It’s flu season. We’re reminded of this everywhere.
I’ve come down with a different type of flu, though, which I’ve termed the “focus flu.” Maybe you have some of the symptoms.
How many books do you have on your nightstand partially read? Does it take forever to get through your to-do list? Let alone listen to those TED talks. Has “pile creep” set in?
If so, you may be experiencing the focus flu. It’s taken me awhile to shake this bout. Like you, I’ve got a lot of things going on in my life. And I find myself jumping from one thing to another. Then I work myself into a frenzy, and overwhelm sets in.
I know better. I still fall off the wagon sometimes, though. So, it’s good to catch these symptoms early and apply the right remedies.
What causes focus flu?
There are both physiological and psychological factors that trigger a lack of focus — fatigue, poor nutrition, distractions, boredom, a chaotic environment, an overwhelming platter and no priorities.
The first three are self-explanatory. The boredom and lack of challenge factor is quite clear when you look at a child (or adult) with ADD/ADHD, according to Dr. Paolo Bailey, a psychologist.
“Sit them down to do the same thing for the hundredth time, and they can’t focus,” says Bailey. “Give them a new and interesting project, though, and all of a sudden they’re able to focus.”
Millions of bits of information bombard your brain every second. And, since you can only process around 2,000 of them, it makes sense that your brain conserves energy for more complex things.
Maybe you don’t know what to focus on. So you jump from task to task, leaving them half-finished. This is a dangerous side effect of multitasking — and screams for the formation of priorities.
Breaking promises to yourself
Loose ends take a toll on your system. And promises you make to yourself — and break — are the toughest ones. Even if nobody else knows, you know.
Whether it’s a morning ritual to start your day or a new exercise program, it’s a commitment you’ve made. And when you don’t follow through, you’ve trained your system to think of you as an “unfinisher.”
Be on the lookout for other broken commitments as well. That item that has been sitting by the front door for weeks waiting to be repaired sinks into your subconscious. Every time you walk by, it registers that you haven’t completed this task. Multiply this by all the other things you deem unfinished, and you can see why your focus gets very thin.
“How you do one thing is how you do everything.” This old Zen saying has popped up on my radar several times lately. How can you expect to write that strategic business plan or tutor your grandchild if you can’t even finish one book?
You may also suffer from “shiny object syndrome.” If you’re constantly distracted by the next exciting thing that comes along, you’ve likely conditioned your brain to ditch things halfway through.
So, either get into action or renegotiate your commitments. Both ways work. Sitting on the fence doesn’t.
Eliminate and concentrate
I’m so grateful for this phrase shared by my good friend and colleague, Mary Louise King. It’s become my mantra for the past several days as I’ve embarked on a wild tear at my house and office. While I consider myself an organized person, I’ve found myself feeling “stuffed” with too much excess. I need to clear out to let new energy flow through.
My main nemesis is books. Followed closely by files. Then photos, clothes, seminar notebooks, etc. I’ve eliminated and concentrated on these items, trusting that I’ll have all the information I need whenever I need it. Or I can always look it up on the internet, right?
As with any illness, I’ve recognized these symptoms as part of the focus flu, and I’m building up my immune system.
Laser focus and getting stickyFOCUS: Follow One Course Until Successful. I like this acronym created by Jim Matuga, president of InnerAction Media. He contrasts the light sources of a simple incandescent light bulb with the specialized light force of a laser. The light bulb can light up a room, while the laser can cut steel.
The challenge many of us have is sticking with that one course of action. So, I’m challenging myself to get “sticky” — to develop clarity, block out distractions and FOCUS.
This will translate into a sense of self-trust, integrity and completion. And I don’t even have to get a shot!