How to Focus Your Mind: Develop a Laser-Sharp Mental Focus

sharp focus

Photo courtesy of Mariano Kamp

“Most people have no idea of the giant capacity we can immediately command when we focus all of our resources on mastering a single area of our lives.” ~ Anthony Robbins on how to focus our resources

I can remember when I was about the age of 14 out of frustration I wrote on a piece of paper: “Concentrate on the essentials!” (in german: “Konzentriere dich auf das Wesentliche!”) It was about some trouble with friends in school. This sentence somehow gave me direction to know what is important and worthy to think about and what is not.

To use the mind fully is an essential in personal development. If we improve our skill to focus on anything we want to accomplish we can dramatically improve our productivity and the results.

To actively direct our mental focus on only one thing at a time means to not focus it on all the other distractions that are constantly around us. It means to have the ability and also the discipline to say yes only to the most important thing at this moment and to say no to all the rest.

Now, how can we develop a clear and powerful mental focus?

First: How to Focus on the Right Thing

One of the key aspects of using the mind efficiently is knowing what we want and then concentrating our full attention on it. By learning how to focus your mind on one single task, it is amazing how effective you can be.

In business there are the principles of leadership and management working together. In my experience I see leadership answering the question “What do we do (and why)?” and management answering “How do we do it (most effectively)?” Or as Stephen Covey calls it : 1. Begin with the end in mind and 2. First things first.

I mean you can develop the skill of focus to a great depth, but if you are focusing on wrong things you will do wrong things very good – but nothing more. For instance you can play a computer game to a ridiculous high level of skill or get obsessed with a certain person or other fan-based material. But you may achieve absolutely nothing regarding your overall life-goals by doing that. On the contrary: you most certainly move your mental focus away from what is really important to you. I call this skill the ability of self-leadership, the ability to decide the right things to focus an. It can be done very well by developing a personal vision and creating personal goals from there. This is a key if you want to be successful.

In the spiritual terminology Deepak Chopra said it nicely in Creating affluence : Intention (goals) transforms while attention (focus) creates.

Of course the skill of mental focus is applied also in everyday life and enhances our abilities to deal with the world, so it is beneficial whether we want to use it to create what we desire or just to be effective in what we do.

Alright, being clear about what it is we need or want to focus on, how can we do it at the best level?

The Importance to Direct Our Mental Focus

If we fail to direct our mental focus from the inside, our focus will get caught by the outside. Then we will not act but we will really react to the demands of the outside world. Of course this is necessary and the outside world is a kind of a feedback system, but if it gets out of balance and we are reacting more to the outside then from the inside continuously, stress is the sure thing that will follow. If we master our mental focus we become able to act into the world and by that tend to create the environment we want around us. If we fail to do this, the influence of the environment (including other people) will get bigger on us, which means: we are not in control of our life.

By taking control over our mental focus we also become able to focus on the good side of life and not so much on the bad sides of life. You may say this is deluding yourself or it is not being objectively, and to a certain degree that is true: it should not end in ignorance. But is watching the murders and catastrophes in the news an objective use of your mental focus? Or is it also possible to put our focus on something that is more empowering and where we actually can do something about?

So it is very important to actively direct our mental focus and develop this skill to a high degree. It is in direct relationship to our level of success and also joy and fulfillment.

The Process: How To Focus

If we apply our attention on something or a task we concentrate all of our mental power on this task and therefore are able to be most effective. It is the process of creation, of conscious creation. If I take my task or goal at hand and direct my focus and actions on this single task, I focus with intensity on getting it done, getting my desired outcome. So the key here is to simplify to that degree that we can focus single-mindedly on that one task. If we do so, all of our power will be used.

The Easy Guide to Stay Focused looks like this:

1. Select your one task
2. Put all your attention to that one task
3. Stay with this task if possible uninterrupted, until it is finished (!)

Flow: Being in the Zone

If we do this with great intensity and for a certain period of time we come into a state of flow. In sports many call it The Zone, when you are so focused that you become one with what you do in the moment. Time vanishes. It is like we totally forget anything around us. In that state we are most effective and that surprisingly without too much effort. For me it is without doubt the greatest and final kind of mental focus we can achieve.

