No Focus, No Progress

Don’t tell my FastTrack students, but one of the reasons I LOVE doing the semi-annual “follow me” workshops (where 4-7 of them come to my office for a weekend that includes a behind-the-scenes view of my office, a look at properties, and a mastermind session) is that I always come away with fodder for at least 3 Inner Circle e-lessons.

Thanks to last weekend’s crew, I discovered that I’m not the only one for whom focus—or rather, lack thereof—is a big concern. When one of the attendees brought this up as her big issue, another said, “You do realize that ADD is practically a job requirement for real estate entrepreneurs, right?”, at which point all but one of us started comparing exactly HOW distracted we could get. Then a squirrel walked into the room and we completely forgot what we were saying.

But, seriously, focus—in both the macro and micro sense—is both a real struggle and a key indicator of success in our business. After all, we ALL have limited time and energy to get things done, and so how we EXPEND that time and energy is truly crucial.

An inability to focus in the MACRO sense—that is, you’re not even sure which strategy, or which of the gazillions of things on your to do list is the one you should be tackling at the moment—is a matter of goals and priorities. I wrote an Elesson a few weeks ago called “How to Set Goals (if you really want to achieve them) that breaks down the steps to prioritizing the things on the level of WHAT is the most important thing I should be doing right now.

But what’s equally important is focus in the MICRO sense—that is, the ability to stay with the task that we’ve chosen without jumping from thing to thing.

The more I’ve fought the tendency of my own brain to grab onto every passing thought and urge and continue to concentrate on, say, writing an E-lesson or evaluating a deal or creating a piece of marketing, the more I wonder why in the world we aren’t taught how to do this in elementary school. It’s such a basic skill and such a leg up on ANYTHING we attempt to do in our lives that it should be taught along with “Don’t cross the street before looking both ways” and “Brush your teeth” to kindergarteners.

But, along with financial education, brain training will probably continue to be neglected by our schools in perpetuity, so here’s my best shot at how to get focused so you can get things done so that you can get rich so that you can pay other people to be focused for you.

  1. Understand that “ADD” is, in some ways, your mind’s natural state. Our brains are wired to look for stimulation. We get the same chemical rush from experiencing something new and exciting as we do from sugar. Being hyper-aware of new things in your environment was probably a life-saver when we were evolving; noticing the bunny (or squirrel) meant having a yummy dinner that night; noticing the saber-toothed tiger meant not being the yummy dinner.
  2. 2. Unfortunately, our current culture offers way too much in the way of stimulation. From TV to Facebook to YouTube to talking on the phone any place, any time, we can now information-surf at will. It’s easy, it’s already paid for, and it’s much more satisfying than focusing on writing a stupid e-lesson for a whole hour without checking out WHAT THESE FORMERLY HOT CELEBRITIES LOOK LIKE NOW!!! or THE TOP 10 SECRETS TO MARKETING SUCCESS!!! (2 clickbait links I’ve actually fallen for in the past 24 hours).
  3. So the #1 discipline for focus is: stop surfing. It feels so good, but adds nothing to your life. The best thing you could do for your focus would be to delete your Facebook account, block youtube from your toolbar, throw away the TV, and just get your brain off all the pretty, interesting information. But since that’s not going to happen, try limiting when you’re “allowed” to be on the web or the boob tube to after (not before) working hours.
  4. Oh yeah, and video games, too.
  5. Don’t try to push your focus beyond what your brain can tolerate. There’s some period of time—for most people, it’s between 45 and 90 minutes—over which you can effectively concentrate on a task. After that, your attention is going to wander no matter what you do. Trying to be efficient when your mind is tired is a battle you won’t win. The trick is to figure out what your timeframe is (mine is 75 minutes), set at timer when you start a project, then STOP when the time goes off and do something completely different for 10 minutes. Thi is a real game-change and yes, there’s science behind it. Read about the Pomodoro technique (http://pomodorotechnique.com/) for more information, but do NOT click any of those ads on the side, no matter how interesting.
  6. More science: those among us who actually have mild ADD may need MORE stimulation, not less. There’s a whole theory (see www.FocusAtWill.com) that says that truly attention-deficit brains simply can’t stay on one thing at a time, and the way to fix that is to give them something to focus on that’s not distracting from the main thing. That thing is music—but not the familiar, lyric-filled, “Hey, what was that other song Kajagoogoo did I should Google it” music you might be thinking. The music that works is unfamiliar, instrumental-only music, played at just above the level of any ambient noise. This has REALLY worked for me over the past year; check out the website above and see if it does for you.
  7. I hate to sound this hip, but MEDITATE. The solutions above are all in the moment hacks to getting the job you’re trying to get done done. For more in-depth brain training, daily meditation is your answer. I know, telling someone who can’t think 3 thoughts in a row on the same topic to “clear your mind” is crazy—but it turns out that meditation isn’t actually about clearing your mind. It’s about letting thoughts and urges go through your head WITHOUT. REACTING. TO. THEM.

Think about that for a minute; if you could continue to HAVE the thoughts (“I know Kim and Kanye’s first baby was North West, but what did they call the second one?”) without ACTUALLY stopping to follow them? What if you could have urges (“Wait, before I get started on this mega-important, game-changing project, let me just check my email”) without feeling any need to do anything about them? That’s what meditation training provides.

Read 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works by Dan Harris and try it for 10 minutes a day. Your focus, and therefore your business, will improve.

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