How to Have Consistent Focus Even When No One Is Watching

how-to-focus-hacks-infographicFocus Determines Reality

The object of focus as well as the existence or absence of focus itself determines the reality of a person’s life. Do you believe this?

The truth that focus determines reality drives me. I believe it to the point of frustration when focus remains elusive. When my mind continually engages distraction, anxiety and frustration set in and depression approaches.

Establishing & Keeping Focus

When I transitioned from working in an office where others held me accountable for my productivity to working for myself at home where only I truly knew my level of accomplishment, the discipline of focus taunted me while at the same time taught me a great deal about establishing and keeping focus. Here’s what I learned:

  1. Know your purpose. This requires regular (daily) Scripture study & prayer before moving on to the specific tasks of the day.
  2. Eliminate distraction. Leave your phone in the other room. Work in a room without a television. Go for a walk or bike ride to brainstorm and plan. Find ways to reduce the temptations of distraction.
  3. Simplify. Reduce possessions to regularly-used items. Keep calendars simple and clutter free. Focus on simple, healthy meals. Establish routines to reduce decision-making. When overwhelmed, this one word – “simplify” – works wonders for refocusing.
  4. Talk. Working alone means I’m in my head a lot. Regularly scheduling exercise time or coffee with a friend gives opportunity to get out of my head and process thoughts in more tangible ways. Evenings with my husband and time with my boys also help me cultivate and process ideas.
  5. Follow the Spirit’s leading. Put yourself in a position to regularly hear the wisdom God regularly offers.
  6. Take small steps. Staying focused happens through small steps (choices) that over time add up to make a huge difference.
  7. Establish accountability. Voicing my goals creates one level of accountability. Partnering with others creates another. Creating deadlines takes accountability up another notch. Make accountability a reality and not just a good idea.

Learning to Focus

When talking to others struggling with focus, I hear excuses like, “I’m not just good at focusing,” or “I just get distracted easily,” as if they lack the ability to focus like some lack musical ability. In this ADD-culture, many seem to believe focus comes only for those blessed with unique ability or at the very least live absent of attention deficit.

My personal success in achieving a focused life convinced me that focus is not a special talent like athleticism but is instead a learned ability. If you’re not yet convinced, consider the story of a young boy diagnosed with ADHD, PTSD & FAS at age 8.

All three of these disorders rip apart one’s ability to focus. Yet, in the past six years through the avenues listed above done in a consistent manner and in a stable environment, this boy went from being several years behind in reading to reading just above grade level. He also gets As and Bs in school and stays out of trouble as much as any other teenage boy.

My youngest son taught me anyone can learn to focus. While it may exist as more of a struggle more for some people than for others, anyone can improve their ability to focus.

A Biblical Formula for Focus

Let’s look at one more element involved in one’s ability to focus. Scripture provides a great deal of help on the topic, but let’s look at two passage in particular to finish our discussion on focus.

Focus all energy on one thing: Forget the past, look forward toward the goal, and work to reach the end and receive the prize. (Philippians 3:13-14)

Refuse to focus on the temporary and instead fix your focus on the unseen, the eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:18)

Focusing where God tells us to focus results in an extraordinary ability to hone our effectiveness. Keeping eternity in mind as we plan our lives results in living productive and meaningful lives. No longer do we wonder if our daily activity matters because we know we’re connected with the eternal, with what matters most to God, so all we do matters.

Remember the question in the beginning of this post? Go ahead, take a look again.

When we truly believe – because we know for certain – that focus involves choosing to have it as well as placing God as the object of that focus, we find that our ability to focus grows in supernatural ways. We discover that an inability to focus may simply mean a wrong focus. We realize that an overwhelmed life often means a life focused on the wrong or too many different things.

No one can convince me that consistent focus ever exists as impossible for anyone. Learning to focus without being under constant watch by others taught me about the possibility, and my youngest son’s progress over the past 6 years further confirmed the truth. And both leave me excited to live a future focused on God and pleasing Him.

DISCUSSION: What struggles do you have with focus? How does the above advice provide hope for learning to focus?

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27 Replies to “How to Have Consistent Focus Even When No One Is Watching”

  1. Even old men have distractions and are subject to what is ADD… Its called the too much on the plate syndrome. It is the dreaded disease when one gets to the point in life, they are focused on getting as much down as possible but at their pace. The conflict of volume versus speed, patience versus production, causes priority disorder. I am guilty and yet somehow I manage to hold the course. Thanks for posting, it is more serious of an issue than I made it sound. Our world offers too many TVs, cell phones, laptops, Ipads and the like to overload our minds with images and sounds, We no longer seem happy to just sit on the porch or take a walk and observe God's miracles and messages from nature. To regain focus we truly do need to shut off man-made distractions and focus on how we were wonderfully made to focus on the things of God. Imagination and creation are part of our "made in the image" of God connection – we should try it more often.

