How to Focus on One Thing
There is great power in having the ability to focus on one thing for an extended period of time. I was first introduced to this concept in 2005 when I was introduced to a concept referred to as the “68 second rule”. The idea was to sit quietly and focus for seventeen seconds on one thought or idea and to hold it in your mind to the exclusion of any other thoughts. You would then work up to thirty-four seconds and finally be able to do it for sixty-eight seconds. This may sound like an easy task, but it truly takes great focus and determination to be able to do this.
I was reading a post by James Clear on The Scientific Argument for Mastering One Thing at a Time and he discusses the concept of automaticity. He states:
Here is another science-based reason to focus on one habit at a time:
When you begin practicing a new habit it requires a lot of conscious effort to remember to do it. After awhile, however, the pattern of behavior becomes easier. Eventually, your new habit becomes a normal routine and the process is more or less mindless and automatic.
Researchers have a fancy term for this process called “automaticity.” Automaticity is the ability to perform a behavior without thinking about each step, which allows the pattern to become automatic and habitual.
But here’s the thing: automaticity only occurs as the result of lots of repetition and practice. The more reps you put in, the more automatic a behavior becomes.
A decade ago I came online and realized that I needed to turn myself into a writer. I focused on that thought for the requisite sixty-eight seconds that I explained above each morning and each evening, but it wasn’t until I started writing each day that automaticity came into play. The number of days required for you to focus on one thing before it becomes a habit is different from person to person and also the activity, but I would say it took me somewhere between twenty-one and thirty days before I thought about writing each day and actually sat down to write without having to remind myself. Clear cites a study in which uninterrupted focus was required for sixty-six days to become automatic. Experiment with this and let me know what happens for you.
The bottom line is that the ability to focus on one thing will increase your productivity and affect other areas of your life as well. Be more determined with your thoughts and actions and enjoy the results of your efforts. I also highly recommend a book by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan called That ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results. You’ll gain even more insight into this fascinating and important topic there.