6 Tips for Recovering Your Focus

I’ve been thinking a lot about Focus lately – enough that it deserves a capital “F.”
It’s not that I’ve never written about focus, but it seems more critical than ever to remove ourselves from the chatter of social media, family squabbles, and needy pets. We have to give ourselves space to focus on a project.
This effort to do something about my lack of focus was precipitated by the realization that my writing wasn’t living up to its potential. I had gotten lazy and was sending newsletter drafts to my team at the last minute.
I was slacking off on research and on listening to what artists share with me in my inbox, on my blog, and through social media.
My lack of focus means that I wasn’t fully committed to my work and wasn’t performing my best for readers and members.
It was due to my inability to tune out the noise and apply myself to what is most important in the present moment. Sometimes this is work, sometimes it’s play, sometimes it’s just being lazy.
The point is that I want to be in the moment and to give the moment all of my attention. [tweet this]
Here are some tricks I have been using to help me recover focus when I write. You can adapt them to your studio practice, marketing time, or business calendar.

Admit You Have a Problem

1. Admit that lack of focus is a problem, and that you want to do something about it.
The understanding that attention splatter isn’t helping you reach your goals is the first step to recovering your focus. As soon as you realize this, you will begin to recognize the moments when you’re not present.
As you go through the day, be aware of how you spend your time. This says a lot about what you value throughout your day. [tweet this]

Turn Off

2. Turn off automatic downloads of email.
This was a big Aha! moment for me. I’ve always preached against email notifications, but my automatic downloads continued until the recent session of Organize Your Art Biz.
When I was rewriting the “empty your inbox” lesson, it occurred to me that I was still allowing email to interrupt my workflow.
I now download messages manually when I am ready to process them. Try it!
3. Turn off the extra computer screen.
I have an extra screen that comes in handy for additional workspace, but it’s distracting when I want to focus.

Ink It

4. Keep paper nearby.
I follow Mark Victor Hansen’s advice: “As soon as you think it, ink it.”
When a task unrelated to what I’m working on crosses my mind, I jot it down quickly and get back to work.


5. Take the office to the coffee shop.
When I walk into Higher Grounds Café in Golden, Colorado, I do it with purpose. I am only there to write. (I should say I’m only here to write because that’s where I am right now.)
You don’t have to go to a coffee shop to do this, although I contend it’s helpful.

 You can make a mental shift with a few deep breaths and some self-talk, and a physical shift by clearing out your space or moving to a different room.

Create a Buffer Zone

6. Unplug.
I give myself at least two hours of an email-free, social-media-free buffer zone before I go to bed.
Let’s face it. Lots of things in your inbox or on Facebook can stir emotions or give you ideas about things you should be doing.
This leads to restless sleep, which contributes to lack of focus.
What are your biggest challenges around focus? What changes can you make to recover your focus?


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38 thoughts on “6 Tips for Recovering Your Focus”

  1. This is so timely for me, that overwhelmed feeling is not good for the creative process or for business. Like an animal frozen in the headlights it’s hard to know which way to turn. 18 months ago I gave away the television to focus on my work, but it has been replaced by other distractions under the guise of work ie FB noise etc. Thanks for the honesty Alyson and the strategies, time for me to refocus

  2. I was literally talking to a friend at an event last night about how difficult it is to focus lately. I have so many different projects going, and not a whole lot finishing. Which I know means I have to turn off my phone and stay away from computers for my next two studio days.
    “The point is that I want to be in the moment and to give the moment all of my attention” is the most perfect quote for me riht now. No matter where I am, what I’m supposed to be doing, or who I’m talking to, I’m building a Halloween/Holiday/New Years to-do list in my brain. I need to started writing it down!
    Thanks Alyson!

  3. I’ve started doing something radical – I’ve started turning the computer off. My studio also has two kinds of technology: Lamps and a stereo and that certainly helps cut down on distractions and keep me focused.

    1. Janet: I hear that a lot. I can be focused, but I suffer like the rest of you. Try automating as much of your social media as possible and batch it. I would say for an artist, it depends. (My business is different.) Depends on what kind of results you’re seeing.

  4. Earlier this month I took this idea a bit further. I went to a monastery with one book, one note pad, and a pen and pencil for 3 days. My goal was “clarity.” I needed a full blown overhaul. My lack of focus was so rooted in daily practice that I was spiraling to nowhere!
    I now know I should have done it sooner, and more often! Focus is key. But you have to have clarity on what it is you want to focus on.

  5. Thanks for the help on this. Sometimes I actually make time to do those things I know I should be doing with focus, but then I do not do the thing I need to do and I feel guilty for squandering my time. It’s like I can get there – but not do it. Janet is right you at least on the outside do not give off that sense you are ever lacking in focus 🙂

  6. Thanks, Alyson. I find that lately, because I have listened to a lot of webinars my mind is all over the place. These instructors want you to write interesting blogs, send out interesting newsletters, pr, email notices, make a schedule of your whole existence. I prefer a little flexibility myself. And I am an artist not a writer. I know, hire a virtual assistant. That is a whole other process. I have to write out what I want them to do and the questions I want to ask. Then I have to investigate the industry and on and on.
    So focusing is just hard to get to in the long list of things I have to be and do as an artist. How did it get so difficult to find time to stand at the canvas and have others do this for you, yesterday, the gallery? Personally there are so many artists doing all these tasks now a days and have them online that I doubt that anyone sees the forest for the trees. When I look at the FB likes, etc. even major art organizations aren’t getting many so is anyone looking? And is this social media just a myth?

