We have to face it. One of the most important reasons people fail to achieve their goals is that they fail to stay focused on course.
Steve Jobs knew this too. He took Apple from a company with hundreds of products to one with a simple 10 products when he returned to the company in 1998.
When you try to do too many things at the same time, you are spreading yourself too thin. More importantly, when it comes to achieving your goals, if you do not focus on them, you will be distracted and tend to do something else.
It happened to everyone. I know you feel and think the same way too. We tend to set a goal whether it is to lose weight or to work on our blogs, but at the end of the day, we lose our focus and we ended doing something else.
And when we remembered that we need to publish a post on our blog or exercise in the gym, it usually will be too late for us to do anything about it. Guess what happens after that, procrastinate. We choose to delay the work, to put it until tomorrow or someday later.
This is why focus is important. If you want to achieve your goals, you must stay focused and keep them in your mind at all times.
The Warren Buffett’s Focus
Warren Buffett, one of the world’s richest men in the world, has a personal airplane pilot, Mike Flint, who has worked for Buffett for over 10 years.
One day, Buffett jokingly said to Flint, “The fact that you’re still working for me tells me I’m not doing my job.”
So Flint asked billionaire Buffett for his advice on his career. While doing that, Buffett shared with him the importance of focus through an exercise of writing down his goals.
First, Buffett asked Flint to write down his top 25 goals in life. They can be anything that he wanted to achieve when he thinks about his career and success. So Flint follows Buffett’s advice and then wrote down his top 25 goals.
Next, Buffett asked Flint to review his list and choose his top 5 goals from the list of 25. These 5 goals should be things that were important to him and that he wanted the most. It was a tough time for Flint to decide on the top 5 goals, but at the end, he managed to come up with his top 5 goals.
At this point, Flint has had two lists, one was his top 5 goals and another was the 20 goals that he wrote down earlier.
Now, Buffett asked Flint when he planned to work on his top 5 goals and what was his plan. Flint said, “Warren, these are the most important things in my life right now. I’m going to get to work on them right away. I’ll start tomorrow. Actually, no I’ll start tonight.”
And then came the second list of 20 goals that Flint wrote down earlier. Buffett asked him what he should do about them. Flint said, “Well the top 5 are my primary focus, but the other 20 come in at a close second. They are still important so I’ll work on those intermittently as I see fit as I’m getting through my top 5. They aren’t as urgent, but I still plan to give them a dedicated effort.”
To which Buffett’s replied surprised Flint. Buffett told Flint:
“No. You’ve got it wrong, Mike. Everything you didn’t circle just became your ‘avoid at all cost list’. No matter what, these things get no attention from you until you’ve succeeded with your top 5.”
Learn to Stay Focused on What You Want
If Warren Buffett emphasized so much on focus when it comes to goal setting, don’t you think that it is a principle that we all should learn? After all, Buffett is the real deal who has made billions from his businesses and investments.
In a nutshell, the focus is what gets the things done. The focus is what helps you achieve your goals and realize your dreams. Focus allows you to work in the flow and become more productive to perform better.
If you are not convinced and think that you should spread out yourself and try to accomplish everything, you are guaranteed to fail.
Take multitasking as an example, when you multitask, what actually happens in your brain is that you are switching your focus from one task to another. If you don’t believe me, try to read and talk at the same time. You can’t do that.
When you talk, you will stop reading. When you read, you will stop talking. This is especially true for works that require your full attention and creative power. This is why an accident happens when people try to use their phone while driving.
Human beings are not created to multitask, we are created to focus like a laser beam. When you focus all your concentration on one place, you can produce an outstanding result and perform with extraordinary effort. When you try to do two or more things simultaneously, you can never deliver world-class results.
Below are some effective and powerful techniques how you can stay focused on your goals. Use them wisely and apply them right after this.
1. No Multitasking Allowed
Like what I have just mentioned above, no multitasking is allowed. If you truly want to produce remarkable work, you need to focus and do only one thing at a time.
If you read the book, The Four Disciplines of Execution, the authors suggested you focus on JUST ONE or two goals (at maximum) at a time. The more you are trying to accomplish, the more you are not going to achieve.
More than a century ago, a lion tamer named Clyde Beatty brought in a chair into the circus ring, he would use the chair and a whip to tame the lion. Every time when we see a circus performance, the lion tamer holds a whip and we thought that the whip is what the lion scared of. However, the whip is just for show.
