We live in a fast-paced world with tons of distractions. It’s easy to get caught up in “multi-tasking,” continually investing only your partial attention to multiple activities (i.e., putting your eggs in many baskets). It’s not your fault; there are so many things demanding your attention that focus, to put it gently, is a challenge.

Focus is an essential mental skill, and those folks who can harness and sharpen their mental ninja skills are more likely to execute key tasks efficiently and effectively, stay focused on what they want, and are more likely to accomplish their goals.

The first challenge of focusing is to clearly define what you truly want. Pertinent to this conversation is that your behaviors, actions, and attitudes (the variables that you control) are a direct reflection of your identity (i.e., who you are or who you want to be), your values (i.e., what’s important to you), and priorities (i.e., what you think should come first).

In other words, focus comes from a clear purpose and intention.

In order to help you stay on track—whether it be getting in your workouts, sticking with your nutrition plan, being a better parent, or performing better at work—here are a few strategies that can help you stay focused on what truly matters.

The Morning Check-In

  • Write down your goals, values, and priorities.
  • First thing in the morning, review these stated goals, values, and priorities.
  • Do this every morning.

The Bookend Ritual

  • Write down your goals, values, and priorities and review them in the morning.
  • In the evening, do a “post-game” analysis to see how your behaviors matched up. If your behaviors didn’t match up with your stated goals, values, and priorities, make adjustments accordingly.
  • Using your “post-game” analysis, create an action plan for the following day.
  • Next morning, review the previous day’s plan along with stated goals, values, and priorities.

Daily Goals in Your Pocket
A personal favorite, this involves writing down your small daily goals on a piece of paper and keeping it in your pocket.

Goal Check-In
Take a moment to “check-in” before making any decision that feels impulsive or compulsive. Ask yourself:

  • What do I want right now?
  • What do I ultimately want?
  • Am I willing to sacrifice my goals and values for what I want right now?
  • Could I wait a little while? Sometimes it only takes about five minutes of “delaying discomfort” to stay the course. Have you ever heard of the “Stanford Marshmallow Experiment?” Check it out…if little kids can do it, so can you.

It’s okay if you get distracted. We all do. The best athletes, meditators, and successful professionals do too; however, they’re really good at returning to focus. In other words, if your thoughts wander or you get slightly off track, try the following:

  • Realize that it’s normal
  • Pick up the pieces
  • Identify important lessons, patterns of behavior, and/or environmental circumstances that may have triggered you to get off track
  • Re-focus using your preferred goal review strategy
  • And bounce back as quickly as possible—better than ever