I want to introduce you to a concept called singular focus.
It kind of is what it says on the tin - simply focusing on one thing at a time until completion.
However mastering it, and using it as a powerful productivity tool takes a little practice.
But don't worry, you're about to learn all about it below.
What is singular focus?
Ok, first things first, what is singular focus?
Experts define singular focus as the ability to concentrate exclusively on a single task - without distraction. Sounds simple right?
But it’s actually harder than you think (more on that later).
You see, in order to hone in your focus on just one thing, by definition you must ignore everything else.
Put another way, singular focus can only occur when you’ve committed to only one option, and said no to everything else.
All of your focus, on a singular outcome, exclusively.
Why is it so hard to focus on a single task
Take a look around you.
As I’m writing this article my daughter is 1ft away from my face harassing me about how many hours until her birthday, my son harassing me to make him a hot chocolate, my computer screen has eight programs open, I’ve got forty one unread emails plus the house is a mess.
And that’s just the beginning.
Top that off with a hundred other things I need to do to grow my business, it’s no wonder that singular focus is so difficult.
What happens is our days are spent being pulled from one thing to another, endlessly.
So it’s not until we cultivate the ability to say no, even when everything else seems so alluring, that we can begin to develop a singular focus.
The myth of multitasking
Are we capable of doing two things at once?
I can for instance change the radio station whilst I’m driving - albeit not very well.
But, do we have the ability to concentrate on two things at once?
Let me explain.
Whilst I’m driving my concentration switches from driving, then to changing the radio station. Yet at no point am I concentrating on both simultaneously.
And this is what happens in our personal/professional lives too. And it comes at a cost.
It’s what’s known as a switching cost.
This switching cost is the reduction in performance and productivity you experience when you switch between tasks. In fact, one study found that the time to regain focus on a task after being disrupted was 63 seconds.
Think about that for a minute.
Every time your focus drifts away to something else; a phone notification, an email, a phone call, a family request, etc. it takes over a minute to get back to a point of focus on what you were previously doing.
And how often do you think that happens?
A lot right.
That’s why minimising distractions is at the core of effective productivity.
A box within a box: Wrapping a single focus in the Eisenhower matrix.
Here’s a little something I’ve been trialing to some success recently.
I call it the box within a box technique and it’s helped me to remove many of the distractions that were previously present in my life.
Here’s how it works.
Using the Eisenhower Method I create two separate lists.
The first is like my master list for my business as a whole. This list takes into account everything that I need to do to operate my business effectively and prioritise tasks effectively.
The second list I use for my weekly milestones. This is my singular focus for the entire week. All tasks within this list are focused exclusively on this single milestone - with all other distractions removed.
Using this technique I’ve been able to complete bigger tasks - that I would previously procrastinate about forever - consistently.
And here’s a little tool that I built to help with this technique that you might like too.
Using Singular focus to increase output
Just understanding singular focus and how it works doesn’t mean that you’re going to be able to get out there and start implementing it effectively.
There's something else you can do to really get a grip of it.
Measure your results
First things first to maintaining a singular focus is to measure your results.
The things in your life that you measure, tend to improve. And the things that you don't, fade off into the distance.
When I started measuring how long I could hold my breath for, my hold time improved.
When I recorded how many blog articles I published, the amount of content I created increased.
When I began evaluating the work I'd done at the end of each week, my business improved.
But here's the thing.
Most people measure things that they have no control over.
What do all of these metrics have in common?
All of them are out of your control. They're lagging indicators.
What you could measure instead is:
These are the types of key performance indicators that you can track, and have complete control over at the same time.
How to become a ‘singular focused’ person
Becoming a singular focused person means becoming a person that says no - often.
A singular focused person must become comfortable with ignoring the multitude of bright shiny objects that seem so alluring in the present, in favour of remaining steadfastly focused on a single task with a delayed gratification at some point in the future.
Instead what so many of us do is chase the quick wins.
And don't get me wrong chasing the quick wins is a great way to look busy.
But, a lazor-like singular focus - whereby you start and complete a task before moving on - is the key to being genuinely productive.
And productive kicks ass over being busy every day of the week.
I hope you found this short guide on singular focus helpful.
I liken the effects of a singular focus to the effects of compound interest which in the word's of Albert Einstien is "the 8th wonder of the world."
And by using singular focus as a tool to complete tasks consistently - rather than starting a hundred things and never completing them - you can compound the effects of your labour over time.
Which as you can imagine can lead to some pretty staggering results.