Preparing to focus is much more effective than trying to focus in the moment.
Spend some time getting to know yourself: Have a think about what distracts you and what you need around you to really focus. Ask yourself, what commonly distracts me? Is it email or phone notifications, colleagues, a noisy or messy work environment, low energy or boredom? Are you more efficient focusing in hour-long increments or something shorter? When are you at your best versus when are you at your worst?
After years of deep-diving and honing in on this skill, here’s what I know about myself:
I can focus for hours on end – I’ve been practicing for years – but what I also know of myself is that I need the energy to do so. So I eat nutritious meals and to combat an energy dip, I always keep a healthy snack within arm’s reach. I also know that my mind instantly jumps to reply to an email when I see the notification come in, so when I have to focus on a piece of work, I mute all notifications on my laptop and move my phone out of sight. I’m also at my best in the first three hours of the day, so anything important is always diarised early in the morning. A colleague of mine gets distracted by noise, so I know she is in focus mode when she has her headphones in her ears. I can also be distracted by clutter and mess, so I’ll often work in a café just so I am away from other ‘to do’ items including an urge to tidy (aka procrastinate).
Interestingly, mild dehydration can negatively impact your ability to concentrate, but it’s not enough to make you feel thirsty – so always try to have water nearby.
Preparation is about trying to clear the runway and providing yourself with the optimal environment to be your best.