    1. I empathize totally! We have become the do-it-yourself society…from being our own travel agents, doing our own cashier work at stores, to being responsible for promoting our own art. I like Alyson’s comment about being selective about what we listen to and how many pieces of advice we need..or else we become to scattered. Great topic!

  7. Great article thanks for sharing and warning. At the moment I haven’t lost focus since I set up my art business but it is early days yet and I don’t have any distractions like being in love or needy pets. I tend to love other people’s pets then hand them back. I am keeping life simple until the business takes off and I can out source.

  8. From time to time I find it hard to focus on the task of painting. The problem is I hear voices. For example: I hear voices coming from the laundry hamper saying; “Wash me or you’ll be sorry.” Another time the voices are coming from the refrigerator or pantry saying; “Go to the grocery store!” Pesky little voices won’t shut up until I tend to them. Then when I’m trying to tend to those I hear another little voice echoing from my studio. It’s my canvas lamenting how it has no color in it’s life cause it’s still a blank canvas and I’m doing nothing about it. 🙂

    1. I did tend to my canvas as it kept whining. It now has a complete drawing that required working out quite a bit of perspective. The canvas still has no color as of yet, but I told it if it thinks it’s still feeling blue, I’d break out the ultramarine blue paint and slather it all over it and then it would really have something to be blue about. It hasn’t said a peep.

  9. Hi Alyson,
    I recently moved my studio out of the house, and I’m very mindful about what I do when I’m at the studio. I’m either on the computer or it’s closed and I’m making art or getting ready for a class. Much less to distract me there, and since I’m paying for the space it makes me focus on being productive.

  10. These are great tips. I struggle a lot with unplugging and getting away from distractions to focus on just one thing.
    Writing things down is the one thing I’ve been doing for a while and it really does help so much! I can stop worrying about remembering that great thought and move on to the next if I know I have it written down.

  11. I’m a “Life Junkie” and THAT’s why I lose focus! I love lots of different art media (writing, jewelry, bookbinding) as well as teaching and facilitating… and I find this both fulfilling AND crazy-making. I think what I most need to do is take some time away… AWAY… just for ME in order for me to sort out some long-term goals of what I want to accomplish with my business… cuz there are even more ideas tap dancing in my head!… and then develop a plan and routine, then stick to it. *sigh* Figuring out how to work everything I love into my days and nights is tough.
    Thanks for these tips, Alyson. They are helpful. AND I need more long-term remedies.
    Peace AND Prosperity. Kate

  12. Thank you, Alyson. I have been having trouble focusing on a project because I am busy homeschooling. I will find a place away from home and the distractions to work on my project so I won’t let myself and my customer down.

  13. This article is right on time 🙂 I was in need of a read like this, seeing I have been having the same frustrations with myself. I have started becoming a jack of all trades and found it harder to focus on completing a project. This was a good kick in the arse read for me. Thanks for the tips.

  14. Thanks for the tips – I can totally relate. I feel like with age and more life responsibilities, I’m getting even more distracted and spread thin! Often I turn around and wonder… wait, what was I going to do?!

  15. Thanks for all the tips.
    They will surely come in handy. With so many distractions around, it is good advice to just sit down and focus on the project at hand.

  16. Great reminders. Makes me think of Positive Intelligence, a book and method on how we can be one of the 20% who achieve their full potential by minimizing subtle ways our mind sabotages us.

  17. Great tips, Alyson! I particularly like the ‘unplug’ and ‘coffee shop’ options. The web is a shocking distraction, as are overly familiar surroundings.

  18. My computer is my best tool for organization and my most tempting distraction. Tomorrow I am turning it off and having a day where I unplug and focus at the easel.

  19. I constantly find loneliness is my biggest distraction, I work and live alone from home so that is ALOT of time, and sociailising takes away production time, and as an illustrator it isn’t art galleries and shows I need to be at. An occasional trip to work at a coffee shop soon became 3 or 4 times a week – I got to know the barister’s partner!
    Similarly, I spent 14 hours a day at the art or the PC, feeling part of the world. Not good.
    I am making a determined effort this year to try and keep focused regardless of being in or out of the studio, and changing my attitude – rather than feeling lonely, I have decided to feel pructive, which will lead to a better future – whatever that may be – than suffering the health effects that lonliness has. Sunny days are a challenge to be indoors, but a daily jog helps.
    I also find watching tv, radio or audio cd’s help, for some reason they keep me seated. Bad weather helps too – wind rain and cold make me glad to be indoors!

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