If you're feeling a lack of focus in your business lately, these tools will help you get back on track plus set you up for years of success.
Last year I did a thing where on the last day of each month I made notes about what I noticed that month. If there was a question I was asked a lot that month, I wrote it down. If there were any ah-ha moments for my students I captured that. Anything that I realized throughout that month, I noted.
At the end of the year it was really neat to look back and see that I had basically outlined my future content for the podcast and anything I will teach this year. What a bonus!
But more importantly, my goal is to help you. I wanted to be one step ahead so I could help you before you even realized you needed it, assuming the year plays out in a similar fashion.
February's note started with this:
"Overall lack of focus for the majority of people. Unsettled, not seeing results, seems to be tough to get them to commit; but they want/need to make money. There seems to be more urgency, like they were coming back from the holidays moreso than in January."
Does that sound like you right now? If so, I've got you! We're talking all about focus today and I'm excited to share some research with you but also share tools that could possibly help your focus in your business.
**This was also a podcast episode (episode #176. Use the player below if you'd prefer to listen to this message.
Why Our Focus Slips
If you haven't heard of the Huberman Lab Podcast yet, please check it out because I know you'll love it. He's a Stanford professor and his mission is make science more accessible to us non-professors and students so he shares incredible amounts of research on the podcast.
When I knew I would be talking about focus I went to him for data first. He explains this much better than I ever can in his episode title Focus Toolkit but the reason that we go in and out of focus times during the day is because of something called Ultradian Cycles.
These are 90 minute cycles that our brains go through day and night and the more we understand them, the more we can use them to our advantage.
So the goal is to find the 90 minute timeframes where your focus is best during the day and to the best of your ability, optimizing for that timeframe. I realize we don't live in a perfect world so this can't happen all the time but the key is to identify it and use it when you can.
90 Minute Focus Time
First 5 to 10 minutes is transition time as we don't just pop into focus
Start with 1 90 minute session per day for 4 weeks
After 4 weeks, increase to 2 or 3 sessions per day of "deep, hard mental work"
Think about it like you would training hard physically. You can only do so much in one day and only so much per week depending on how well you recover between training sessions. The same goes for focus and using your brain, you need good sleep in between lots of cognitive work.
Additionally, I'd encourage you to read the book: Deep Work by Cal Newport.
"Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It's a skill that allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time. Deep work will make you better at what you do and provide the sense of true fulfillment that comes from craftsmanship. In short, deep work is like a super power in our increasingly competitive twenty-first century economy. And yet, most people have lost the ability to go deep-spending their days instead in a frantic blur of e-mail and social media, not even realizing there's a better way." (book description)
While we would like to think we can work endlessly, it's actually better to work in shorter timeframes on a concentrated task.
“To produce at your peak level you need to work for extended periods with full concentration on a single task free from distraction.” - Deep Work by Cal Newport
In a recent article by The Treetop Therapy that cited several studies, the average attention span of an adult human is 8.25 seconds.
This is important in the world of marketing your business because that's how long you have to get someone's attention. Hello titles! Now you see why it's important to start with the struggle versus the title of your offering, right?
But when it comes to us an entrepreneurs, that's really bad news for our focus. We've got too many things on our to-do list as it is and now we know our attention span is seconds long.
How do we combat this?
The good news is that we can combat this with a few things:
Understanding when we lose focus and why
Flexing our focus muscle by learning how to refocus
Track What Works For You
I shared an entire episode on how tracking things has been the single best thing I've done in my business (episode #130). And I mentioned at the beginning that I tracked what I noticed with my audience for an entire year and can now use that information to better serve you.
This same tactic can be used to help your focus.
Take notes about when you feel most focused throughout a typical week. Did you just eat? Are you fasting? Did you just have caffeine? Was it the morning? Afternoon? Evening? Are you in a busy cafe and that helps you? Or do you need a quiet room?
While we don't like in an ideal world and we won't have this every day, it's key to know what does help you focus so if and when you need to focus and get something done, you know the conditions that will help you.
