Success Requires Focus – How to Supercharge Your Ability to Focus


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Focus is way more than a just a habit. Focus involves an orchestra of variables that must all come together.

What makes focus so complex is the fact that it is dependent on the optimal performance of the most complex organ we possess – our brain.

Your brain never sleeps. It is constantly active. This activity can be measured by brain waves. Brain waves are the speed at which brain cells talk to one another. When you focus, your brain waves operate at a much faster frequency than normal, known as the Gamma frequency.

While in this Gamma state, your brain is sucking energy from the body at an accelerated rate, in order to provide itself with the fuel that focus requires.

Any little hiccup can throw a wrench into the brain’s ability to maintain focus. In my book, Change Your Habits Change Your Life, I list all of the Focus Killers. Below are the top eight Focus Killers:

#1 Distractions

Your environment can be a host to many distractions:

  • People – Wife, kids, co-workers, etc. can disrupt you while you are in the flow of focus.
  • Phone Calls – Ringing phones disrupt your focus. Even worse would be taking a phone call during your focus time.
  • Emails – Those annoying ding sounds you get every time you receive an email disrupts your focus. Focus becomes even more distracted if you decide to read or respond to those emails.
  • Text Messages – If you have any sound effects triggered by text messages, every chime or whistle will disrupt your focus. And, once again, reading and responding to text messages while in the flow of focus, disrupts it entirely.
  • Background Noise – If you have TV news on while you are trying to focus, those Breaking News Alerts will disrupt your focus. So too will music. Songs can trigger emotional responses that cause your mind to drift back in time to an old flame, a concert you attended, or any life event linked to a song.

The solution is to unplug from technology and block off two hours a day without any distractions. No phones ringing, hide your cell phone and turn off all background noise.

This is why I advocate waking up early and spending those early morning hours focusing on your  top priorities, which should be your personal and professional dreams and goals.

#2 Chronic Stress

Short-term stress can actually improve focus and concentration. But chronic stress is very different from short-term stress.

Chronic stress causes a cavalcade of chemical reactions within the body that produce cortisol, the chronic stress hormone. Cortisol is a chemical that impairs your ability to focus by redirecting your brain and your body’s resources. Thus, if you are suffering from chronic stress, focus will be very difficult. Death of a loved one, financial problems, marital problems, health problems, all produce chronic stress.

Study after study has concluded that aerobic (running, biking etc.) and anaerobic (weight lifting/high intensity training) exercises stifle the production of cortisol, alleviating chronic stress. Thirty minutes a day of doing both will reverse the effects of chronic stress.

#3 Sleep Deprivation

If you are not getting between 7 – 8.5 hours of sleep a night, you are very likely suffering from sleep deprivation. Since one of the most important functions of sleep is to clean the brain of toxins that build up during the day, lack of adequate sleep means toxins are building up inside and on brain cells, impairing their ability to function properly.

#4 Glucose Depletion

When glucose reserves become depleted, the brain sends a signal to stop engaging in an activity. This is commonly referred to as Decision Fatigue or Willpower Depletion. So, Willpower Depletion is really just the depletion of glucose reserves in the body.

Each individual has their own unique reservoir of willpower. Some naturally have more, some less. On average, willpower, or your ability to focus, lasts between 90 – 120 minutes.

When you run out of willpower, you essentially run out of brain fuel – glucose, and you must take immediate action to regain your willpower and your focus:

  • Rest or Nap – 20 to 30 minutes is all you need to restore your willpower reserves.
  • Eat a Sugar Snack – This quick fix should only be used in emergency situations because after 20 – 30 minutes you will find yourself even more depleted than before and your focus even more impaired than before.
  • Eat a Healthy Snack – This should be combined with rest or a nap, which will provide a maximum boost in willpower reserves, giving you another 90-120 minutes of focused thinking.

#5 Boredom

It is always very difficult to focus on anything you hate doing or that bores you. This is why I spend so much time writing and speaking about the need to find that thing that makes your heart sing and then figuring out how to monetize it.

When you like or love what you are doing, you turn up the volume on certain parts of the brain associated with emotions (amygdala, thalamus, hippocampus, hypothalamus, cingulate gyrus and ventral tegmental area). These emotional brain centers do not succumb to willpower depletion, which means you can focus for many hours without feeling fatigued.

#6 Poor Diet

Since the brain is such a heavy consumer of energy, a poor diet will deprive your brain of the nutrients it desperately needs in order to allow you to focus. Two out of every three meals should be vegetables with the third meal being high in protein (fish, lean meat, chicken).

#7 Inconsistent Exercise

Aerobic exercise is, next to sleep and diet, the third most important thing you can do for your brain. When you exercise aerobically, you feed your brain with oxygen, which is used by those cells to convert glucose to energy (Adenosine Triphosphate, or ATP for short).

If you are not exercising enough aerobically, that means you are not feeding your brain cells with enough oxygen, which then leads to an energy crisis inside your brain.

#8 Drugs/Alcohol

The use of drugs or alcohol causes the overproduction of certain neurotransmitters, such as dopamine. This throws the brain off kilter, making it nearly impossible to focus for any significant period of time. The problem is compounded with excessive use of drugs or alcohol. This puts you brain into permanent repair mode, which means it is using precious brain fuel for repair needs, leaving little left for focus needs.

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Thomas C. Corley About Thomas C. Corley

Tom Corley is a bestselling author, speaker, and media contributor for Business Insider, CNBC and a few other national media outlets.

His Rich Habits research has been read, viewed or heard by over 50 million people in 25 countries around the world.

Besides being an author, Tom is also a CPA, CFP, holds a master’s degree in taxation and is President of Cerefice and Company, a CPA firm in New Jersey.
Phone Number: 732-382-3800 Ext. 103.
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  1. Great post! and very timely and useful. Love these emails. I will start eating more salads tomorrow – thanks!

  2. I have a daughter in college. She eats poorly. Sh stays up extremely late playing on her computer or phone. She can’t focus at all during the day so she’s been going to the doctor to get help with ADHD. I think this article really was helpful in showing what the brain needs to help one focus. It’s better than meds that don’t work. Thank You!!

  3. Wonderful article ! Very Knowledgeable !
    Extremely well written !
    It has added a lot to my knowledge !
    Thank You Sir !

  4. In life I believe we are given signs.

    In fact I literally saw mine walking to work. “Better, Not Bigger” flashed before me as the bus turned the corner and speed off.

    Since then this “simple” message changed my perspective of life to its core; rippled through my business dealings, relationships, health, experiences and goals, to what I believe and doing so helped me to reveal the more authentic me.

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