5 Simple Ways to Radically Improve Your Focus This Year


If we’re honest, most of us strive for the same goals: We want to work less, get more done, earn more money, have a greater impact, and do all of that with clarity, contentment, and ease.

We want to be radically focused during work, so we can work fewer hours and still achieve our ambitious goals.

And the truth is, it’s possible.

The reality, however, is that most of us work way more hours than necessary because we waste endless hours being distracted and confused.

Did you, for instance, know that studies proved it takes you an average of 23 minutes to get back to a task at hand after checking a notification on your phone or computer?

In fact, you don’t even need to check the notification. Just seeing it pop up on your screen is enough to distract you for several minutes.

In theory, being more productive is simple: You have to focus on the few essentials and ignore everything else.

In reality, however, it’s not as easy as it might sound because our daily lives are full of distractions.

Yet, we all know that a more focused life is the key to creating greater balance and achieving our goals with more ease, so it’s worth trying.

“If you can focus on the important tasks and projects, and keep your focus on those tasks, you will accomplish important things.”

— Leo Babauta

1) Make sure you don’t need your brain — most of the time

One of the most effective ways I simplified my life and increased my focus is by making sure I only use my brainpower when I truly need it.

This might sound weird, but I basically created systems and rules that help me eliminate insignificant decisions and sometimes even to-dos.

In order to be effective and focused, you’ll need a sharp mind when completing essential tasks. The problem is that most of your daily to-dos probably aren’t truly important but necessary.

What I eat or wear doesn’t have a significant impact on my life. (At least as long as I eat relatively healthy and dress appropriately.)

Whether I’m effective at completing my work, however, does have a significant impact. If I get my tasks done quickly, I have more time for friends, family, and hobbies.

If I’m slow at work, I need to spend way more hours on my desk than I want. That’s why being effective and focused literally allows me to have more time — at least that’s the truth as an entrepreneur because I’m not bound to sit in an office for 40 hours per week.

Similarly, I barely trust my brain when memorizing appointments, deadlines, or basic information. Instead, I use simple and mostly free tools that help me stay on top of my game in my private and professional life.

For instance, I use Todoist to structure and organize my daily to-dos and Trello for project management.

Your brainpower is limited and precious, so don’t waste it.

Get rid of redundant or repetitive tasks, or at least automate them as much as possible, so you don’t need to think much.

Instead of trying to be a superhuman, set up systems and processes that almost do the work for you. This might include task management tools, planners, calendars, and any other resources you might need.

The most important thing is to ensure your tools are synced across devices, so you can use them in different situations.

Whenever you have an exciting idea or remember that you need to get something done, you want to immediately add it to your task-management system to ensure you can’t forget about it.

Most distractions come from your own mind, so if you can learn how to use external tools as a supporter of your brain, you’ll be able to work with fewer interruptions and greater focus.

…but also stop chasing the perfect tool

A sure-fire way to waste your time instead of becoming more effective is by chasing the perfect tool.

I see people making this mistake all the time, and I was no different — I tried dozens, maybe hundreds of “productivity tools” before I finally settled down.

The truth is, the perfect tool likely doesn’t exist.

The good news, however, is that good is good enough, and there are countless tools that can help you be more efficient and focused. The gist is deciding on one (or a few) of them and sticking to their usage without getting distracted by the next revolutionary app.

In the end, it’s not about the tools you use but about how you use them to your advantage.

“Even the best tools won’t make much of a difference if they are used in isolation. Only if they are embedded in a well-conceived working process can the tools play out their strengths. There is no point in having great tools if they don’t fit together.”

— Sönke Ahrens in How to Take Smart Notes

2) Create simple rules for tough situations

I found that the simplest way to be more focused is getting rid of things that destroy my focus.

For me, that’s distractions on or around my workplace — that’s why I always keep my office clean and tidy.

And it’s tasks and appointments that take up lots of time but don’t move my business or personal goals forward.

In my case, video interviews or podcasts are a great example of this: I’m a writer with millions of readers across the globe, so I often get requests to join fellow creators for interviews.

But even though I genuinely appreciate each inquiry, I realized that those interviews cost me time without resulting in a valuable return for me.

At the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey, I thought I had to say yes to each opportunity.

Today, I know that magic only happens if you can say no to most things, so you have time and energy for the few projects that genuinely deserve a yes.

Instead of viewing each interview as an opportunity, I now reject most of them and only say yes when I know and appreciate the person who reaches out.

