Focus Brings Clarity

The third pillar of Holistic Productivity involves creating a positive shift in a few specific areas of life rather than trying to impact numerous areas of life at the same time. Since all areas of life are connected, a positive shift created in one area will positively impact all other areas to a large or small degree. 

Applying focus includes re-evaluating the busyness of life in favour of practices that encourage making good use of time and energy.

Focus is a practice of limiting the number of projects that you take on simultaneously. Additionally, focused action on tasks and projects is performed in environments that are conducive to bringing them to a state of completion with a high-level of quality.

The Myth of Multitasking

In reality, we can only focus on one thing at a time and there’s a loss of time and energy each time we switch contexts; for example, switching from writing an essay to checking email. If task switches are frequent, our overall productivity drops.

Tangible impacts of attempts to multitask include tasks and projects taking much longer than necessary to complete and feelings of frustration, that can lead to procrastination.

A key aspect of the third pillar of Holistic Productivity is clarifying the outcome that you want to produce. This is very much a creative process; you’re using language to create something that doesn’t exist.

By clearly articulating the destination in a way that you can express it to other people, the possibility that you’ll reach this destination is greatly enhanced. For goals that are not clear, choose something to move towards and make course corrections as needed.

Practicing Focus

Simply knowing that focus is important doesn’t make any difference. It’s important to treat it as a practice that is cultivated over time. Start small and gradually develop habits that become ingrained within your daily life.

Why New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work

A common practice (especially in the Western Hemisphere) is to use the New Year as an opportunity to usher in positive changes and habits. Popular resolutions centre around getting back into shape, giving up junk food and getting email inboxes under control. Despite positive intentions, these resolutions often lose their gusto within a matter of weeks. Especially after going through the holiday season, and any stresses that come with it, trying to bring major change across numerous areas of life doesn’t tend to work so well. Continue to record your resolutions, just don’t attempt to implement them all at once.

Using a Productivity System

It’s important to systematically track your active tasks and projects. This will give you a tangible way of monitoring your current commitment level, so that you can be careful about not trying to focus on too many areas, projects and tasks at once. Additionally, when you have a block of time to do some focused work, this system facilitates choosing the task you’re going to focus on next. In the absence of such a system, the tendency is to focus on what has your attention in the moment (e.g. the email that just arrived in your inbox). In an age where there’s so much competing for our attention, this doesn’t tend to go very well.

Practicing the Pomodoro Technique®

“Pomodoro” is the Italian word for tomato and the technique gets its name from the tomato shaped kitchen timer that the developer, Francesco Cirillo, used back in the late 1980’s. The practice consists of choosing a task and then doing focused work for a set amount of time (typically 25 minutes) and then taking a break (typically 3-5 minutes). A longer break (typically 15-30 minutes) is a reward for completing four work sessions. The act of choosing a task encourages decisive behaviour and you may be surprised to discover how much can be accomplished in 25 minutes of focused time. This technique also encourages regular breaks. Spending time not doing helps to reinforce us to be more effective when we are working.

“That's been one of my mantras—focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it's worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains”

—Steve Jobs

Timeless Wisdom

The Yogic Practice of Focus

A regular practice of yoga and meditation naturally enhances our ability to focus in our day-to-day lives.

The ancient yogis discovered that our attention naturally flows towards that where we place our focus. There are specific eye focuses, called Drishti, that draw our attention inward and focus the mind. These techniques, combined with yoga postures and meditation, can help develop our ability to focus in our day-to-day lives.

The Information Age

For better or worse, we have an unprecedented amount of information at our fingertips and a seemingly endless ways to spend our time and energy. Going beyond the noise and distractions and honing in on what’s most important in each moment is an essential skill in this day and age.

“Really, most of us just focus on what’s in front of us. We’re too busy putting out the fires of everyday life. ”

— Aidan Quinn

Explore Pillar Four