I think you’ll agree with me when I say: It’s really hard to focus deeply and get things done when your mind seems to wander off into all the wrong places. Or is it?

Have you ever had times in your life when you felt an intense focus and got things done? I guess you have. And that was a state that you built up.

If you’re finding it hard to stay focused, or want to learn how to focus deeper, read on for 5 easy steps that will help you achieve better focus. By following these steps, you’ll be able to stay focused and get more done without distractions.

Let’s finally check that task off your todo list.

Here’s why we lose focus?

Distractions

A man is distracted from his computer work by browsing on his smartphone.

There are two types of distractions: Sensory and Emotional – explains Daniel Goleman, author of Focus: The Hidden Power of Excellance.

Sensory Distractions include distractions in your environment, such as the phone ringing, or annoying popups on your computer screens. Emotional Distractions are thoughts with which we distract ourselves.

How do you develop laser-like focus?

Ease your mind into the task at hand

You always prep your body if you are about to do intense exercise. If you want to zone in on the task with laser focus, you need to prep your brain the right way. And trust me, its easier than you think. How?

Use your Secret Weapon. Questions.

Successful people ask better questions. As a result, they get better answers. ~ Tony Robbins

Anytime you ask yourself a question, you will come up with an answer. And the right questions can also help you boost your focus.

Here are 5 questions to help you get into beast-mode before any task. Pick one task that comes to mind, and try writing out two-to-three line answers for each question. It should take you no longer than 5 minutes.

  1. What am I about to do? – The question will clear your head of junk. It will lead you to clear, concise statement of the exact result you want.
  2. Why am I about to do it? – What’s better than getting clear? Getting crystal clear. This question will allow you to do just that. More important than the what and how of your task is the why. The motivation behind it.
  3. How am I going to do it?Weve discussed this before. Visualization is a key player in getting things done. Visualizing yourself actually doing the work will help you get it done. Answering this question will help you get there. You dont answer this question by writing out, I’m going to sit at my desk open up my laptop and… You need to write out a small outline of what youre about to do. For example, if I was writing an article, I would outline the points in the article. If I were studying I would outline the subsections of what I was about to study in an outline. This itself will trigger productive visualization.
  4. What will I get by doing this task?We have limited time here on earth. If you are doing something, it should be worth your while. Your mind knows this and needs highly rewarding activities. The problem is, it‘s not as amazing a judge of long term consequences as you. This is why it‘s important to bring to the mind‘s notice, the benefits and rewards of getting this particular task done. Try mentioning exact results you will acquire when getting something done.
  5. How long will it take me to do it? – This will help you boost focus. Your mind will gain positive feedback knowing that it has a limited time to get something done.

These 5 questions are great. But they won’t guarantee that your mind will not wander off while you work.

How to focus your mind more deeply when it doesn‘t want to do it?

Let me tell you a 2500 year old story.

A famous King and amazing Archer, called Arjun once asked his friend: The mind is restless, turbulent, obstinate and very strong. To control it is more difficult than controlling the wind. His friend was Lord Krishna. Kirshna was a total badass. He was a statesman, philosopher, psychologist, strategist and yogi. He was considered an incarnation of God himself. Krishna sympathized and gave him a practical answer: To curb the mind is very difficult. And its possible with subtle practice and detachment.

What does that mean?

Lets try something. Notice any pen or paper around you? Are you the noticer of the pen or the pen itself? The noticer, right?

In the same way when a thought comes into your mind, are you the noticer or the thought itself? When you start noticing your thoughts, they’ll lose power over you. Noticing your thoughts especially while working will allow you to distance yourself from them. Just watch these thoughts come and go. And continue with your work. When you have a thought telling you to go check out some video, you won’t jump in. You’ll notice it. Once you notice it, you have the power to choose exactly what you want instead of being a victim.

Mind wandering might actually be good for you sometimes. It may help you come up with a better angle while working. Be open to it. And hold on to the power of choice. This isn’t easy to do. And its possible with subtle, persistent practice. Our focus has a rhythm to itself too. If we work too long at something we’ll soon lose the edge.

The answer is economically spending your focus.

Pomodoro: tomatoes and deeper focus

Francesco Cirillo was one smart Italian.

Cool fact: He had those tomato-like kitchen timers.

Another cool fact: He named his massively famous productivity hack after it – Pomodoro. There are six stages in this technique:

Individual steps of the Pomodoro technique.

  1. Decide on the task to be done.
  2. Set a timer for 25 minutes.
  3. Work on the task until the timer rings (each 25 minute iteration is called 1 Pomodoro).
  4. Take a 5 minute break for every Pomodoro.
  5. Take a 30 minute break after every 4 Pomodoros.

And continue the cycle.

Don’t worry you don’t need a kitchen timer. Join Robots has a Pomodoro timer built right into it.

A view of the focus mode in the Join Robots app while using the Pomodoro method.
You can read more about the Pomodoro Technique here. Meanwhile, if you are trying to force your body to work when you are most tired, you would only get a fraction of the work done.

But did you know:

Your body clock is your super power

This is where the Circadian Rhythm comes in.

A circadian rhythm is a roughly 24 hour cycle in the physiological processes of living beings, including plants, animals, fungi and cyanobacteria. In a strict sense, circadian rhythms are endogenously generated, although they can be modulated by external cues such as sunlight and temperature. ~ bionity.com

In other words, your level of alertness varies at different times of the day.

Human circadian rhythm.

How can you use it to your advantage? Make sure you work when your body is ready for it.

You are most alert between 10AM and 12PM – According to this rhythm, you are most alert before lunch. It’s always a good idea to stack heavy tasks right before lunch.

You are most distracted around 1PM to 4PM – This is the best time to get your healthy dose of social media and other distractions.

You need to recharge at 2PM – Your sleepiness peaks here. This is the right time to take advantage of it.

The ideal length of time to set aside for a nap is 30 minutes. This gives you a window of ten minutes to fall asleep and still get 20 minutes of rest. DO NOT nap longer than 30 minutes, as this will cause you to fall into a deeper sleep with much slower brain waves – it’s much harder to wake from and you’ll feel awake more tired than when you laid down. ~ Danny Flood author of Sleep Hacks

Need more than an alarm clock to wake up in 30 minutes? Try a cup of coffee just before you nap.

4PM is a great time to show off coordination – Any task that requires a higher level of coordination can be inserted here. A workout would be great here. Just when you’re out of office and right before you head out home.

9PM you are tired but creative – You are more creative when you are tired, says this studyYou can use this time to get more creative tasks done.

And finally: perfection

The dreaded frustration of perfection! I’ll let Salvador Dali take this one.

Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it. ~ Salvador Dali

Here’s a quick recap:

  1. Prep your brain with the upcoming task by answering 5 questions.
  2. Observe your thoughts as they come and go while you work.
  3. Work systematically with pomodoros and ample breaks.
  4. Work when you are most alert to maximize your effectiveness. 
  5. And you’ll never worry about perfection anyway.

What helps you stay deeply focused?