Getting focused doesn’t have to be something you force and it’s possible to stay focused the entire day.
You know, being focused—or present which I’d say is almost the same thing—is a core element of a fulfilling life.
When you’re working on your passions, you want to get as much done as humanly possible—or even more—even if you don’t have much time between all your other obligations.
When you’re connecting with the people you care about, you want that connection to be deep and meaningful. Let the world disappear for a second, it’s just you and me now. That’s the vibe of amazing connection.
And even if you’re in a day job you don’t like, it’s much more fulfilling and you’re much more productive if you do everything in your life with passion and excellence. I mean, there’s nothing to lose, just do it with all the love and enthusiasm you can muster.
What I’ll talk about today has really anchored in focus for me. It’s no longer something to force, I know exactly what to do and it just improved every one of my waking hours.
What I discovered about focus
I always thought focus ended at some point. We know that taking breaks at work is necessary to keep the energy up. But still I felt depleted towards the end of the day. Those breaks helped, but still not really.
I thought about this research in willpower. They’ve studied this: some people think willpower is infinite, others think willpower is finite. They’re both right—if you believe you have infinite willpower, you have it.
Would it be the same for focus. Is focus actually infinite? I decided to try it out: what if I try to stay focused 100% of the time? Will it drain me faster than when I unplug the sink? Or will something magical happen?
Well I wouldn’t be making this video if I burnt out faster than the Notre Dame.
The one catch is that you cannot have the same type of focus all the time. Narrow focus on work needs to be alternated with a wide focus, more presence and awareness of the world around you. That gets you back to what we call the brain’s default mode, which is when you’re not really thinking about anything, you just let your subconscious process.
Distraction is making you exhausted
Sitting on the toilet scrolling through Instagram is not taking a break. It’s not a type of focus. It literally makes you exhausted. It’s distraction that makes you tired, not focus. Once you get used to this feeling of full-day-flow, this is so so obvious.
I now regularly have moments where my brain is so empty it can realize life is actually pretty great. You know how you can be in awe from seeing a beautiful scene in nature? So it’s that feeling except the scenery isn’t particularly beautiful. It’s just the fact that life exists that’s beautiful.
The nitty gritty
Okay Marcel tell me how I get these magic powers now! Please get to it!
Yess, let’s get down to the nitty gritty.
Before we start, you need to know how to meditate. You don’t need to be an expert but you need to understand how to do it. Why? Meditation is focus training, and the focus-first lifestyle is basically meditating all the time. In short, meditating sitting down and focusing one one thing. Then noticing when you’re thinking, letting the thoughts go and going back to focus. I meditate explicitly for 15 minutes a day to practice this.
The focus-first lifestyle for me starts with the actual fundamental practice, and there are a handful of tools that will help you out a ton—when you manage your physical and emotional environments.
The first part is, of course, focusing while you work. And you should be really dedicated to do this. Don’t let anything happen that would change what you do. If you have a thought, write it down and continue working.
Having a timer makes a huge difference here, because you can tell yourself “okay Marcel just focus for 10 more minutes,” and because you remember to take breaks.
The second part is when you’re not working. Then I want you to be fully present. When you’re taking a walk, focus on breathing deeply and run through your senses to understand what you see, hear, smell, feel and taste. As soon as thoughts come up, return to breathing deeply and zoom out your vision. This back and forth is a constant process and that’s perfectly fine.
During this time I also like reconnecting with my purpose and values. Why am I doing what I’m doing? What am I growing towards? What kind of person do I want to be?
And when I see other people on the street, I send them love, health and a beautiful life. Feeling love and feeling like you send that out has a huge effect on how you feel, and you’ll likely make the day of some people on your path.
My best tool for focus is knowing exactly what to do. Starting the day with creating a day plan, and then only doing what the plan says, ensures that I stay on task. I update that plan throughout the day because I never get the timing right, just so I can keep following it.
I also use Just-in-time planning, which I’ll go deeper into in another video, but it’s basically writing down in much smaller granularity what you’re doing, while you’re doing it.
You know, your phone? You really don’t need it 90% of the day. I started putting it on airplane mode and far away from me. I work better and I don’t take it out when taking a break. I’m so much more productive and happy.
The time you’re using it should be very limited. Especially at the start of the day—the first things you do in the day set up your mind and will define how it will work throughout the day. So really make it a point to start the day off with focus and presence; thinking about your life’s path, and just leave the phone away.
You need energy to focus but it also frees up your energy. It’s distraction that makes you exhausted. Staying present and focused 100% of the time just elevates your daily experience of life to another level. Focus is a constant returning to the present moment. It’s a process.
It’s like physical health: you not only need to do explicit workouts, but a huge factor is deciding “healthy is who I am” and taking the stairs, taking movement breaks, taking little walks and finding opportunities to move. It’s the same with focus: I’m a focused person, so I won’t look at my phone often, during the day I return to my breath over and over, when I work I work only on one thing, I won’t try to multitask, etc…
That is the focus-first lifestyle: where you no longer see focus as a temporary thing to force yourself into at certain moments, but you actually live in that space. Doing that somehow makes it easier to stay focused, increases your depth of focus and just makes the experience of life much more enjoyable.
Maybe this sounds hard, but know that I’m here cheering you on. You won’t be perfect and that’s perfect. Just remember that it’s this process of returning that matters: every time you remember and try to focus—that’s a win. So go out there and win life.