How can we come into the flow?

1. Focus with intensity on your task, dive totally into it and become one with it
2. Do it for a reasonable period of time, at least 1 hour, better more
3. Avoid any distractions by creating the necessary environment

For me this often means in the evening or weekends when I have time to be totally alone with myself. It is a great source of very deep creativity – it is almost like creating natural perfection – you can’t do wrong – it flows. :)

Btw. there is a nice book about the state of flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi called “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience ” if you are interested in it.

What is Blocking our Mental Focus?

1. No motivation or fuzzy motivation
This goes back to the introduction of this article since a lack of motivation to use your mental focus is nothing else as a lack of clear goals. If it is fuzzy what you want to create your focus is also scattered.

2. Too much distraction from the environment
Phone calls, colleagues or other people with demands, unfriendly environments, those things can make it pretty hard to focus on what we want to do. So try to set up the right environment by: disabling phone-calls or instant massages, keep other persons for interrupting you, stop interrupting you yourself :)

3. Mental blocks
If we are unsatisfied with what we do in any way, maybe because someone else said we should do it or maybe it is just not the right thing we are working on, we are really resisting it and this keeps us from being effective. It is important to commit to what we do fully in order to get a good result.

Focus on a Larger Scale

Until now we talked about mental focus on a level of daily routine. Focus can and has also be applied on a larger scale if we talk about our personal resources or even resources in groups:

Steve Jobs from Apple on how to focus your energy:

“Apple is a $30 billion company, yet we’ve got less than 30 major products. I don’t know if that’s ever been done before. Certainly the great consumer electronics companies of the past had thousands of products. We tend to focus much more. 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. You have to pick carefully.”

That means if you have so much opportunities in life and so many things that demand our attention, the one skill to select what we focus on and what not is critical. It also comes full circle to the first intro of the post.

Pitfalls with Mental Focus

When we learn how to focus our mind and use it effectively in everyday live it is important to also keep a broader perspective. This can be achieved by weekly or monthly reviews of what we do and where we are going. Sometimes it is necessary to redirect and be flexible by adjusting. It is called keeping balance .

About the Author

Myrko Thum

Myrko Thum is author and creator of THE SYSTEM, the holistic personal development training course based on the "Top-Down System". You can get a FREE 4 Video Intro-Course of THE SYSTEM here.

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38 Comments

  • Click A Life Coach

    September 16, 2008

    Like your post about focusing. One of the biggest challenges I had in my past was that I had too many tasks on my plate. I did a bit there a bit there, but didn’t really finish most tasks completely.

    I have since started to have tasks list and stay with one task at a time. First finish this and then start with the next one. It is much easier to focus and you are able to produce much results.

    Click A Life Coach’s last blog post: What others Think..

    ReplyReply
  • Myrko

    September 16, 2008

    Exactly, focusing on several things comes similar to not focusing at all, at least if we look at the results afterwards (if there are any). :)

    ReplyReply
  • I enjoyed the conclusion to this article. It is true that while we try to develop mental focus, we also must maintain some flexibility and tenacity. If we can develop a balance with these factors, we can achieve much more and with quicker success.

    ReplyReply
  • Myrko

    September 16, 2008

    Yes, I think balance is often a necessity, as well as here. If we go completely to extremes there are shortcomings to anything. Full focus is alternated with broader orientation.

    ReplyReply
  • CG Walters

    September 16, 2008

    Focus on the right thing. I like that. Don’t work against yourself—
    Great work, Myrko.
    blessings to you and all you hold dear,
    CG

    CG Walters’s last blog post: Not an Answer, But the Scenery Along the Way

    ReplyReply
  • Myrko

    September 16, 2008

    Hi CG Walter, nice to read you here. I look at your latest post now … :)

    ReplyReply
  • Mohamed

    November 22, 2008

    Great article. I enjoyed reading it, however I was wondering where does this leave ‘multi-tasking’? isn’t this another skill in its own right which one should aspire to – which could be needed in certain jobs?

