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How to Stay Focused

Real Estate Agent


Focus is a skill that can be learned by anybody. It’s like learning to tie your shoe or to drive a car. As long as you’re diligent at working on building the skill – even when it’s more challenging than you’d like it to be – you’ll inch ever closer to a level of focus that lasts exactly as long as you want it to.


In other words, however much trouble you might think you have with keeping focused, it’s like a wall that’s going to come down one brick at a time if you work at it. Nothing can prevent you from getting more focused, starting in the next five minutes after you read this article. Where you go from there … well, that’s up to you.

Before you read any further, you need to know that this article isn’t going to be a bunch of tips on how to get a little more organized or how to try a little harder to keep working on something that is important to you. There are plenty of places on the internet that you can get your little top ten list of productivity hints.

If you’re just looking for a quick fix, then this article (like most on this site) probably isn’t for you.  But if you’re looking to start building the long-term habit of consistent, powerful focus, then keep on reading.

When most people talk about getting more focused, what they are really talking about is avoiding distraction, or working on fuzzy goals, or some other negative behavior … but in reality those are just symptoms of a deeper issue. Focusing on those areas is like bandaging a bullet wound – if you don’t remove the bullet, stopping the flow of blood is a short term solution at best.


So let’s talk about what focus really is. It’s not a rugged determination to stay the course against any and all temptations. It’s not the mysterious ability to tune out the rest of the world while you work on one thing. Those are just the end results of focus, the fruit of a seed that gets planted beforehand. And that seed is called an unwillingness to settle.


You see, when you make a decision to do something – whether it’s something as big as losing 50 pounds, or something smaller such as just cleaning the house up, that decision carries a certain unspoken level of commitment with it. When you decide “I’m going to do this,” sure, you’ve got an emotional desire to accomplish the outcome, but there’s also a hidden factor that you probably don’t acknowledge: your willingness to give up other things, even temporarily, to make that decision an achieved result.

And that’s where the heart of focus lies. When you start on that action, and a “distraction” pops up, there’s a little conversation that goes on in your head. And in that conversation you make a choice: you either settle for giving up working on the task at hand, or you stand up for yourself and say, “I’m not willing to give up working on this worthy goal for this. I’m not willing to settle for less.”


This is a big deal. It’s bigger than willpower. It’s bigger than raw motivation. It’s simply the willingness to cling to how important your goal is, and how much less important a distraction is. Because when you can put the two actions in perspective relative to each other, you can make focus a no-brainer activity.

Take this article for example. I’ve committed to write a certain number of articles this month, no matter what. Today I’ve got to finish this article. It’s important to me, because this blog is a crucial part of my “early retirement” strategy. I’m not willing to settle for the lesser distractions that have been tugging at me. Each time one comes up, I say to myself, “I’m not delaying my first million dollars for that.”

In this way focus is no longer an effort in “trying hard.” It’s an exercise in reminding myself why I don’t want to delay taking action. And notice I say delay, not avoid, because there are many worthy “distractions” that are calling to me right now.


There’s the several emails that just popped into my emails about two product launches I’m involved in, each with the potential to put me in front of about 2 million people each. For a brief moment I almost paused writing to respond to those people. But then I stopped myself.


I reminded myself, “Those actions are important, but what’s more important is following through with what I’m doing. Because that’s the skill that’s going to set me up for life. I’ll get to those emails later. (In fact, I’ll close email for now entirely). I don’t want to settle for being a weaker person just to satisfy a craving to get progress on those projects right now. I’ll get to it after the time I’ve scheduled to update my blog.

Again, this is a big deal. When you are working on the projects that are important to you – whether it’s for a personal goal or a business goal – potential distractions are going to come into your field of vision constantly. In order to build a rock-solid, unbreakable focus, you have to decide – and I mean truly decide – that you’re simply not going to settle for what distraction will cost you.

Sure, that sounds simplistic – and I can safely assume that four out of five people reading this will dismiss it as such. But it works. It’s powerful. It takes the “work” out of willpower and discipline. And that’s why it’s so useful.


So let’s get this applied to your situation, right now, where you are. Let’s think of a goal you’re not making traction on, at least not the way you want to.

Now, you chose this goal for a reason. You want the end result. Now you have to start getting leverage. The way to start doing this is to really think about what you’re settling for if you choose to do anything other than taking action. Think of what you’re delaying. Think of what you’re losing out on. And make yourself unwilling to even consider settling for it.


Here’s an example for a popular goal – losing weight. You need to make time to hit the gym, but work is busy. And the stress of being busy and overweight is driving you to distraction. You’re chatting with co-workers. You’re surfing the web. You’re taking long lunches instead of going to the gym.

In light of this, what are you settling for? You’re settling for being overweight another day, another week, another month. You’re settling for having less energy than you want. You’re settling for being afraid to wear the clothes you want to.


So now you need to crystallize this into something you can say to yourself when the moment is right. You need to make time for the gym, so when you’re at work, you decide that you have to be on the ball, accomplishing more work in less time, so you can free up the time to hit the weights.


So when you sit down to do your work, you go full force. But then someone drops by to pick up a conversation. In the past you would have weighed an emotional decision – Hey, I really want to talk to this person & get my mind off of things … when instead you could say, “I’m not going to settle for running behind and missing my chance to start losing weight. I’m not going to trade my waistline for a casual conversation. I’m not going to trade a great body for a chance to have a forgettable time with my co-workers.” Then you tell your co-worker you can’t talk right now, and you get back to work.


Of course, this is just an example – you could apply this to any goal, any area of your life. It’s just the simple practice of telling yourself that you’re not going to trade progress for whatever it is that’s beckoning you. You’re simply not going to trade it. You’re so focused on the value of the end result that everything that threatens it loses its luster. Practice this enough and it will become an unconscious habit, one that will trigger automatically.


And that’s it. There’s more to developing focus, to be sure, but this is the foundation. Fail to develop this core skill and your efforts at being focused will likely frustrate you (until you decide you’re not going to settle for it, that is).


So pick up a pen and a piece of paper and get to it now. Write out a solid statement (or a few of them) that you can say to yourself when distraction comes up, or even if you feel your drive and productivity flagging. Tell yourself what you’re not willing to give up, or even delay, and get back in the fight. Handle other things later. Do what you need to right now.

Master the art of telling yourself you’re not going to settle for anything less than total focus in the face of distraction. Get started now. You’ll thank yourself for it.



Janet M. Nation
Weichert Realtors Quality Homes - Baldwin, NY

This blog is too long I can't stay focus to read it all tonight....lol.  I'll come back to it.

Mar 24, 2010 03:18 PM
Samson Properties - Bowie, MD
I don't make promises.I deliver results.SOLD HOMES

I agree 100% with Janet. It is wayyy too long. I am going to have to come back and read this one.

Mar 24, 2010 03:42 PM
Love Peace
Toronto, ON

Thanks all for the effort

Mar 25, 2010 12:41 AM