How to Train Yourself to Stay Focused



It's a common problem these days: switching between browser tabs and apps on your phone, checking social media and messages and email, thinking about the million things you have to do but putting them off…


Anything but staying focused on one task at a time.


And it's hard to break out of the mental habit of switching, being distracted, letting the monkey mind jump from one shiny thing to the next.


So how do you train your mind to stay more focused? It's possible to get better at focusing, but I don't recommend expecting to be focused anywhere close to 100 percent of the time. Not even 80 percent, and perhaps not 50 percent. Just more than now, which is more than enough to see big differences in effectiveness in your day.

那么,我们应该怎样训练自己变得专注呢?这当然是可以做到的,但是切忌妄想让你变得任何时候都能全神贯注,80% 的时间里也是做不到的,甚至 50 %也不太可能。我们需要的仅仅是让自己变得比当下更好,而这已经足以见到每天效率上明显的变化。

Recently I took on a coaching client, and his biggest area for improvement is focus. So I gave him a plan, and I'm going to share it with you here.


- 01 -

Start with the Why


Why should you care about this? It's best to give this a moment's thought before diving into any plan, because when things get uncomfortable, you have to know your Why. Otherwise you'll crumble at the first urge to switch.


This is important because constant switching and distraction leads to your time being frittered away, so that the day goes by and you've barely done anything important. You've procrastinated on the big tasks to take care of the little ones, and worse yet, squandered the day in distractions. Your life is too precious to waste, so you want to use your days better.


Staying focused on one task at a time, at least for some of the day, will help you get the important things done: writing, programming, studying, taking care of finances, creating of any kind, and so on. Those things tend to get pushed back, but staying on task will increase your effectiveness with the most important things by leaps and bounds.


If you're feeling stressed out by all you have to do, unhappy with your lack of focus… then this one skill will help you turn that around in a big way.


- 02 -

The Method


It's fairly simple:


1. Pick an MIT. First thing in the morning, before you get on your phone or online, think about what you need to do. What would make the biggest difference in your life, your work? If you have several, it doesn't matter… just randomly choose one for now. You can get to the others later. Don't waste your time in indecision, the point is to practice with one task. This one task you choose for today is your one Most Important Task (MIT).

1. 选一个 MIT(Most Important Task,最重要的任务):当你早上醒来后,先别急着玩手机刷微博;你要做的第一件事情,就是思考一下自己需要做什么。想一下,什么事情会让你的工作和生活发生最大的改善呢?如果你的答案不止一个,没有关系,随便选一个,其他的可以之后再考虑。不要浪费时间在做选择上关键在于要先用一项任务来练习专注。而你今天选择的这项任务就是你的 MIT。

2. Do a 15-minute focus session. As soon as you start working for the day (maybe after getting ready, eating, yoga/meditation/workout, whatever), clear away all browser tabs, applications, and anything you don't need for your MIT for today. Start a timer for 15 minutes.

2. 进行为时15分钟专注力练习:准备上班、吃完早饭、完瑜伽、冥想、锻炼等事情之后,你一开始一天的工作,就要关掉所有的网页、应用和其他与今日 MIT 无关的东西然后开始计时 15 分钟

3. You only have two choices. For these 15 minutes, you can not switch to anything else (no checking email, messages, social media, doing other work tasks, cleaning your desk, etc.). You can only a) work on your MIT, or b) sit there and do nothing. Those are your only options. Watch your urges to switch, but don't follow them.

3. 只给自己两个选择:在这 15 分钟里,你不可以去做其他任何事(不准查看邮件、看微信、刷微博、收拾桌子等)只允许做两件事要么专注于 MIT,要么坐着什么也不干。观察一下你自己坐不住的时候的样子,但必须关注自己不能越界。

4. Report to an accountability partner. My coaching client is going to succeed in large part because he has me to keep him accountable. Find a partner who will keep you accountable. Create an online spreadsheet or use an accountability app that they can see (he introduced me to Commit to 3, for example). After your focus session each day, check in that you did it.

