Has Your Focus Gone to Sh**?

July 20, 2021

Our ability to focus is one our most important mental resources for sustaining high performance but it’s a finite resource that we can quickly deplete.

Here’s my top 5 mental strategies to proactively respond when I feel like my attention span has gone to sh**:

1. The first thing on the chopping block is dealing with information overload. When there is always new information, notifications from social media apps, WhatsApp messages, books to read or links to click–those things all demand attention and take mental energy to process. This is a particularly big one for most of us because we spend so much time consuming via our news and social media channels. I’ve learned to shut it all down, especially my phone and social media.

2. All decisions big and small with work and our personal/family lives add up. As a recovering perfectionist I default to micromanaging so this is a big area, especially on the home-front, that I think about when I start feeling fatigued and less effective in my day-to-day. I know it means I either have to delegate some responsibility or clear my plate of “to dos.”

3. Active recovery means doing something I enjoy. Dopamine is central to a high quality state. The brain is very happy when we are focused on what we love and the increased level of arousal helps with focus.

4. Pull back from comparison thinking. When our high achiever beliefs pop up we go with thinking that we need to be really hard on ourselves and critical of what we do. No matter how effective we’ve been we tend to focus on all the ways we believe we have fallen short or what we haven’t done (ticked off, accumulated or achieved). I get intentional about directing my awareness to appreciating what I have right now. The truth is most of us are much further ahead than what we give ourselves credit for.

5. When I feel myself defaulting into reactive habits of doing things that are urgent or demanded my attention in the moment (this felt like my entire January-June with the kids home during Covid lockdowns) I know that’s eating up my mental energy. I like to take an audit of my schedule and question the ROI of the bulk of those activities. Am I focusing on what’s important and meaningful that will make a difference in my life over the longterm? That question helps me return my focus to the things that really matter.