When you hear the word ‘focus’, you immediately think of concentration. But there’s more to focus than that.

Daniel Goleman, a bestselling author and psychologist, believes focus to be of two kinds: “inward awareness of our thoughts and our feelings” and concern for “others, to empathize and understand them”. According to Goleman, focus is not just the opposite of distraction—it includes compassion, care, and reflection.

Focus is one of the building blocks of Emotional Intelligence or EI, the ability to manage emotions and harness them to perform tasks, solve problems, and think critically.

Harappa’s Practicing Excellence course will prove valuable for those looking to develop or sharpen their ability to focus—the practice exercises and takeaways in the course have been specially designed to reinforce behaviors that have been successfully deployed in professional environments.

Building focus: my top three approaches

Here are my top three approaches, from the course and beyond, on building focus and setting yourself up for excellence:

1. Pomodoro your way through procrastination 

In professional and academic environments, we are often asked to complete tasks that we might not particularly enjoy or find challenging. While it’s natural to want to put these off and procrastinate, it is less painless to just get them done. This is easier said than done. The Pomodoro technique; a time management method developed in the 1980s, might come in handy in such situations. Here’s what the technique requires you to do:

  • Break each project or task into smaller tasks or sub-tasks

  • Decide which ones you will take up on a particular day and allot some time to spend on each of them

  • Take breaks in between finishing one and getting started on the next

2. Eliminate distractions

A distraction is essentially something that prevents one from concentrating on something else. Based on the goal you are trying to accomplish, eliminate distractions by identifying and avoiding triggers for these unwanted behaviors. One way to do that is to zero-in on an alternative focus.

For instance, if a person’s goal is to avoid snacking between meals, you could divert their focus to a topic they are passionate about–such as planning a holiday, or listening to some music–so that there is a chance that they will not think about food.

Similarly, at work, you can eliminate distractions by saving the more enjoyable tasks for later in the day. Start your day by checking-off the dreaded tasks—you will be motivated to finish them because the enjoyable tasks are waiting for you on the other side.

3. Take ownership

Think back here to what Daniel Goleman said about inward and outward focus. Taking ownership requires you to have an inner awareness that you can tap into to manage distractions. It also requires you to leverage your understanding of others to have productive interactions and build healthy relationships.

For instance, if you are managing a team, taking ownership of tasks would mean understanding your strengths and those of your team members, and delegating tasks to the right people. Ownership also means taking charge of failure and accepting responsibility.

Start by trying these approaches at your workplace and measure their impact on the manner and quality of your work. For more, don’t forget to check out the course on Practicing Excellence, and watch out for our next blog on a different aspect of Emotional Intelligence.

Explore blogs in our Harappa Diaries section to learn about emotional intelligence, examples of emotional intelligence, and the components of emotional intelligence in our Harappa Diaries section and take charge of your growth.

Varalika Singh is Manager, Behavior Analytics with the Product Team at Harappa Education. She has a Masters in Digital Media Design for Learning from New York University. She loves trying different kinds of coffee and enjoys listening to podcasts and TED Talks in her free time.


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