How to learn focus

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One of our Copy Chief classic forum threads about focus, started by Jeremey Hunsicker. Check out his post, and two of the replies he got:

JeremeyHunsicke-avatar

I’m 43 years old, and up until about a year ago, life had been pretty easy for me.

Skated through college, then a great sales job that taught me a lot (but wasn’t that challenging), followed by running around the country and screwing off for the better part of 6 years as a full time musician.

But when I got into copywriting a couple years ago, it was kind of like college again, except for getting good grades, the stakes were actually supporting my family and putting food on the table – and after a while “skating” wasn’t cutting it.

Then when my responsibilities with my current client expanded to include JV and partnership management and development, things got really hairy.

I couldn’t take my eyes off the ball for one second.

And it was a real struggle to switch from the creative mindset of writing copy to putting on the sales hat and prospecting for new partners and doing the whole sales process.

And so over the past 4 months, I’ve made a concerted effort to make some real shifts in my mindset and address this “ADD” problem that’s been lurking in the shadows throughout my whole life.

What I’ve found – particularly to address focus and concentration – has been a combination of supplements have worked extremely well for me.

It has actually made a world of difference in being able to sit down and write for incredible long stretches at a time, to get lost in the sales/prospecting process, and particularly to get in the “zone” when it comes to creative conversations and problem solving.

The transformation has been startling.

Now I know some of you guys have experience in this area. I know Kevin is a big proponent of Bulletproof coffee, as is James Clouser. And Brian McLeod’s ability to get into the trenches and grind for hours on end is legendary.

So to open it up for discussion, how many of you guys have struggled with this same thing? What have you done to “optimize” your clarity and mindset when it comes to creativity and problem solving?

What’s working for you and what hasn’t worked? 


 

SeanBisell-avatar

Sean Bissell Replied:

Focus is a big issue, I totally agree.

If I’m not careful I tend to want to focus on like 8 things at a time. And that obviously doesn’t work.

I don’t think I’ll ever really get the focus thing totally dialed in like a machine. But what has worked best for me is the following…

Exercise: Doing something at least 2x a week to challenge my body tends to make me feel better overall. Sometimes it’s tough to get motivated to do it, so I try and go for the path of least resistance. I like workouts that feel more like play than work (like rock climbing).

Diet: Whatever works for you is probably best. I have looked at almost every popular diet out there in detail and most of them are totally unnecessary. Most of their “positive” quick effects are usually negative side-effects in disguise. And most are difficult to implement and stick with.

I think it’s best to get convenient nutrition from mostly whole food sources, but don’t stress if you use canned, boxed, or eat out.

The stress from stressing about getting the right foods can negate the positive effect of “right foods.” And spending forever in the kitchen sucks too. Unless you really enjoy doing it.

Quiet Time: I try and walk for 45 mins or so at lunch time if I can, I’ll usually listen to a podcast, or audio book, and just walk and relax. That helps me get my brain in a state to refocus.

I don’t do this every day, but in times where I feel most stressed I’ll meditate in the morning for 20 mins. 

Getting Stuff Out Of Your Head: Recently I found two things that have seemed to help on top of all the other “base stuff” like nutrition, fitness, quiet time…

The first is the 50-minute focus finder by Dean Jackson. He’s got a video on Vimeo. I’ll put it below:

This really helped me clear my brain out. There were lots of thoughts I was holding onto, and just spilling them out on paper seemed to help quiet my brain down. Now I feel like I can actually shut out other stuff cause I know what I’m focusing on right now is actually more important and I don’t need to worry about the other stuff for the moment.

Another thing is getting an app called Evernote. (It’s free.)

I dump almost all my thoughts in there, just so I don’t have to hold on to them, and let Evernote hold them for me.

Best of luck man!

-Sean


 

RaymondDuke-avatar

Raymond Duke Replied:

I agree with Sean’s statement: everyone is different, and nothing works the same for everyone.

That being said, here’s what’s working for me at the moment:

  • Pacing myself. I find that I lose focus when I work too fast. Because I pace myself with everything I do, I am not afraid to put things off for a day. In fact, I prefer it. I like to give myself room and time to work, so I can breathe and focus.
  • Saying no. James Altucher has a new book out called “The Power of No.” I haven’t read the book, but I know what it’s about: saying no. I think to better your focus, you need to go beyond saying no to people; you have to say no to yourself, too. Your energy each day is limited. Reserve it for the things that truly matter. Say no to things that are not homeruns.
  • Watching for signs. This may sound weird, but it’s important for me. I get bumps on the back of my neck when I stress out. If I notice them, I know something’s wrong. Just like Frodo’s sword turns blue when there are orcs nearby, this my physical detector when something’s up. Again, it’s strange. I know. But I think we all have these physical triggers that go off when something’s wrong. And when they do, you won’t be able to focus.
  • Staying physically active. I need to release stress, especially when sitting (or standing) at a computer for several hours a day. Exercise is the best way for me to do it. I do crossfit 2-3x a week, and I try to walk 30 minutes a day. I’m also thinking about purchasing a treadmill desk. Anyone have any recommendations on one?
  • Changing my environment. I work virtually, so I can literally stay home all day if I wanted to. The problem is that’s no bueno for me when it comes to focusing. I need to change my setting, so I rotate between several coffee shops throughout the week. Once in a while, I’ll just start driving in an arbitrary direction and end up somewhere (it’s usually a Starbucks, but at least it’s one I’ve never been to before). New places to work at helps me focus.
  • Drinking coffee and tea. So I tried that Bulletproof coffee and the MCT oil. It did nothing for me. I really wanted it to work when I initially bought it. But it did nada. The one takeaway I got from the BP craze is putting non-salted butter in your coffee. I think it tastes good and I’m convinced it’s healthy. When it comes to tea, I now drink matcha. It’s a Japanese green tea powder that’s waaay more potent than normal green tea. I love it. It has caffeine and something else in it to relax you. Apparently, monks drink it.
  • Working alongside cool people. Relationships are so important for me, especially as I get older. When I’m around toxic people, it tampers my focus. I need to remove myself from the situation or cut them loose. Focus comes from meaningfulness and strength, and you can find both of those things in a solid relationship.
  • Having a goal, vision, or reason why (or whatever you want to call it). This is huge. When I worked for a paycheck, I wasn’t focused. I simply wanted to work and go home to do whatever unproductive activity I had in mind. While I’m still searching for my big vision, I’ve made a lot of progress from when I used to work hourly. And since I’ve made the change, I’ve been able to focus better. On my day, goals, and future.

So that’s what’s working for me. I’m sure I missed a few things, but I have to, you know, focus on my day now.


 

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