You can do this as a note in your phone, a journal, or however works for you but the key is to track when you feel most focused and capture as many notes as you can about that moment. Once we know what helps us, we can use that to our advantage.
Next I'll share several tools that could possibly help your focus but I would encourage you to continue tracking as you test these out for yourself. Just as you track what is currently working for you, continue to track what you try and what works and what doesn't.
Tools To Help With Focus
These tools are pulled from both my experience as well as the Huberman Lab Podcast on the Focus Toolkit.
In order to use our brain to the fullest and my optimal capacity (including focus) we need to get enough and good sleep. This varies by person but the range is 6 to 8 hours and a balance between deep and REM sleep.
This will vary by person but we need to eat enough that you're nourished but you likely won't concentrate the best after eating a large meal.
There's a study referenced in the Huberman Lab Podcast about a 13 minute daily meditation done for 8 weeks actually increased focus.
Timer for 13 minutes, sit or lay down, close your eyes and focus on your breathing
Every 5-10 seconds your thoughts will drift off but as you're bringing it back, you're flexing your focus muscle and training your brain
The point is to go from "focused to unfocused to refocused" because that's how it's training your brain. The goal isn't to stay focused only on your breath for 13 minutes, it's the training part that will help.
This is especially helpful if you didn't sleep well but still need to focus on your daily activities but you can safely do this every day and receive benefits.
10-30 minutes per day
Goal is to de-focus during this time so you can rest and rejuvenate your brain
Using the frequency of 40 hertz, listen to it for 5 minutes before you want to do focused work or try it during the entire work process and see what works best for you.
This depends on the person and your caffeine tolerance but 100mg - 400mg is a general suggestion of a "good amount" of caffeine to help with focus.
There are studies that show that you can use this to your advantage because when we are stressed it actually forces us to focus on a specific topic so if you're stressed about a project you can likely get the action done. Like writing a paper for school the night before it was due.
A cold shower or ice bath helps your body be more alert and can leave you with lasting effects of heightened focus for hours afterwards. 1 to 5 minutes and cold enough to be uncomfortable but not so cold that it hurts you.
EPA Omega 3 fatty acids (1-3g E), Creatine (5mg) can be helpful.
But...All the tools and tricks in the world can help you focus but if you don't know what to focus on, you still won't make progress on your goal.
Knowing What To Focus On:
I have two tools for this: 90 day goals and what I call "MIT"s (Most Important Task).
90 Day Goals:
These will help you stay focused on a single goal for 90 days. This is easier to focus on than an annual goal because we can conceptualize 90 days versus a full year.
I'd suggest that you know your MIT for the week overall as well as each day. Keep in mind that your MIT doesn't have to be business related every day. You could have "take a walk outside" or "pick up the kids from school" or "relax" as your MIT.
Each week you ask yourself "what's one thing I can do this week to get me closer to my 90 day goal?".
Take Away Message / Action
Start noticing when your focus drifts to something else. This simple act of noticing, not changing, will help you tremendously because it's actually the thing you're doing before the focus drifts that you want to catch. Once you know that, you can better prepare for when you do need to focus on something intently.
Test out some of the tools that were mentioned and see what works for you and what doesn't. Remember that your focus journey will look different than anyone else's so take inspiration from others but allow yourself to find what works for you.
Give yourself permission to focus (and re-focus) and grace along the way.
"All the focus tools in the world can help you but if you don't know what to focus on in your business, you still won't make progress.
Use the tools but also know what your goal is."
- Amanda McKinney
Huberman Lab - Podcast Episode "Focus Toolkit" - https://hubermanlab.com/focus-toolkit-tools-to-improve-your-focus-and-concentration/
Huberman Lab - Sleep Toolkit: https://hubermanlab.com/toolkit-for-sleep/
Binural Beats Apple App: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/brainwave-35-binaural-series/id307219387
Binural Beats Android App: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=net.luizmello.brainwaves&hl=en_US&gl=US
Meditation App: https://www.reveri.com/
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