We have all had moments in life when we needed to get something done that wasn’t being done. You may have even experienced a time or two recently when you were upset with yourself for being so unfocused and undisciplined with an important task. It is no fun to be under a tight deadline for a task that could have been accomplished hours, days, weeks, months, or yes, even years ago.
I’ll keep this short because if you’re here, we already know what your attention span is like. Stay with me as we take a look a these 5 simple reasons why you can’t focus, and what to do about it:
1. You Think You Can’t Focus
We have all heard the well worn adage “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you are right” To accept that you can’t focus is defeat before you get out of the gate. Take it from one of the most enthusiastic butterfly chasers around, if I can focus, ANYONE can focus. Saying you can’t focus means that you do not have a choice. There is always a choice. I said there is always a choice. Always. You can focus and if you are willing to be honest about it, there are times when you do focus. So decide that you can and you will focus on the task at hand. Yes, just like that. Make the choice to believe that you can focus at anytime, at anyplace, on anything.
2. It Does Not Really Matter
Perhaps the reason why you are not focusing is because it does not really matter – to you. This is the difference between a To Do and a Should Do. Say this: I am exercising. I should exercise. I am doing this monthly report. I should be doing this monthly report. Do you feel the difference, the drop in your energy around the word ‘should? It does not matter how important a task is to anyone else if it does not honestly matter to you. Go far enough to connect that task to something personally meaningful. Ask yourself why it matters to you and what accomplishing this task does for you. Motivation can come from gaining something or can come from avoiding some level of pain. The strongest longest lasting motivation comes from gaining something positive and personal. So why is this task personally meaningful to you?
3. It Is Not the Highest Priority
Even with your efforts to find the personal meaning, some things we are doing or are asked to do are not meaningful. If the task is not highly meaningful you may not be focusing because you have more pressing concerns. If you are not focused on a task because it is not a high priority, ask yourself if there is something else you must address first. When you are preoccupied with something that is pulling your attention away from a task, it helps to acknowledge what ever it is and address it. How long will it take to make that phone call to communicate that thought or set that ball in motion? How much faster can you get back to the task at hand if you allow yourself five minutes to process and respond to how you are feeling? The best way to focus on a task is to simply take care of all the more important tasks first.
4. You Are Feeling Overwhelmed
When you are feeling overwhelmed, you are more likely to begin avoiding that thing you want to focus on. How funny is it that we get incredibly creative finding ways to avoid those things we are attempting to focus on. How many sock drawers do you think get organized because there is something else that was overwhelming on the to do list? You may not be able to focus because you are standing in front of that elephant with a fork thinking how in the world am I going to be able to eat this whole thing! Well, there is your answer. Take one bite at a time. Break that elephant into more manageable pieces and get to work.
5. Your Pride Is In the Way
If you can’t focus, you may be in need of more knowledge, support, or assistance. Are you allowing your pride to get in the way of asking someone to help you? Do you feel like you are obligated to do this task alone? Where can you find others who are ready, willing, and able to help you get things done? How much lighter will your load be if you found someone to carry some of that for you? What shortcuts are you missing out on because you have not asked the person who knows more than you do for guidance? Go back to the reason why this task matters and convince yourself to put your pride down long enough to get help so you can focus on the task at hand.