“Multitasking is the ability to screw everything up simultaneously.” — Jeremy Clarkson
The moment we get up, our minds are already busy working—multitasking.
We have so many tabs open in our heads, and each one is calling (some even screaming) for our attention.
One tab is the work that wasn’t finished from yesterday.
Another tab is a new business idea or two.
Another tab is our bills and groceries and the faucet that needs to be fixed.
Another tab is the news.
And four tabs are for the things we’re planning for the future—our children’s education, our wedding plans, our vacation plans and our plans for retirement.
No wonder we’re already exhausted by noon.
Why Toxic Productivity Is Counterproductive
Please don’t get me wrong. All these “tabs” are important.
However, paying attention to all of them and giving them equal focus in one day is a recipe for sheer exhaustion and overwhelm. It’s even toxic for us—literally. If Japan’s Karoshi culture has taught us anything, it is that over-productivity can be deadly.
The issue I’ve found with over-productivity is that it’s not only highly encouraged by modern society; it’s also very addictive.
When we check off a long list of “to-dos,” it feels fantastic.
It makes us feel as if we’re making the most of our lives, that we’re on our path to success, and that we’re responsible members of society. But the problem is that in most cases, we’re often too busy to do the things that matter most to us. I call it the productivity paradox: The more we do, the more there is to do.
We’re moving but not growing. We work hard in order to enjoy the life that we have very little time for, and when we do have it, we’re often too exhausted to enjoy it and dread it will end.
Intentional Focus: A Cure For Toxic Productivity
Aside from the glorification of busyness—of wanting it all at once—and the many distractions of the modern day, I believe the main reason we’re often overworked and discontent is that we lack focus. More specifically, many of us lack intentional focus.
Having intentional focus is about being deliberate and purposeful in how we handle work, business and life. It’s when we are upfront and clear about what we want to achieve and make decisions and commitments based on that—and leave all else out.
Many of us lack focus because we’re not really sure what our intentions are to begin with. And this is where the problem lies.
Zig Ziglar was absolutely right when he said: “Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.”
How To Have Intentional Focus
1. Gain Clarity About Your Intentions
If you feel you lack focus, it might not be because you lack self-discipline but simply because you’re still not clear about your intentions. Be sure not to confuse intentions with goals. Goals are things you strive for and check off. Intentions are the paths you choose in life.
Defining your intentions will sharpen your focus. It will be much easier for you to decipher between activities that will lead you down your intended path and the ones that clearly won’t. You’ll also be able to attract the right kind of opportunities and people. Most of all, you’ll be using your time wisely.
It’s not easy to determine our intentions and purposes in life, much less to trim them down to just the essentials. After all, committing to one could mean losing the opportunity to explore others, and I think this is the reason most people feel paralyzed.
However, we need to say “no” to 80% of our options so we can devote all we’ve got to the 20% that we’ve chosen.
“The sculpture is already complete within the marble block, before I start my work. It is already there, I just have to chisel away the superfluous material.” — Michelangelo
Here are ways you can begin sculpting your masterpiece (intentions):
• Know your strengths and weaknesses—honor your weaknesses and play to your strengths.
• Consult an executive or life coach.
• Find a mentor and emulate them.
• Imagine and design the life and career you want using a vision board.
2. Let Your Intentions Help You Limit Your Distractions
Our intentions are our “why” and should serve as our compass when we’re navigating our daily lives.
When you’re tempted to start something new, whether it’s a new relationship or venture, you should ask yourself if it’s connected to your why—to your intentions.
If it connects to your intentions and purpose, then you know you’re on the right track. If it isn’t connected to your intentions, simply say no and walk away.
Make it a habit to always ask yourself “why?” and you’ll be much better at focusing.
• Pause several times during the day and ask yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing.
• Define your distractions and wean yourself from them.
• Set a clear time for work and for play.
3. Commit And Recommit To Your Intentions
It’s not enough to know your intentions; you should also commit and recommit to them.
One good way of doing this is to let your intentions become ingrained into your subconscious mind through repetition.
Words and thoughts that we repeat over and over again gain power by repetition. If we keep reminding ourselves of our intentions in life internally, we can slowly attract them and create them externally.
By recommitting to our intentions on a daily basis, we can make it much easier to stay focused and on track long-term.
Here are the things you can do:
• Set aside 10 minutes in the morning to remind yourself of your intentions.
• Reassess if your daily, weekly and yearly to-dos are aligned with your intentions.
• Create habits that match your intentions.
• Surround yourself with people who will help and reinforce your intentions.
In a very distracted world, focus is our superpower.