In reality, it is the chair that does the important work. When the tamer holds the chair with the four legs facing the lion, the lion tries to focus on all the four legs. This is what gets the lion distracted, confused, and not sure what to do next. When this happens, the lion will stay freeze and wait for the tamer to act.
This is what is happening when you are trying to multitask. You become the lion and try to focus on all four legs, not sure what to do and which leg to handle first.
The first thing you need to do is to avoid pursuing too many goals at the same time. Like what Buffett suggested his personal pilot Mike Flint to do, focus on the top 5 goals, and then ignore the rest.
Now, you don’t have to stop at just 5 goals, you should focus on just one goal. You have to identify the MOST important goal and concentrate all your energy to achieve it.
Once you have accomplished your one goal, you are free to set the next most important goal and work at your maximum to achieve it.
2. The To-Do and Not To-Do
It is normal for people to come up with a to-do list. In fact, you should get your to-do list done every night before you sleep. You need to know what you have to do the following day so that you can jump straight and focus your effort without spending the time to think about what to do.
Most people are reactive instead of being proactive. A to-do list will make you proactive. When you know what you need to do, you will do it without wasting time.
On the other hand, if you have no idea what to do, you will be reactive and respond to whatever tasks that come to you at that moment.
Think about it, how would you spend your weekend if you have no plan? You may end up oversleep, waste time on social media and YouTube, or perhaps waste all your weekend on watching TV.
Now, what if you have a clear and specific plan? When you know what to do, you can follow your plan and get things done. Clarity is power, my friend.
Consider creating a NOT to-do list for yourself too. Like what Buffett has suggested Flint, write down all the things that you are not going to do anymore and stop doing them.
For instance, your not to-do list can be something like:
- Don’t check email on the weekend
- Don’t use Facebook before 10am
- No hard liquor or beer on the weekdays
- No coffee after 1pm
- Don’t use social media when working on computer
I believe that many people understand and know what they want to achieve in life, but the problem is that they choose to do what not to do even when they have crystal clear goals. This is why you need a not to-do list.
Perhaps, Steve Jobs put it best by saying:
“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”
High achievers are not people with the most goals and dreams, but rather, they are people who understand how to avoid distraction in order to focus on accomplishing things that truly matter to them.
3. Create a Pregame Routine
We have to face it, human beings are emotional creatures and there will be days when we feel totally exhausted and no motivation to work on our goals.
These are the times when your willpower and focus are at the lowest level. You will be easily distracted and rather than working on your goals as scheduled, you will end up procrastinating and doing something else that does not move you toward your goals. So how can we handle this situation?
The answer is to create a pregame routine. A pregame routine is something simple and easy to do before you jump into doing your habit.
For example, I write articles every weekday morning. I chunk out content after content, usually at a minimum of 4,000 words each day. There will be times when I’m bored and totally feel no motivation to write. However, I have developed a pregame routine that kept me going, and it is to drink a cup of coffee.
Each morning before I start to sit on my chair and start my writing, I will make a cup of coffee. I enjoy the coffee while writing content. Making the coffee is my pregame routine.
Once I made my coffee, it’s done, I’ll jump into an automatic mode where I will just sit and start writing the content. I have been doing this for a very long time and I found this pregame technique to be super powerful.
Just like what James Clear wrote in his blog, “the difference between the highly successful and the unsuccessful all comes down to who can handle the boredom of training every day and do the same thing over and over and over again.”
Most people lose their focus and motivation because they think that successful people have unlimited drive, passion, and willpower that they seem to be missing.
High achievers are just like you and me, they are normal human beings who will feel bored, tired and no motivation to work on their goals.
The difference is that they have developed a pregame routine to make sure they do what they have planned and at the end of the day, it becomes their habit that they will never miss out doing.
Thus, develop your pregame routine now. Your pregame routine should be easy to carry out and something you don’t need motivation to do. Plus, you need to follow the same pattern every single time to make it a habit.
For instance, you can start your weightlifting routine by putting on your sports shoes. Or start doing your house chores by playing your favorite songs in the background. Or perhaps like me, get into your writing mode by making a cup of coffee.
