The tub is full. The water is warm. The bath feels nice. But slowly, water drains out. Not very much. In fact, you don’t notice it for some time. Until you do.
The tub becomes no longer as full. The water no longer as warm. The bath no longer as calming. What was once a moment of peace has become one of discomfort. The water continues to drain out. Gradually, but noticeably. Eventually, the water disappears completely. The cool air hits your skin, causing you to shiver.
The bath is so much nicer when it’s full. So much nicer when there’s warmth.
This is your mind when you have focus. Things come easier. Work is simpler. Everything is more manageable. Without it, you are uncomfortable and irritable. Here are four habits sure to drain your focus. Don’t let the tub run dry.
Lack of sleep
There’s a show I’m hooked on. It’s called Squid Game. I’ve been staying up late to watch it the last couple nights.
Because of that, today I have zero energy. My mind is cloudy. My body is lethargic. I’ve taken two naps, which is insane. Further, I feel myself getting lost in a fierce debate. One side knows that I’ll feel better after a good night’s sleep. The other side feels that I should get some pizza and ice cream to lift my energy now.
I’m honestly not sure which side will win. I know what the right thing is to do. But the right thing isn’t always easy when fighting this kind of fight.
If you want to ensure focus throughout the day, prioritize sleep. I regularly average eight hours of sleep at least four nights a week. Without that, I’d never get anything done. These last two nights may have been late ones, but I’ll be caught up by Sunday.
If focus is your desire, prioritize sleep.
I am tired. Thus, my body wants to compensate for my low energy. It sends me cravings of pizza and ice cream. Refined carbohydrates that will skyrocket my vigor. If I reject the cravings, I remain sleepy. If I accept them, I gain the ability to get things done once more.
The latter seems like the better option. And it is, short-term. It’s terrible long-term.
Short-term, I get the boost I need to focus and get my tasks done. But long-term, the foods leave me even more groggy. They also hurt my stomach. Thus, I end up sleeping poorly. That poor sleep quality will lead me to feel even more tired tomorrow. The sugar cravings will then arise even earlier and even louder than at present.
And the downward spiral will continue. One bad habit leading to another.
If focus is your desire, eat healthy foods. If you don’t know what healthy foods are, check out the books Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes and The Obesity Code by Dr. Jason Fung.
Are you an emergency room doctor? What about a firefighter? No? Then you don’t need to be on-call through all hours of the night. My phone is on silent. Each notification is off. If you want to get ahold of me, you have to wait until I check my phone. Even then, unless you are my wife, my response to you will be severely delayed.
The easiest way to lose your focus is to get into the habit of always being on-call.
You are doubtless already aware of this concept. However, consider it through the lens of sleep. Imagine your phone pings at 3 AM. It’s your boss. She sent you an email. It’s not urgent or important. She just happened to be up. Maybe because her boss emailed her at 2 AM. Regardless, now you are up too and are deciding how to respond. It takes an hour to do so. The next day you arrive at work exhausted. Cue negative habits one and two above.
I have been asked, “What happens if there’s an emergency and someone needs to get a hold of you in the middle of the night?” To that, I respond, “What is the likelihood of that happening? Near zero. And if it does happen, what use would I be on no sleep? I can handle the situation much better when rested.” Unless there’s a special circumstance, I keep my phone on silent.
If focus is your desire, stop being on-call.
Lack of prioritization
I have one main objective each day. For my business, there is one thing that no matter what, I know I must do: Publish a new article. I surely have other tasks on my list. However, the article comes first. I know what my priority is.
Without that understanding, half of my time would be spent debating the importance of each task. That’s time wasted. It’s also energy and focus wasted. Three things that would be better spent on the task itself. The more time you spend deciding actions, the less focus you will have for the actual work.
Instead of doing that, know what your priority is ahead of time. One simple way you can do this is by gradually removing everything else from your workload. This will make your remaining task the priority by default.
If focus is your desire, know what the priority is before you start work.
Move forward with focus
You stare at a long list of tasks. They are all equally important. You don’t know where to start. But that’s ok. You will have it worked out by morning. A good sleep always provides clarity. You lie in bed and drift off. You awake to a midnight call from your coworker. The quarterly stats are in.
You can’t help but check them. It’s nothing significant, but you still manage to chat with your friend about it for an hour or two. You awake the next day feeling exhausted. You arrive to work and have unfortunately no idea where to start. Sadly, you didn’t get the clarity you were hoping for. You stare at the list before you. You are unsure of what to do, unsure if you’ll even be able to do anything of value.
Feeling drained, you decide you could use some sugar.
You walk over to the vending machine and grab a candy bar. That works for a minute, but the spike quickly fades. You go back and grab a few more. That night you sleep terribly and the cycle repeats itself once again.
Don’t let these bad habits form. If you want to stay focused throughout the day:
- Prioritize sleep,
- Eat healthy,
- Don’t be on-call,
- And know what the priority is.