If You Want to Solve a Problem, Focus First
My recent podcast launch really has me thinking about the best ways to overcome obstacles, and if you’ve been following my recent posts, you know I’ve been talking a lot about the strategies I recommend most.
In this post, I’ll cover why a laser-sharp focus is one of your best allies in busting through those obstacles. After all, in the words of Henry Ford, “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.”
Step Back Before Moving Ahead
You’re working on a goal when you hit a roadblock – what do you do? For many people, it’s a natural response to keep forging ahead no matter what. Before you realize it, you’re knee-deep trying to solve a problem with no clear way out.
Do any of these statements sound familiar?
- I didn’t see this coming…how am I going to manage this?
- I don’t have time to take a break; I MUST solve this now.
- I can’t stop thinking about the problem; it’s racing through my mind..
Do you keep pressing ahead, going nowhere fast and getting ultra-frustrated in the process?
What if there was an easier way? Actually, there is – and it starts with stepping back.
If you don’t think you can step away completely, start by taking a long, slow deep breath. Try taking a time out even for a couple minutes.
The key here is to walk away. Engage in a completely different activity. Take a day off. Go for a run. Get together with a friend. Give the situation a rest.
Stepping away may seem counterproductive, but it’s the first key step in regaining focus and clarity.
Conquer the Distractions
If you’ve ever observed a group of people, you’ve probably noticed that when one person is talking, others are engaged in a variety of other activities – texting, checking email, browsing online. This happens everywhere people gather – in restaurants, in boardrooms, and in homes all over the world.
Multitasking can make you more likely to make mistakes because you’re not focusing all of your attention on any one thing. But there’s good news, according to the authors of an HBR article on how to train your brain to focus: research shows that the brain can learn to ignore distractions.
What do you get out of it? Greater focus, productivity, and creativity, to name a few benefits.
Train Your Brain
HBR authors Paul Hammerness, MD and Margaret Moore suggest trying the “ABC method” to put the brakes on your brain:
- Aware: Distractions are everywhere, so become aware of the options you have to handle them. For instance, you can stop what you are doing and attend to the distraction, or you can simply let it go.
- Breathe: Take a deep breath and think about your options.
- Choose: You have a choice, so think wisely how you want to handle the situation. Then go forward again.
Another strategy to establish greater focus in your life is time management. For starters, you can:
- Block out times to focus on similar activities. You’ll probably find it’s much easier than starting and stopping tasks throughout the day, shifting from one mind frame to another.
- Consider using an application like TimeTrade for scheduling. I use this in my business to avoid the usual back-and-forth routine of scheduling, and it’s really saved a lot of hassle.
- Track how you are spending your time online – it might be quite a wake-up call. I use Rescue Time; explore your options and find the application that works best for you.
And finally, if you find your emotions running wild, tame the craziness by taking time regularly to exercise, meditate, and rest. Research proves that positive emotions and thoughts actually improve the brain’s functioning, making way for greater creativity and more strategic thinking.
What’s your best tip for staying focused, even under pressure? Share your thoughts below!