It’s easy to focus when you have a clear goal. If you want to get a promotion or a raise, you know what you need to concentrate on, whether it’s performing your job well or making sure your manager knows about your triumphs. But how do you maintain focus when you don’t have a well-defined goal, or when your mind is confused with many thoughts? How do you push through, so that you can find clarity amid the chaos?
When you have mixed thoughts, your brain doesn’t know what to do. For example, you can probably tie your shoe laces in less than thirty seconds. But when you try to time yourself, your attention will be divided between tying your laces and watching the stopwatch. You may mess up or take longer in lacing up your shoes. Making mistakes like this can lead to irritation and frustration. The lesson here is that your performance and precision will get better when you’re focused on the task at hand.
Here are three ways you can maintain your focus:
First, increase your awareness. Just by noticing that your mind is divided or concentrated on something else will make you realize that you are not 100 percent focused on the main goal. Say to yourself, “What am I thinking about right now?” Write down your answers. If you start listing things that aren’t key to achieving your primary goal, then you know you’re not in the right frame of mind. By actually writing out your distractions, you will be able to visualize the impediments to your singular focus. When you start thinking about something extraneous again, you’ll more quickly notice and identify the thought as not useful. And then you can dismiss the thought entirely.
Second, pick goals that interest you deeply and that will keep your attention. When something is very important, you will effortlessly maintain your focus because you really want to achieve this objective or goal. When you make the list of everything running through your mind, it may become clear that your mind is divided because your heart is conflicted – you’re not sure what you want. Circle the items on the list that you’re most curious or interested in, and only then will you realize what you truly want to achieve. You’ll want to pursue these goals with your full curiosity and passion.
Third, take short breaks. It’s important to hit the pause button. When you take a short break, you give your mind an opportunity to relax. It’s ok to be distracted from your core work activities because this is when the mind can explore other ideas and thoughts. Let your mind wander or relax during these brief gaps because it’s during this time that your brain can recover and re-focus. After you’ve taken a few minutes to walk or read or even just sit silently sipping a coffee, you can reengage with whatever you should be focusing on. You’ll return to your task with heightened concentration and focus on your goal.
Commentary by Deepak Chopra and Kabir Sehgal
Kabir Sehgal is a New York Times best-selling author. He is a former vice president at JPMorgan Chase, multi-Grammy Award winner and U.S. Navy veteran. Chopra and Sehgal are the co-creators of Home: Where Everyone Is Welcome, inspired by American immigrants.