9 Simple Habits For A More Focused Life
Focus is the secret sauce of success, and developing these life habits will help.
Spencer Sekulin· 6 min read
“The successful warrior is the average man with laser–like focus.” — Bruce Lee
Focus is one of the most powerful tools for deep work and achievement, and now more than ever we live in a time of mass distraction and relentless change. Never has it been harder to live each day with focus, and never has it been more important.
How do you create more focus in your life? How do you expand this trait, which is purported to be the new IQ?
It comes down to habit.
Not Gucci tricks or tools or timers or someone hanging over your shoulder. The root of focus is a life steeped in habits that nurture it. While these habits may not be easy to install, they are, at their heart, very simple.
Focus is a muscle. Here’s how you can make it stronger.
1. Think On Paper
- It clears your emotions.
- It clarifies your goals and aspirations.
- It improves your working memory.
- It reduces stress — a common foe of focus.
- It has many physical and mental health benefits.
Keeping a personal journal is powerful, but so is keeping a general “scrap” one throughout the day for notes or ideas or to-dos or even doodles. Why? It gets things out of your head so you can stop trying to remember them for later. In a sense, keeping a journal reduces your mind’s RAM use, freeing it up for deep work.
2. Daily Intentions
Our days are as focused as our intentions going into them.
Have a plan for your day. Not a rigid, brutal schedule or an inflexible list of to-do’s, but a plan that works for you, that sets your goals, your intent, and your wish for what you want to make out of this day. Do it the night before, or early in the morning: a declaration as to what you will do to make sure this day makes a difference.
Meditation has become a practice widely accepted by medical and scientific communities as a potent tool for health and self-care. Regular meditation practice has been studied and proven to increase attentional control.
Having a habit of meditation, be it transcendentalism, mindfulness, yoga, or one of the many kinds, adds a layer of calm and awareness to your everyday life. Even just four days of meditation training can make a tangible improvement in your focus. Imagine what a lifetime habit will do!
There’s a fine line between owning things and our things owning us.
Too much clutter is not good for focus and productivity. Your home, your work environment, wherever you do your deepest work, your space should enable you, not distract you.
Not only that, but having too many possessions that DEMAND your attention — cars, cottages, lawns, boats, whatever — or things that you feel compelled to invest time in to avoid having “wasted” money on them, may pull your focus in many directions.
While this doesn’t mean live like a hermit, it does mean be mindful of how your possessions are affecting you, and whether it’s an influence worth toleration.
We live in a world that seeks to grab our attention as much as it can — and it’s our duty, if we wish to live focused lives, to resist that.
Our technology is one of the main avenues of lost focus. TV, computers, the internet, smartphones — all of these can be great tools, but when not controlled, they can literally absorb your focus and thereby your life.
When you sit down to do focused work, unplug. Put your phone in another room on silent. Disconnect from the internet (if you’re not using it). Turn off all those pesky notifications. Close those browser tabs that are not relevant to your current task. There are many ways, and each person is different, but limiting your distractions, and unplugging as best you can, makes a huge difference and makes sure that your technology serves you, and not the other way around.
Take a walk, or swim, or run, or lift weights, or do yoga, or parkour, or climb a mountain — whatever turns your crank.
Regular exercise literally changes the brain to improve memory and thinking skills, while on the other end reduces stress, depression and anxiety. It also capitalizes on the pharmacy that is your brain, by releasing endorphins and other neurotransmitters that promote a better state of mind and overall health.
Exercise. Every. Day.
While it may seem unrelated, gratitude can help you be more focused as well. Deliberately practicing gratitude on a daily basis improves physical and mental health, leads to better sleep, enhances empathy, and nurtures resilience.
Getting better sleep alone is more than enough reason, let alone the rest. When you are at your best game mentally and physically, your focus is all the more enabled. A habit of gratitude can nurture that.
8. Reading Well
Books. Not social media posts, not texts, not CNN. Books!
The act of picking up a book and reading it page for page, not some abbreviated summary, is a workout for your brain as well as for your focus. Developing a habit of deep reading improves brain connectivity and function, and has an extensive list of positive outcomes, including better memory, creativity, and you guessed it, focus.
So in this world of TLDR culture, be one of the few who reads it anyway.
9. Living With Purpose
Purpose creatures focus by virtue of it giving you a strong reason to stick to what you’re doing. Your why is important, and if you have a weak or undefined purpose, it’s easier to stray.
Having a strong purpose is the cornerstone of focus — when you have a solid purpose in life, laser focus becomes almost effortless.
The opposite is also true. In the words of Marcus Aurelius:
“People who labor all their lives but have no purpose to direct every thought and impulse toward are wasting their time — even when hard at work.”
Develop the habit of believing in, and finding, true purpose and meaning in life. It’s there, waiting for you.