Meditating is one of our core skills to thrive in the world of tomorrow and it’s crucial that you practice it daily. In this post I’ll explain:
- Why focus is our most important skill in the workplace
- How you can drastically improve your ability to focus with meditation
- What to do to start right now
And I’ll finish off with some more hacks for improving focus.
Why focus is your most important skill in the workplace
We all do a bunch of different things at work but have just one or a few that really make the difference. The best scientists write more papers, the best musicians spend more time making songs, the best athletes train more.
In his book High Performance Habits, Brendon Burchard calls this your Prolific Quality Output or PQO. If you want to become a high performer and win in the modern world, you have to first identify your PQO and then maximize it.
“Nothing is less productive than to make more efficient what should not be done at all.” – Peter Drucker
Maximizing PQO requires sacrifice: all the other work gets lower priority so if you’re really committed you’ll need to get used to other work being incomplete or late. You see, no matter how hard we try, we will never in our entire lives have enough time to do all the things we care about. So the best thing you can do is decide which ones are really the most most important and being okay with dropping other important—but less important—things.
The work that leads to more PQO is not going to be shallow work, but rather deep work: the kind of work where you need big blocks of uninterrupted time to be able to make good progress.
The challenge is that we’re constantly being bombarded with emails, instant messages and notifications, not to mention our minds that get distracted at the slightest hint of boredom. So this uninterrupted time is not just incredibly valuable—because it’s what generates the output that matters—but also immensely scarce.
What’s the one skill that allows you to let go of those distractions, and get back to deep work if you actually do get distracted? Yes: focus.
How Meditation Trains Your Focus
Basically what you do in meditation is you force yourself to focus on one tiny point. This is hard and you get distracted all the time. But that’s the point. Your only task is noticing when you get distracted and then getting focused again.
As you meditate, you’ll be faced with the distractions of your own mind. As you get better, you become aware of these distractions sooner and you become better at letting them go.
So meditation really is the simplest, most direct way, you can train your focus. It’s only about noticing distraction and getting back to focus. Over, and over, and over again. And focused working is just this, except you’re focused on the work instead of your breath.
What To Do To Start Right Now
I will give you a challenge: meditate in the morning, for 10 minutes, for the next 30 days. I promise you this will increase your focus. Start with guided meditations, get an app like Headspace. That will teach you the techniques and—because as a beginner you’re not that good at noticing you’re distracted—get you started more quickly.
So how do you do it?
It goes like this: you sit down and close your eyes. You focus on a single thing like the feeling of air flowing through your nose as you breathe, or a mantra—like repeating the word “release” to yourself.
Only focus on that, but monitor your thoughts. Then if you notice you start thinking about something, let it go and go back to focus.
The way you do this letting go is not by trying to push the thought away. Instead, acknowledge it and gently let it pass, like seeing clouds drift by or like looking at traffic rushing in front of you.
Meditating is difficult, and while you could get relaxed you shouldn’t fall asleep. If you’re falling asleep that means you’re not paying enough attention. The task at hand is very simple, but not easy, and requires you to stay alert.
There are a few hacks that help improve your focus.
Supplements. Coffee helps, it’s even better if you add L-Theanine because that makes it less jittery. Personally I make an Upgraded Coffee blend which also includes butter and a specific extract of coconut oil called MCT oil.
Focus-Enhancing Music. Apps like Brain.fm can give you background music engineered to increase your focus.
Finish Meditations Well. The 5 seconds after you finished meditation are crucial. Make sure to stay relaxed and take a few seconds before you get back to work. When I immediately jump back in and start thinking about work, it’s like no meditation happened at all.
Stare. Yeah this is funny, but staring at a small point for a minute or so actually makes you more focused.
Take Care of Your Productivity Backbone. It starts with the really basics basics: exercise, eat well and sleep enough. But even with a 10-minute meditation in the morning there’s a lot that can go wrong and there are a bunch of habits that can set you up for a better full day of work, with energy left over at the end. Check out my video to learn my 14 core habits.