    Thanks Kari

    1. Our culture definitely makes focusing and self discipline a harder path to take, that is for certain. Simplifying helps to do both of these. It's so much easier to focus when there are fewer things to focus on, and self discipline is easier with fewer things competing for our attention and desire. Small steps taken over time add up to make a big difference, that is how we get there. Then, we have to maintain, which is very difficult too. Focusing on God and His Word really is the only way to walk this path as we throw off what so easily hinders our walk. Thanks, Coach.

  2. Kari, great post and very timely for me personally. After taking some recent time off to travel, it became very clear to me that I have lost focus on some of the goals that I had set for myself. I am not as far along in some areas as I had planned to be by this point in my life. Part of it I can attribute to adjusting to life as a father, but other aspects are because I have not been intentional about maintaining focus. I've found it is so important to gauge our own "temperature" in this area a few times each year by taking a vacation or "staycation".

    1. Thanks, Chris. Amazing what taking time away from our normal routines can do for our perspective, isn't it? You've hit on a couple of key points in your comment. First, our plans can get derailed by life, and we need to be flexible in a sense knowing this will happen. However, we also know that our own choices derail us, and we must be constantly aware of how we hinder our own growth and seek to eliminate those things. Second, being deliberate about getting away and evaluating is so very important. We have to get out of our routines & "norms" in order to see what we need to change and what can stay the same. Sounds like you know exactly what you need to do and just now need to put it into action.

  3. Wow, the Lord is really working the importance of focus and planning into my life. I am easily distracted, but completely agree that I would focus better if I removed most of them from the room. I ordered a new planner the other day, and I'm determined to get better at this. Thanks for giving me one more nudge. And congrats to your son! That is awesome!
    My recent post Quotes to Inspire Authenticity

    1. Good for you for continually working at this, Deb. Let me give you a word of advice (this coming from someone who has almost an unhealthy obsession with being organized at times): Keep it simple. My son has worked really hard to learn to focus. He still struggles with it and likely always will, but he's living proof of the power of the God reforming a life.

  4. Kari,
    I think multitasking is one thing that takes away from focus. It a skill a lot of people think they have but I have read research that suggest that not very many people can multitask at all. In reality they jump for thing to thing and end up spending more time than if they would work to stay focused on one thing before moving on.

    1. Ah, the multitasking myth that causes death to consistent focus, productivity and effectiveness. I've actually read that our brains cannot work on two tasks at the same time and actually just flips between them. Also, we take longer to accomplish things when we move from one to the other like that. We're actually MORE productive when we focus on one task for a while and then move to another. I personally find this to be true and this habit to be one that has increased my productivity a great deal lately. Great point!

  5. When i was in high school i had trouble finishing a task. When at work he would give me the task of cleaning and rearranging the stock. But I also had to keep an eye on the front of the store and get ice cream or cut meat when needed. Needless to say the shelves were often forgotten. I still have that a bit today where I get sidetracked while on task. I go back to the old saying, "If you have no target to aim at your are sure to hit it."
    My recent post Existence

    1. So true, Bill. We have to have a target to aim for, and the simpler we keep our focus the better our aim. Not only does our focus need to stay simple, but we need to eliminate distractions where possible too. Simple, but not easy.

  6. Thanks for the message Kari – There's a lot here for me to think about and consider adjusting and with God's help I'll get focused and more content in my life. Great news about your son and his progress!

    1. God really does want us to have focus, and He'll show us how to do it if we just look to Him. Thanks! God has really done an amazing work in my son, and I'm excited about what He has for the days and years ahead.

  7. Well said, Kari!
    Yesterday a friend of mine said that a persons perception becomes their reality.
    I think this can tie in with what you wrote. If person perceives they can't focus, then they can't. If they think they can't overcome something, they can't.
    For me, being Kingdom minded- focusing on God helps put things in proper perspective. It changes my reality and shows me what truly matters in life. The more I focus on God, the easier it is to keep my focus on Him and His will, His Kingdom. It becomes easier to not get distracted. But like Peter walking on water, it's tempting and easy to take my focus off Him and onto the waves. When I do that my world starts to slip into chaos. My reality changes because my perception/focus has changed.

