Some Habits of Highly Focused People

4 min read

Education & Career Trends: April 26, 2022
Curated by the Knowledge Team of ICS Career GPS

You need to cultivate the right habits to master the art of focus and produce great work.

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The biggest reason people struggle to focus is that they don’t understand what focus really is. Most of us think about focus like willpower — the effort you apply to keep your mind on one thing when it wants to go somewhere else. But this is only a tiny part of focus — and by far the least important.

The ability to focus deeply and for long stretches of time is the result of many habits cultivated over time.

Here are 5 habits of highly focused people that will lead to deeper focus and outstanding results no matter what kind of work you’re doing:

1. Procrastinate productively

  • At first glance, the terms productive and procrastination would appear to be opposites. After all, one of the biggest reasons people cite for their difficulty focusing is the tendency to procrastinate.
  • Truly productive people embrace procrastination. The urge to procrastinate is normal, it’s often your mind’s perfectly natural desire for novelty and stimulation.
  • Productive procrastination means cultivating a set of activities you can procrastinate on that will still lead you to be productive in the long run.
  • Allow yourself to procrastinate in small ways and you’ll rarely end up procrastinating in major ways.

The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.

— Walt Disney

2. Ruthlessly eliminate distractions

  • Whether it’s a Facebook notification on your phone, a colleague dropping by your office to chat, or a new video game on your iPad, nothing sabotages our focus and concentration like a distraction.
  • Unfortunately, most people resign themselves to the belief that the best way to stay focused is to try and resist distractions.
  • Stop trying to resist distractions and work like hell to avoid them in the first place.
  • Highly focused people know that while some distractions are inevitable, many of them are avoidable if you’re willing to make some tough choices.

Edit your life frequently and ruthlessly. It’s your masterpiece after all.

— Nathan W. Morris

3. Be compassionate with your mistakes

Early in life, most people learn that the proper way to motivate themselves is to “get tough”. This is based on the incorrect belief that fear is an effective motivator.

While fear can very temporarily get you to act, it tends to have a de-motivating effect in the long-term because it negatively impacts your self-confidence. Highly focused and productive people understand that self-criticism only sabotages your ability to stay focused and do your best work.

Here are some tips:

  • If you get distracted and momentarily lose focus, gently remind yourself to get back to work and refocus your attention.
  • If you feel the urge to start procrastinating, calmly remind yourself that there’s nothing wrong with it and it happens with everybody.
  • If you forget to work on a goal or task one day, acknowledge that everybody makes mistakes and design a better reminder system for your work.

It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.

— Albert Einstein

4. Take advantage of inspiration but don’t rely on it

  • One hallmark of highly focused people is that they have a healthy relationship with inspiration.
  • First, instead of assuming that you need to feel inspired or motivated to work, believe that you can do pretty good work regardless of how you feel.
  • Just because inspiration leads to focus doesn’t mean focus depends on inspiration.
  • Second, take extreme advantage of it when inspiration does show up.

Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.

— Stephen King

5. Clarify your values

  • Clear, compelling values are the ultimate source of focus and motivation.
  • If you’re consistently working on things you don’t care about, maintaining focus will always be a struggle.
  • Highly focused people understand that the real secret to staying focused is to work on things you value, though it doesn’t mean only working on things you’re completely passionate about.
  • Many aspects of our work contain deep values within them if you’re willing to look closely and clarify them.

Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.

— Theodore Roosevelt

Have you checked out yesterday’s blog yet?

Creating a Great Company Culture for Young Professionals

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the article mentioned above are those of the author(s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of ICS Career GPS or its staff.)

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