Take a few minutes and find out what specific tasks or projects you are saying yes to without seeing a valuable return.

Maybe it’s a blog you started years ago that just doesn’t seem to attract readers?

Maybe you have a proper business but are wasting your time on a social media channel or any other form of advertising that just doesn’t pay off?

Find out what it is for you and ask yourself how you can eliminate it or at least reduce the time you spend on that specific task or project.

In the long run, saying no to most things will allow you to say hell yeah to the right opportunities.

“It’s only by saying “No” that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.”

— Steve Jobs

3) Success is the result of smart working environments

In his book How to Take Smart NotesSönke Ahrens writes:

“Studies on highly successful people have proven again and again that success is not the result of strong willpower and the ability to overcome resistance, but rather the result of smart working environments that avoid resistance in the first place.”

This is true for workflows and processes, yet, I genuinely believe it’s also true for your workplace, including the physical and the digital space you’re surrounded by.

If you’re well-organized, being effective and focused becomes effortless.

It’s just harder to be focused if your desk is full of empty cups and wadded post-it notes.

As Leo Babauta writes:

“Clutter is a form of visual distraction, and everything in our vision pulls at our attention. The less clutter, the less visual stress we have.”

Don’t allow clutter to pile up and distract you. Instead, defeat it through smart habits that help you stay on top of your game.

When you’re done with work, practice a little “end-of-work-ritual” by tidying up your physical and digital spaces. Clean your desk. Get rid of all emails, documents, and folders you won’t need in the future. Throw anything away that won’t help you do a better job or be a better person.

In a world full of distractions, simplicity is the greatest asset because it allows you to have a clear mind.

4) Keep your brain sharp

Most people who’re frustrated about not being able to concentrate for long periods don’t take proper care of their bodies.

They don’t get enough rest, consume the wrong foods, are dehydrated, and wonder why they can’t focus.

The truth is, you can’t be focused if you don’t take care of your body and mind — especially of your brain.

And one of the most underrated ways to train your mind is by training your body.

The good news is that as little as 30 minutes of aerobic exercise such as walking, swimming, or cycling can already be enough.

30 minutes in exchange for a healthy body and mind is quite fair, right?

The most underrated way to take better care of your brain, however, is by getting enough sleep.

Particularly young and ambitious people often believe they need to hustle more to achieve their goals.

However, the truth might be that you need to hustle less and get a little more sleep, so you can be more focused and efficient when getting work done.

On top of helping you be more focused now, these changes will also ensure you stay mentally fit when you age.

5) Stop being in motion *all the time*

Most people are ineffective because they try too hard.

They work long hours, build five side-hustles besides their 9-to-5 jobs, set new goals every few weeks, and aim to be financially free before the age of 40.

That’s all fine, but the truth is that particular social media has created an unrealistic image of what’s “possible,” “realistic,” or “normal.”

The sad truth is, most people aren’t as happy or “successful” as they pretend to be on social media.

Even though I genuinely believe that you need to work hard if you have big goals, I also think you can’t build something of value while working yourself to death.

Most people confuse “taking action” with “being in motion.” They’re always doing things and being busy, but they’re failing to move the needle. As James Clear writes:

Motion is when you’re busy doing something, but that task will never produce an outcome by itself. Action, on the other hand, is the type of behavior that will get you a result.”

To be more focused, you need to spend less time in motion and take intentional action on the few things that truly matter.

Sometimes, you really have to slow down in order to make big things happen.

I know that “be more mindful” is easier said than done, but in the end, that’s what it really comes down to.

You’ll be able to produce your best work when you’re comfortable and at ease, not when you’re in a rush.

Your life is fast-paced anyway, so make sure to slow down every once in a while.

Enjoy your meals in silence.

Leave your phone in your pocket when you’re on the train or bus.

Start your day with a short meditation or breathing exercise.

Sit in silence for five minutes.

Enjoy your cup of coffee or tea without swiping up and down on your phone.

Spend a weekend of social media.

Check your emails less frequently.

Buy less “stuff” and spend more time with people that feel like sunshine.

You really don’t need to do crazy stuff; just focus on the things that make your heart dance.

In the past, I thought that being focused is a matter of being hardworking and extreme.

Now, I know that it’s a matter of feeling comfortable.

Instead of rushing through endless to-do lists, try to reward yourself more often.

Take a few minutes of your day to spend on yourself instead of others.

I know that’s not always easy, but it’s possible. And you deserve it.

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