    Multitaksing is akin to cooking (an example my mother always use) in that you should lit-up all four hob units so you can cook the rice whilst frying the chicken!

    Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on that one!

    regards,

    Mohamed

    ReplyReply
  • Myrko

    November 23, 2008

    Mohamed, welcome :) Multitasking, ah yes… I think it is both a blessing and a desease.

    Do you know those real-time strategy games (like Starcraft) where you manage a base, a fight, resources and training of new troops? I’m the guy doing it all at once, switching back and forth and keeping it all running. But, there is the other guy focusing only on the one fight in the game and totally beating me (called Micromanagement in opposition to Macromanagement).

    Multitasking is a great skill, but you have to be able to leave it aside and focus on one task if it’s necessary. I think in managing ourselves it’s also important to have both, again like Yin and Yang: you have to find the right balance between both and know when to apply which.

    I think in the field of management multitasking is more a desease than a blessing. Yes, it is great to have the capacity to keep control over many projects, but is it really control? Am I really making progress? Am I creating something significant? Or am I deluding myself with action instead of results?

    I think 1. deciding what to focus on is important. And to have a broader perspective to see all opportunities is very helpful. But then 2. narrowing focus on the execution of the decision is all or nothing.

    ReplyReply
  • Jehh

    July 25, 2010

    I have just realized that it has been my mental focus that I have lost last semester. It never occurred to me that that was the exact issue. I was thinking it surrounded more so self-control, but mental focus is bingo! I express so much gratitude and I thank you so much for helping me with my personal distress.I know what directions I need to take in order to get back on my fast lane. I thank you so so much!

    ReplyReply
  • Edwin

    August 5, 2010

    The Covey quote is good advice, but for many of us, focus is difficult without medication and a controlled environment

    ReplyReply
  • soita

    December 1, 2011

    Indeed mental focus does not only improve productivity but it as well help regenerate the otherwise waning internal strength wearied by multiple tasks which are to executed by the same mind,thus focus helps one to develop in-depth knowledge which brings inner satisfaction

    ReplyReply
  • suraj sorde.

    May 5, 2012

    really inspiring articals for personal development…..thanks.

    ReplyReply
  • padma prakash

    February 14, 2013

    Your information is too good, I have read all the courses from day one
    thanks a ton. Will try to implement . Once again Thanks o lot
    Padma

    ReplyReply
  • Myrko Thum

    February 14, 2013

    You’re welcome Padma!

    ReplyReply
  • Bhavya

    February 14, 2013

    thanks I will try to do this

    ReplyReply
  • PIYUSH

    February 22, 2013

    After reading this article,I am realizing the benefits of being focussed. From now onwards, only focus focus and focus. Thanks Myrko for such an enlightening article!!

    ReplyReply
  • Jeromey

    June 11, 2013

    Great article Myrko, I think like any other thing you need to practice it to get really good at it. If you can’t practice everything that Myrko talk about try some, but be consistent and soon your focus would surely improve.

    ReplyReply
  • prakash

    July 1, 2013

    I would like to say thank you.i have been searching about focus for 11 years. but i could not find right way but i got it today. thanks a lots lots lots.

    ReplyReply
  • Myrko Thum

    July 2, 2013

    You’re welcome prakash! Thanks for expressing your thoughts on it.

    ReplyReply
  • Lisa | Rohtopia.com

    July 10, 2013

    Excellent post, and I also agree with your view on multi tasking.
    Though even while ‘multitasking’, we always still prioritise one task over another and do not hold all of them at the exact same value. So in multi tasking, the laser-sharp mental focus is really, really important :)

    ReplyReply
  • Myrko Thum

    July 10, 2013

    Hey Lisa, Thank you! The reason why I think single-tasking always prevails multi-tasking when we have something meaningful to do, is that we can use all of our attention. That also means that from my personal experience only then we reach this great depth and flow.

