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Productivity Hack: increase your focus in 2 minutes by using your vision

In an increasingly distracted world, mental focus might be our most valued asset. And with many of us working from home, there is even less delineation between our work life and home life making it even harder to focus and concentrate on the task in front of us. We jump from one zoom call to the next, emails keep coming, and our homelife makes its way into our work day at random times. 

But while concentration and focus might be in short supply at times, there is a growing understanding in the scientific community that vision and breathing –both of which we can control voluntarily– directly affect the brain and our emotional states. That means we can consciously alter our vision or our breathing to bring about a state of alertness or a state of calm for instance, or even a state of focus. 

Most of us have heard about changing your breath to either increase your energy or to calm down, but you can also consciously alter your vision to tap into your ability to focus.

In effect, you can use your vision as a shortcut to boost your concentration and lean harder into productivity

Strategy #1: Intentionally narrow your vision to engage your mental focus

Your eyes are designed to determine your state of arousal.  In a high alert state, your pupils dilate and you start seeing one thing in sharp focus and everything else disappears. Mental focus follows visual focus. In other words, once you are focusing intensely on something visually, your mind follows and concentrates on that. The visual focus is what brings the brain into cognitive focus.

Armed with this information, you can bring on a state of alertness voluntarily. Consciously narrow your vision when you need to concentrate on something.  Put intense visual focus onto what you need to laser in on.  Go into “Portrait Mode” and let everything else fall into the background. By deliberately narrowing your vision, and blocking out all visual distraction, you’re sending a clear message to your brain about what matters and what needs its energy. 

Strategy #2: Take “focus breaks” to help you lean harder into your work. 

Interestingly, micro-recoveries in between highly focused work sessions can help us focus even better in the next work session. Think of it as a sort of mental HIIT. 

You want to deliberately decompress between sessions of intense work/focus. 

You can do that by periodically widening your vision like you do when viewing the horizon. Changing your gaze to this panoramic vision will relax your brain and turn off the alertness mode in your brain which will allow your mind to destress. In effect, when you widen and relax your gaze you’re hitting the “reset” button so you can handle the upcoming load.  

Learning how to de-focus and re-focus very rapidly is a hugely practical skill to reduce the strain of stress, so you can get back and lean harder into the work again. 

For instance, when you walk out of your meeting, don’t dive into your phone to check your emails or hop on social media. Staring at your phone narrows your vision and does nothing to help your brain recharge. Instead, give yourself a couple minutes before you re-engage into work. Go into panoramic vision: relax your gaze, relax/lower your alertness. Do the same when you get off a call or complete a highly focused work session. Intentionally relax your visual focus periodically to boost your mental focus on the things that matter.

Practice toggling between narrow intense focus, and lowered alertness whenever you can. By relaxing your autonomic nervous system, you will be able to lean into the stress better and be more productive in the session that follows that small break. 

Try these strategies and let me know how it goes for you!

Lessons from John D. Rockefeller Jr.

Having a vision and showing Perseverance paid off for RockefellerWe just returned from a great 5-day trip to the “Big Apple” and found that it is truly, the city that never sleeps!

New York is such a wonderful city; full of history, lore, and energy. On our itinerary was Rockefeller Center.

This famous landmark was developed by John D Rockefeller Jr and was originally supposed to house the Metropolitan opera. But, when the Stock Market crashed in 1929, the deal fell through and the building was almost never built.

Rockefeller had a tough decision to make. In the end, he chose to move forward and personally funded the entire project without any planned tenants. A bold move!

As the construction of the tower progressed, it created over 7,500 jobs for almost 10 years smack in the middle of the Great Depression. It became a landmark and a symbol of hope in a time of great adversity and hardship. Eventually, Rockefeller found his first tenant, and Radio City Music Hall was born.

I found it ironic that when we went in for the tour and climb to the Top of the Rock, as it is called, it was bright and sunny. But by the time we reached the observation deck, a very powerful downpour had ensued and the visibility dropped to a few hundred feet.

As we worked through our disappointment of not getting any pictures of Central Park, the Empire State Building or a dramatic sunset, something amazing happened. After about fifteen minutes, the storm dissipated. The suns rays broke through the clouds, and it seemed as if the light of heaven shone through on the New York City skyline. We were rewarded with a full double rainbow over Manhattan! Spectacular!

Of course many factors played a part in John D. Rockefeller, Jr.’s success in this project. But above all, he had a vision and a dream that extended beyond himself.

Before riding the elevator to the top, there is an interpretation of a Bible verse Rockefeller lived by:

“Unto he who much is given, much shall be required.”

Rockefeller exemplified and lived this philosophy. He was resolute and forged ahead in the middle of the Depression, with no guarantee of a tenant for the building. And in the end, he made his vision come to life.

We have all been given much, in terms of our own special gifts and talents. And in fact, much shall be required of us to create a life of purpose and meaning –even when things are hard or uncertain; especially then.

It is true life stories like Rockefeller Center’s history that make New York such a special place. They exemplify living a life on your own terms, having dreams, and making them come true.

Build your own skyscraper today!!! and enjoy the view; others will too!

 

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