Do you find it hard to stay focused? Do you want to know how to become more focused and to accomplish more things faster and better? If your answer is yes, then you need to read this. Discover the only thing you need to stay extremely focused!
Focus – a word that carries a lot of weight for a lot of people.
How about you? Do you want to be focused? If yes, then you came to the right place.
Now, I’m NOT here to share with you common tips and tricks on how to be focused – things that you probably have heard over and over again.
Yes, those things work, but there is a secret in becoming focused – and not just simply focused, but EXTREMELY focused.
And that secret is something I want to share with you today.
Stay with me as I explain to you what it really takes to stay focused and ultimately, be productive, safe, and reliable.
(Being focused is vital in your personal and professional life. If you want to learn how to become more successful through extreme focused, read Cal Newport’s best-selling book, “Deep Work.” In this book, you’ll learn how to master the power of focus and achieve EXTRAORDINARY results!)
Why you need to be focused?
Obviously, being focused is highly important.
Here are some of the reasons I could think of:
- Makes you productive
- Makes you efficient
- Helps you finish tasks faster
- Allows you to obtain better results
- Improves athletic performance
- Helps in keeping people safe in workplaces
- Facilitates learning
- And a lot more.
Being focused is no doubt tremendously important. This brings us to the next question, how can you be focused?
Before I answer that, let me share with you first the two types of focusing that are commonly used, but are not entirely helpful.
Let me explain.
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Cognitive tunneling is among the most common types of how we focus on certain tasks. It causes people to become preoccupied with the task in front of them or simply focus on that is directly in front of their eyes.
Think about someone who is glued to their smartphone or a driver who suddenly slam on their brakes as they see a red light ahead of them.
Cognitive tunneling is helpful as long as you are focusing on the right things. However, most often than not, it can negatively affect your focus because it can lead you astray.
Instead of focusing on what’s important, it makes you focus on what’s easy. Cognitive tunneling causes us to latch on the most obvious stimulus.
Reactive thinking is a useful way of focusing your mind. It is developed by practicing a certain sequence of actions over and over again until it becomes like a habit or automatic. It subconsciously helps the brain to save energy and simply act on things that need more attention and deeper decision-making process.
Reactive thinking is commonly used by athletes to gain a great advantage over their opponents. Through reactive thinking, they can easily respond to different situations and quickly execute plays.
Simply put, reactive thinking helps us develop habits.
However, there’s a downside to reactive thinking. As useful as it may be, reactive thinking can overpower sound judgment.
For example, inexperienced and new drivers today are aided with advanced technologies that make driving easier and even safer. Modern cars are now equipped with cruise control and automatic braking systems. While this is helpful, drivers can become complacent and pay less attention to road conditions.
The problem happens when the unexpected startle you. If you are not properly trained, reactive thinking could cause you to have an incorrect response, leading to potentially fatal mistakes.
The BEST way to staying focused
So, what’s the best way for you to stay focused? What is the key to sustained, effective, and reliable method of focusing? Let me tell you the answer.
Creating mental models.
Mental models have become one of the most important topics in cognitive psychology. These models are created when we imagine how things ought to be to the point that we can easily determine whether a certain situation is incorrect or not.
We all create mental models to some degree. All of us, including you, tell ourselves stories how the world ought to work. When reality does not meet our mental models, we can quickly identify possible problems even before they start developing.
Mental models are strongly important when it comes to how to be truly focused. While most people create mental models, some build more robust and reliable models. These people are able to envision conversations with greater detail and imagine how the day will unfold with better specificity.
People with better mental models are able to daydream of the future. They engage in constant forecasting and become a master in handling various situations.
So, how do mental models improve our focus?
When you have developed vivid mental models, you can quickly adapt to any situation. You have rehearsed things over and over in your mind to the point that you can easily act out your mental models.
If things are not going according to your mental models, you can quickly correct it and prevent further problems.
Remember, both cognitive tunneling and reactive thinking occur when we suddenly need to turn our mental spotlight from dim to bright, from diffused to focused. All these happen in a split second.
However, if you constantly tell yourself what to do and create mental models, then our mind is in constant alert. It helps us to stay focused even at times of relaxation.
By developing the habit of telling ourselves stories, we can definitely sharpen our focus, no matter where our attention goes.
Mental models in action
Just to give you an example of the benefit of creating mental models, let’s look at a tragedy that is supposed to happen, but it didn’t – Qantas Flight 32. (If you don’t know the story behind this flight, I highly recommend you read about it online.)
()Just a side note, I found this story from the book of Charles Duhigg, Smarter Faster Better. I highly recommend you read the book as it devotes one whole chapter about how you can create mental models and apply them in your daily life.)
On November 4, 2010, Qantas Flight 32 is bound from London to Sydney via Singapore. Shortly after take-off, the plane unexpectedly sustained engine failure. Upon inspection, the aircraft’s engine had disintegrated. Due to the explosion, the nacelle, fuel system, landing gear, wing, flight controls, and fuel tanks had ALL been damaged.
In the midst of these damages, Qantas Flight 32 successfully made an emergency landing. In fact, investigators would later consider Qantas Flight 32 as the most damaged Airbus ever to land safely in all history.
Now, what made the change? If you are a pilot, you would quickly realize the type of pressure you are in when deciding how to land the large aircraft. With every second that passes by, you are losing precious time to make the right decision.
What sets apart Qantas Flight 32 with other planes that have crashed due to human and machine error? The pilot used mental models to improve their chance of surviving the tragedy.
De Crespigny, the pilot of Qantas Flight 32, was able to land his plane safely with the use of mental models. In the cockpit, every monitor and screen wasn’t working properly anymore. With no machine and automation to guide De Crespigny, he had to rely on the mental models he had already created in his mind.
Every time de Crespigny fly a plane, he already has the mental picture of what is going to happen and what he will do when things don’t go according to plan. He has already put in his mind what to do in every situation even without relying on computers to tell him what to do.
In an interview with Charles Duhigg, de Crespigny mentioned:
“You can’t delegate thinking. Computers fail, checklists fail, everything fails. But people can’t. We have to make decisions, and that includes deciding what deserves our attention. The key is forcing yourself to think. As long as you’re thinking, you’re halfway home.”
Now, that’s the power of mental models. It won’t only help you become more productive, but it will keep you safe.
Apply mental models now
You and I live in a world where we are constantly bombarded with information. There are just too many things that grab our attention to the point that focusing is a difficult feat to perform.
With mental models, you can better improve your focus. Get into the habit of telling yourself stories and imagining things how they ought to happen. When an emergency happens or unexpected event occurs, you can quickly and correctly respond.
When you are driving, force yourself to picture the road. When you are in a meeting, describe yourself in your mind how you are going to speak and respond. When you are meeting a client, rehearse in your mind how you will explain your products or services and answer possible questions.
There are just so many ways to apply the power of mental models. Anticipate what’s going to happen next and you will surely become a master of your attention. When you do that, you can now focus more on things that demand your response.
Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
How much focused you are could dramatically affect the result of your work. In this book, Deep Work, Cal Newport discusses a skill that will help you master complicated tasks and produce better results in a shorter period of time.
If you want to learn how to be focused, then read this book. Deep Work is no doubt a valuable guide for anyone seeking to become more focused in this increasingly distracted world!