    ReplyReply
  • John

    July 17, 2013

    I have certainly found it’s true that when you get into the “zone” it’s incredible what you can accomplish. My problem is that I’m in a field that is intellectually demanding – I’m constantly facing difficult problems that have to be resolved and worked through. That’s when I find focus is difficult – sometimes the way to solve the problem is to think about something else and let the subconscious do its work. But that very quickly leads to distraction and losing focus. If I try to retain focus on an apparently intractable problem I’ll sometimes fall asleep, literally. Hard to focus like that! If I could find a solution about how to retain focus in an intellectually demanding activity it would be very helpful.

    ReplyReply
  • Myrko Thum

    July 18, 2013

    Interesting issue @John. Are these problems related or more or less unrelated, where you have to refocus anew? If you have to focus new maybe it helps to find a common overarching theme or thinking pattern / solution approach that you can use again and again. Then it would be a little easier to get into flow, I think.

    ReplyReply
  • Carol

    October 14, 2013

    Indeed this article has opened a new page in my business. Thanks for this lesson, Am going to put it into practice right away.

    ReplyReply
  • Myrko Thum

    October 15, 2013

    Awesome Carol!

    ReplyReply
  • Edward

    November 1, 2013

    Great resource on developing mental focus, someone said Focus is
    Following
    One
    Course
    Until
    Success

    ReplyReply
  • dm

    November 27, 2013

    Talks about “If we master our mental focus” and repeats “offcourse” a lot …
    but doesn’t really say how to master our mental focus.

    ReplyReply
  • Myrko Thum

    November 27, 2013

    dm, have you read the whole article or stopped at paragraph 2 and made a comment?
    There is a 3 step process for developing focus and flow in the post. The answer eventually is practice.

    ReplyReply
  • Maryam

    December 8, 2013

    Excellent post,I think when we have fear of the result of task and ask ouseLves what other think about our task and its result,and may be other donot accept them or refuse them ,these things give a negative energy and can distract us,so first we should empty Ourselves from ego and think this task and its result donot define our character ,and it doesnot show that i was a good or bad person or it doesnot show determination or any other characters, it is the task that i like to do it,and the result of it show me what i have done and i must recognize what to do in order to improve my task

    ReplyReply
  • Maryam

    December 8, 2013

    And also when we want to do a task ,we should recognize that is it suitable for us i mean we should see our ability,do we have potential and knowledge of it this can help us not get frustration

    ReplyReply
  • venkat

    December 8, 2013

    Hi myrko, Thanks for posting this blog, the way you explaining is fantastic, And you said the process of “Blocking our mental focus” is good actually, even though after reading this focus is important, I started into my personal life, the things is very easily clarifying into my self, Now iam searching for a job, defenetly this will help for me and as well as many readers. Thanks once again myrko.

    VENKAT.

    ReplyReply
  • Strahinja

    December 21, 2013

    Hello Myrko,
    I would like to ask you if you are from Serbia or Balkan generally.I have read you texts and its sound very intresting and creative.
    Auc sprichts du Deutsch oder nur liest besondere Bucher der Deutsch Schriftstellers ?

    Sg aus Belgrad

    Goran

    ReplyReply
  • Wan Muhammad Zulfikri

    January 9, 2014

    Splendid advice on focus Myrko.

    It all boils down in our ability to focus on one thing at a time.

    ReplyReply
  • Med Jahouh

    January 14, 2014

    This article is very helpful & lightening ! i’m grateful that i have read this. I like your view on how could we develop our focus… we can start to concentrate on the essentials. In addition, i find PRACTICE is the most attractive word in the hole article because PRACTICE will resolve all problems that we face, plus keep away from Blocking the Mental Focus.
    (still i have some difficult in English, if you find any mistakes)

    ReplyReply
  • Kyle B

    March 7, 2014

    Great article! I really enjoyed your explanation of “Flow: Being in the Zone”

    Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyReply
  • mitiku wolde

    April 3, 2014

    I am very intersted to follow your program so that I need to be your member

    ReplyReply
  • Myrko Thum

    April 3, 2014

    @mitiku wolde, you can signup for The System here.

    ReplyReply

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