Are you constantly distracted? How can you be more focused?
In The Power of Unwavering Focus, Dandapani provides methods for directing your awareness to increase your focus over time. You’ll also discover how to develop willpower, an essential skill for practicing focus.
Keep reading to learn how to be more focused.
Tip 1: Direct Your Awareness
Focus consists of intentionally directing your orb of awareness to specific regions of your mind and keeping it there for as long as you need—without letting anything else direct your orb of awareness for you. Here, we’ll explore Dandapani’s advice on how to be more focused by directing your awareness and staying in control. We’ve organized his techniques into three steps.
1) Become Conscious of Your Awareness
Before you can guide your awareness, you have to reflect on its current state: Where is your floating orb right now? What region of your mind has it traveled to? See if you can find out.
2) Redirect Your Awareness from Distractions
If your awareness isn’t where you would like it to be, you must pull it back from whatever is directing your awareness. Dandapani recommends shifting your awareness in a small way, like wiggling your toes.
You can also pull your attention away from a distraction by reframing your interpretation of it. Whenever you find something engrossing, you’re interpreting it in a way that makes it seem worth your awareness. You can redirect your awareness by changing your interpretation so that the distraction is no longer worth paying attention to. For example, if your awareness is absorbed in a game on your phone, remind yourself that you’re only looking at colored lights on a screen.
3) Set an Intention and Guide Your Awareness
Dandapani writes that to guide your orb of awareness to the proper region of your mind, you must first set a destination. Tell yourself where you want to focus. Then try to gently guide your orb of awareness to the desired region of your mind. Once you arrive there, notice if your awareness is able to settle there, or if it keeps pulling away.
Tip 2: Develop Focus Over Time Through Practice
Dandapani stresses that while the methods of directing your awareness are simple, the ability to focus most of the time requires years of practice. Recall that your awareness has the power to slowly reshape your mind by directing your flow of spiritual energy to different regions. Therefore, by focusing your awareness on the ability to focus your awareness, you’ll strengthen this ability over time. However, if you frequently allow yourself to fall into distraction, this will also reshape your mind to make you more distractible over time. Dandapani encourages you to think of focus as mastering a sport. The effort will be enormous, the results will be slow, but the rewards will eventually be great.
(Shortform note: Dandapani’s strategies for becoming more focused prioritize the importance of developing greater internal control. However, you also may want to consider ways you can control your external environment to eliminate the temptation of distraction. In Hyperfocus, Chris Bailey recommends first creating a plan to remove common distractions from your workstation. This could include putting your phone in another room, deleting distracting apps from your computer, or disconnecting from the internet.)
To get moving on your journey to mastery, Dandapani recommends that you start by making a plan to incorporate focus into the activities you do every single day. Here we’ll discuss his practice plan in four steps.
1) Choose a Daily Activity to Center Your Practice On
Pick an ordinary activity that you do every day. This should be something that you have to do, such as brushing your teeth, getting dressed, or making breakfast. Don’t pick something that you feel you ought to do every day but might not get to, like exercising.
2) Practice Focus Every Time You Do This Activity
For example, every time you brush your teeth, move your awareness to the present moment and focus on thoroughly brushing each tooth without letting your mind wander from the task.
(Shortform note: In Atomic Habits, James Clear explains why it’s most effective to practice focus with something you have to do every day. In creating a new habit, he states that it helps to have a specific cue, like: “When X occurs, I will do Y.” By doing your desired action on cue, you won’t need to invest time and energy into deciding to do it. This will help you exercise the desired behavior regularly and, over time, build it into a habit without drawing on as much mental effort. Dandapani’s suggestions follow this same principle—the daily activity serves as your cue to practice guiding your awareness.)
3) Track Your Progress
Dandapani recommends that you create a grading rubric for yourself. Every day, you’ll grade yourself based on how well you focused during your chosen activity. For example, every time you brush your teeth, you could give yourself a letter grade of A, B, or C. You would give yourself a C if you were completely distracted while performing this task, an A if you were completely focused, and a B if you were somewhere in between. This will keep you accountable and consistent as you can look back at your rubric and see whether you’re growing or slipping in your practice.
(Shortform note: As Clear writes in Atomic Habits, tracking a habit is itself a habit to develop. Therefore, you might also want to plan how and when you’ll evaluate your focus practice. For example, you could keep a notebook in your bathroom cabinet and enter a grade immediately after brushing your teeth.)
4) Expand Your Practice
Once you’ve mastered focusing on this activity every day, choose a second activity that you have to do every day, and add this to your practice. However, note that Dandapani suggests that truly mastering the first item on your list should take at least a month, if not several. Recall that mastering focus is like mastering a sport. Start small and work your way up.
(Shortform note: Behavioral research supports Dandapani’s view that it can take months to develop a new habit. One study found that people take anywhere from 18 to 254 days to turn a behavior into a consistent habit. The average time was 66 days. Therefore, adding a new habit to the first after just one month might be difficult.)
Tip 3: Develop Your Willpower
What if you try to redirect your focus, but instead of settling in the desired region, it keeps pulling away? To deal with this, you need the complementary tool of willpower: a source of mental strength you can call on when a task requires more effort. Much like focus, willpower is a capacity that you can develop through practice—or weaken if you habitually don’t use it. In this section, we’ll first explore Dandapani’s daily exercises for developing willpower. Then we’ll look at his suggestions for long-term willpower development.
Develop Willpower Through Daily Exercises
Dandapani recommends that you improve your willpower with daily practice. He suggests incorporating the following principles into daily focus practice.
1) Finish the tasks you begin. Dandapani explains that every time you start a task, you begin with a burst of enthusiasm, excited by the possibility of achievement. However, as you get tired or frustrated, the initial burst will wear off and you’ll have to call on your willpower to complete the task. If you allow yourself to abandon tasks before you complete them, you’ll weaken your willpower, but if you practice finishing them, you’ll strengthen it.
2) Always do the job well, no matter how long it takes. Putting in the extra effort to do a thorough job will strengthen your willpower. Conversely, rushing carelessly through a task will weaken it, because you won’t need to call on your willpower as much as if you did a thorough job. For example, if you’re cleaning a cupboard, take the time to get all of the hard-to-reach places.
3) Do slightly more than you planned. When you’ve almost completed the task, come up with an additional finishing touch that you didn’t plan on when starting out. Dandapani explains that by calling on your willpower one last time before completing each task, you’ll continue growing this capacity. For example, if you’re changing your bicycle tire, you could also take a minute to lubricate your chain and gears or test the pressure on your other tire.
Develop Willpower Through a Long-Term Exercise
Dandapani also recommends a long-term exercise to develop your willpower:
1) Make a list of five things you began in recent years but didn’t finish, or things you told people you were going to do but didn’t complete. These could be hobbies, home improvement projects, or other personal goals, but they need to be things that you can still achieve.
2) In your spare time, complete the items on your list one by one. For each one, use Dandapani’s three daily willpower-developing principles: Finish tasks you begin; always do the job well, no matter how long it takes; and do slightly more than you planned.