    1. Well, TC, you hit the nail on the head. Since the quote on my blog header is "Because focus determines reality," you can know I obviously agree with you whole-heartedly. To often, we think reality or life determines our focus, but we have it backwards. We get to chose where we place our focus, and that determines the reality of our lives now and into eternity.

      1. Let's take it one step farther, Kari, and look at the Church. Where is it's focus? How does the world perceive the Church?

        Is our focus on reaching the lost, equipping disciples to "go out" or about retaining people in the pews, filling committee spots, donating to missions, etc?
        Where our focus is…that's our reality.

        Does the world perceive as as loving, welcoming, a needful part of society? Or do they think we are hypocritical, unfriendly, In the way?
        How they perceive us…becomes a reality as well. If they don't have a good perception of us, will they ever come to our churches, listen to our message, give us chance to show them Christ?

        Overall I think the church has taken major hits with how it is perceived through the eyes of the world. This I think has caused many churches to shift their focus from the Great Commission and challenging Christians to grow in their faith, to simply trying to keep the "saved" coming back and/or tithing.

        What are your thoughts?

        1. You have some good points here, TC. (Sorry for the delay in answering, btw.) My thoughts in response are that yes, many churches have lost focus, but I think it's largely because its individuals have lost focus. If individuals can get more focused, then churches will. I also think leadership is so important in a church for identifying focus; yet, I'm seeing a disturbing trend in a lack of following these days in the church and out. So, it's back to individuals. The church's perception has been damaged, and there's fault for that in the church and from without as well. We are studying 1 Corinthians in Sunday School, and the church today has so many of the same problems, which basically hit at how to live morally in an immoral world and not get sucked into the culture. As I think this out, I still think it all goes back to individuals making a decision to pursue holiness, much like the early church had to decide the same thing. So now, back at you. Anymore thoughts?

          1. i think you're spot on. It does come down to the individual. I can't control what others do or don't do.
            And I'm only accountable to God for what I do.
            It's individual salvation (not collective salvation like some are preaching) and an individual cross we must all carry as we learn to die to self.
            Individuals make up a group, so it must be individuals who begin to change. And that change will spread as others see the Light in us.

          2. As individuals, we significantly impact the whole, making it stronger or weaker. Everyone plays a role in that. That being said, we ARE stronger as a unified whole than as individuals. We must do our part, and encourage others to do theirs. Love the race analogy Paul uses because while in a race we run for individual times, a cross country team also races as a team. Such a fitting visual!

  8. Kari, important post. It was so much easier to focus living in Papua New Guinea and Bolivia in a remote place. We did not have tv service, or phone service or computer service a lot so it meant more time for other things. I love keeping it simple, not having too much stuff. Unless it's a family momenta I don't usually keep it. I love organization but can get caught in that trap of not being flexible, which is another thing I learned and still practice. I have to say I am with TC, my main focus is Kingdom focus then all else falls into place in His order of things. When I lose focus I try to go back to where I lost it and pick up the pieces, I love starting over, love it that God gives us grace for losing focus. He knows how frail I am, knows I will never obtain perfect focus till we see Him face to face. Really good post sister, keep them coming, you are hitting on an important subject.

    1. Our culture certainly allows for more distractions, that's or sure. The focus of our lives determines the reality of our lives, and that truth hits home in a very eternal sort of way, doesn't it? Continually returning to a focus on Jesus is so key in overcoming distractions. Satan loves to use distractions to steal our focus, but we have to admit to doing it to ourselves as well. Only by continually refocusing can we run the race as if to win. Thanks for the encouragement! Next week's post was a particularly tough one for me to write, so I needed the encouragement today.

  9. Many moons ago, I worked at home for about a year. I really didnt like it precisely becuse of what you are saying here — I didnt have the focus. It all came to a lack of discipline and accountability — things i get in an office environment.

    I have worked in personal life to building those things up. Mowing the grass every week on the same day, paying bills every two weeks on Sunday night, going for a walk every evening, reading my Bible every morning. I think those little things are helping an dI might be more prepared to work at home now. But I just need to convince my boss…and that's not going to happen anytime soon
    My recent post Just because I don’t agree with you, doesn’t mean I hate you

    1. Small habits established over time add up to make a huge difference, that's for sure. I'm discovering that when I have a structure established, then I can enjoy flexibility and creativity within those habits. Routine and structure are very important for working at home, that's for sure. If it is your desire to work at home, I hope it comes to fruition for you. I love it!

    1. This has proven true in my life, Loren. It’s the small things that add up over time to not just complete projects and goals but to improve as a person. And this is a truth I need to repeat to myself often, especially in those times I am tempted to break out of the routine because of laziness or boredom. The routine is rarely the problem anyway when those things happen.

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