Staying focused

The struggle with staying focused on ‘must do’ tasks can be a life-long problem for many people. But successfully dealing with the issue leads to further happiness, life satisfaction, and freedom.

Staying focused

We certainly have no difficulty focusing on things that we love to do that require hardly any effort, such as reading, watching TV, shopping, cooking, fishing, socialising, playing games, and so on. But when faced with work responsibilities or study that’s coupled with a deadline, suddenly, we lack focus. The task at hand becomes unbearable to begin or continue. You’ve then let it slip, and you’re confronted with guilt, and pressure from the affected parties. Sometimes the pressure accumulates to a level that cannot be dealt with, so we call it quits altogether. Whether that be resigning, ending a relationship, leaving school, or worst-case scenario – quitting life.

The following story may be confronting for some as it is an extreme example.

My cousin Nan ran away from home in 2012 and disappeared for ten years until the police recently returned him after he attempted to take his own life. Before he ran, he was addicted to computer games and could no longer focus on any other tasks. He travelled to a tourist location after leaving home, where he moved from one restaurant to another working as a kitchen hand. Once he had saved enough money, he quit his job and rented a place where he began playing computer games again, living off takeaways for four years. When the money ran out, he could not bother to live anymore. His story is about someone who could not focus on necessary tasks, ran away from those responsibilities and in the end, tried to run away from his life.

I guess some can’t escape lack of focus from time to time, and successful public figures we admire may secretly struggle with the same problem too. So don’t beat yourself up if you’re facing this challenge. I do feel pretty lucky that I am able to focus reasonably well most of the time. This is partly because I love what I do and have many other interests outside of work that help me balance stress. The pandemic, however, caught me off guard. Meeting people face to face to understand their business issues is a huge part of my job, so the restrictions took effect. I dropped the ball here and there, with less focus on administrative work. In fact, post the third lockdown from August 2021 – early 2022, I only managed to work five hours a day on average, passing time by reading and listening to audiobooks.

Now, I’m finally back on track. Summarised below are some key ingredients to staying focused:

  • If you have control, choose a career that you like and are good at. Outsource the tasks that you struggle with to those who don’t. This is important.
  • As weird as it sounds, deadlines and urgency, if managed appropriately, can really help. Plan ahead for long-term projects by considering how long it will take, then block out a time close to the deadline. You’ll be surprised at how much you’ll focus under pressure.
  • When you’re really struggling, let it go for the moment. Advise your team you need time to chill, ask for help, and make the decision to delay some tasks. When you’ve had enough rest, and indulged in some entertainment, look at the task again and you’ll find it’s actually not that bad.
  • If it involves the team, book a meeting to discuss potential hurdles. Break a big hard task into several smaller tasks that are easier and clearer to work on. One’s trash is another’s treasure, so something you find difficult may be a piece of cake for your team member.
  • Make yourself visible to others – for example, in the office, library, or family lounge. Surrounding yourself with people who may give you a bit of subtle pressure allows you to focus on the task at hand instead of getting distracted in your bedroom.

In Closing

When times get tough, never give up. Take a break, breathe, and approach the task later with a clear head. There is no shame in a lack of focus, it’s widely common for all types of people. Remember not to let it get the best of you because you’re entirely capable. It’s important to learn how and when you work best, consider changing your environment, or surround yourself with things that inspire you. You’ve got this.

If you resonate with any of the above, feel free to get in touch for a chat.

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