4. Manage Your Energy
When I first started out in the personal development industry, I wanted to be productive and thought that if I can manage my time better, I can become more productive. While this is true and this is also what most people understand about productivity, but what I and most people ignore is energy management.
If you want to be productive and get more quality work done, you must learn to manage your energy, not so much about your time.
We all have 24 hours a day and no matter how much we learn to manage, we can’t have an extra hour. We can only learn to be effective by doing the right thing. And to be effective and productive, we need to perform in our peak state.
To put it simple, when you don’t have the energy, you will never have to motivation. And when you don’t have the motivation, it will be difficult for you to focus on your goals.
And this is where energy management comes into the picture. A lot of people have the wrong perception and think that if they want to get more done, they should work long hours. And working longer hours does not necessarily mean better productivity.
Try to sleep for just 2 hours tonight, and see if you can concentrate and perform at your best tomorrow. The answer is obvious, you can’t.
When you don’t have the energy, you cannot perform in your peak state. And if you cannot perform at your best form, there is no way you can be productive.
It is better to work and produce quality results for 4 hours than to work 10 hours and produce lousy results. It is your efficiency, the quality of your work and times that count, it is not about how much time you get to spend on a task.
Do you want to spend 10 hours producing an hour worth of result? Or do you want to spend an hour and produce 10 hours worth of result? The choice is yours.
This is why the Pomodoro technique and power nap work so well. They replenish your energy and refresh you. Make sure you get the optimum sleep your body needs, and rest to recharge whenever you are feeling tired.
When you are able to manage your energy, you will be able to focus more on your goals and accomplish more than ordinary people.
5. Actively Condition Your Goals to Your Subconscious
In order not to lose focus on your goals, you must learn to program them into your subconscious mind. Why do you think most of the success gurus suggest their students practice visualization, create vision boards, write down their goals, and practice affirmations, and so on?
This is because when you do all those things, you are conditioning your mind about what you want to achieve.
You are actively telling your mind your goals and what is important to you in your life. This is why these techniques are important. When you visualize and see yourself achieving the goals you set, you are telling your mind, “This goal is important and I must achieve it.”
The same goes when you choose to write down your goals daily. When you do so, you are preparing your mind for what’s coming. You are telling your mind to aim and go for these things in life.
Hence, the reticular activating system in your brain will work its way to move you to your goals or brings the results you desire into your life.
If you have practice visualization, create vision boards for your goals, write them down, practice affirmations, but you still fail to realize what you want, there are a couple of reasons for this.
First, you need to give your goals enough time. It is not like you write down your goals tonight and tomorrow they will come to you. No, success requires time, my friend.
Second, ask yourself if you take massive and consistent action each day? Are you doing something and work hard to make your goals a reality? If you don’t, stop asking why things are not working for you, instead, ask yourself why are you not working for them.
Third, you have to constantly think about your goals, each and every day. You will become what you think about most of the time. If you are thinking about watching TV and playing games, you will end up watching a lot of TV and playing a lot of games when you are free or at night when you back to home.
Thoughts are things. They have the power to shape your life, unconsciously.
I love what Tony Robbins once shared in his seminar. He said that goal setting is a skill. Just like going to the gym. You don’t go to the gym for a day and expect to have a slim and fit body the next day. You go to the gym regularly to work out and after some time, you will have the body you desire. The same goes for goal setting. It is a skill you must practice regularly.
Do you expect to read a book and success will be yours? Do you expect to hit the gym once and you will have the perfect body? Do you expect to publish an article on your blog and it will be successful?
You know it very well that there are no shortcuts to success. You have to work at it and pour in the necessary effort to achieve your goals.
Therefore, actively condition your goals into your subconscious mind, not just once, but regularly, through visualization, affirmations, setting goals, creating vision boards, think about them, talk about them, breath them, sleep with them, and more.
Focusing on your goals despite all the whirlwind of your everyday distractions and work is not an easy task. The moment you want to work on your goals, there will be other things that will require your attention and take your focus away. This is why learning how to stay focused like how Warren Buffett did is extremely important.
Use the methods and techniques shared above to build absolute focus on your goals. Keep your eye on the prize and never lose your focus to the distractions around you.
When you focus and work on your goals, things will move the way you want it to be. And success will be yours.
Let me know if this article is helpful to you. Share your thoughts in the comment section below.