4. 向一位“监督搭档汇报:我现在带的这个客户之所以会成功,很大程度上是因为他找我监督他执行练习。你需要找到一个愿意监督你的搭档,创建一个电子版的表格或者用一个方便搭档监督的任务执行记录应用(比如 Commit to 3 —— 这款 app 还是这个客户介绍给我的)。当你每天完成专注力练习以后,记得打卡。

That's it! One focus session a day for at least two weeks. If you do great, add a second focus session each day, with a 10-minute break in between sessions. If you have any trouble at all, stick to one session a day for the first month before adding a second.

就这么多内容,然后就 OK 啦!每天做一次专注力练习持续至少两周。如果你做得很好,每天加多一次,两次之间休息 10 分钟。如果你做得不是很理想也没关系,先每天一次坚持一个月看看效果如加多一次。

After six weeks to two months, you should be fairly good at doing two 15-minute focus sessions, and you can add a third. Then a fourth when that gets easy. Stop there for awhile, and then add another session in the afternoon.

练习持续六周到两个月后,你应该就能轻松完成一天两次为时 15 分钟专注力练习了。这时候你就可以增加到三次,甚至四次。然后在那个阶段停留一段时间,再考虑在下午也增加练习。

- 03 -

Some Important Tips


With that simple method in mind, I have a few key ideas to share:


1. Turn off your Internet. Like disconnect from wifi or turn off your router, or use an Internet blocker. Turn off your phone. Close your browser and all applications you don't need. This is the ideal method. If you need the Internet for your MIT, then close all tabs but the one or two that you need for the task, and don't let yourself open anything else.

1. 切断网络:比如关掉 wifi、路由器或者使用网络屏蔽装备。把手机、网页以及所有不需要的应用都统统关掉。这是最理想的情况。但是如果你一定需要网络来做MIT,那么你就要关掉做任务必需以外的网页,然后控制自己不去打开任何无关页面。

2. If you turn off the Internet, keep a pencil and paper nearby. If you have an idea, a task you need to remember, anything you want to look up… jot it on the paper. You can get to those later. Don't allow yourself to switch.

2. 网络切断后,记得放一只笔和一张纸在旁边:这样当你有任何想法、需要记得做的任务、或者有任何想查找的资料就先记在纸上。你可以在练习完后去做那些事情,但不允许在过程中有任何的分心。

3. Don't allow yourself to rationalize putting off the session. It's easy to say, "I'll get to it in a bit," but then you're putting it off until late morning, and then the afternoon, and finally you're doing it at 8pm just to say you did it. This defeats the purpose of the practice. Watch your rationalizations, and don't fall for them.

3. 不准找任何理由来拖延练习时间:说自己等会儿再做都是欺骗自己的,因为你只会从早上拖到中午,再从中午拖到下午,然后为了向自己交差了事,而拖晚上 8 点钟才勉强去做。如果这样就丧失练习的意义了。你必须和拖延症做斗争,不能屈服!

4. That said, don't aim for being perfect. There are some days when you just can't do it — for me, it's when I travel or have guests. If something big has come up where you don't have time, don't stress about missing a day. Get back on it as soon as you can. Worrying about keeping a streak going is counterproductive.

4. 但记得,也不要过分追求完美:练习总会有做不好的时候比如当我出差或者见客户的时候,我就会容易分心。如果有什么大事情让你没有时间做练习,千万不要因为错过了一天的练习而紧张。一旦有空的时候再回来做就可以了。即使做不到每天不间断练习也不要担心,因为过于担心只会有反效果。

5. Adjust session lengths. If 15 minutes is too long, just do 10 minutes. If that's too long, do 5 minutes.

5. 调整练习时长:如果 15 分钟对你来讲太,就做 10 分钟。如果还是不行,那就 5 分钟。

6. Increase your number of sessions as slowly as you can. There's no rush to do more. Focus on building a solid foundation.

6. 尽可能慢地去增加每天练习的次数:没有必要着急做更多。磨刀不误砍柴工,打好基础才是最重要的。

OK, you have the method. Now get on the practice!