discipline
This is probably the most important and yet, most difficult to achieve. One of the ways to achieve this is to keep track of your progress and review them. This is where the 20/80 Pareto List and yours self-motivation habit come into play.
According to a study titled “Inside the Mindful Mind: How Mindfulness Enhances Emotion Regulation Through Improvements in Executive Control” published by Association for Psychological Science, meditation is a good way to execute control and mindfulness. Awareness and acceptance will follow.