Here’s a simple tool to help you focus at work and decrease distractions. Think of the acronym FANS in order to practice and improve your powers of focus:
- Focus without judgment. Simply observe what is present.
- Awareness: Observe all the details and issues at play.
- Narrow attention. Hone your attention to the critical variables that will determine success.
- Story. Create a story or a mental model of the situation, including the variables, next steps, and expectations.
Studies reveal that people who create mental pictures of a situation maintain focus better. They are always anticipating what’s next. Building mental models takes control of attention. When something deviates from the model, the model builder becomes alert and takes action to adjust.
Today’s 24/7 world means a constant stream of incoming stimuli and distractions. Mental models help triage information and offer choices as to where to direct attention. Better decisions can replace indiscriminate reactions.
Conversations with Focus
In my experience, one of the most valuable reasons for improving ability to focus is to communicate well. Completing projects at work, playing a sport, and countless other tasks involve conversations with others.
The biggest obstacle to good communication is the dialogue that goes on in our heads during conversation. People find it hard to listen without assuming they know what’s being said and formulating a response at the same time. It’s a natural reaction to agree or disagree almost immediately. That judgment interferes with listening and observing and distracts the listener from focusing on important information.
Focus can be improved through conscious practice on any task, anytime, anywhere. To improve focus and achieve better outcomes, whether at work or play, join the FANS of Focus: focus without judgment, become aware of details, narrow attention to key factors, and create a story to anticipate what matters most. Take charge of your attention and ward off distractions.