“When I was studying at the Berklee College of Music, I was consistently on the edge of failing most of my classes.
Not because of lack of understanding, or even of passion, but simply because I was distracted.”
And that distraction meant I wasn’t creating anything worthwhile.
I Simply Couldn’t Get Anything Done
I had gotten to the point where it was impossible for me to work with any degree of focus. I would have to have something in the background, whether it be music, Netflix, or Youtube. As a result, I would pull all-nighters for assignments that should have just taken me a couple hours.
Many of us work in the exact same way every single day. We play music in the background, we keep a tab with Facebook open, and our phones are always within arms reach. Ironically, we sometimes even tell ourselves that this distraction helps us focus.
And unfortunately, these work habits are the very reason we’re not getting the results we want from our career and day-to-day lives. Yes, sound design can be an incredibly lonely process. That’s why it’s so easy to fall prey to the shiny things that are constantly beckoning for our attention.
Though if you can get your brain back to a state of focus and deep work, then you’ll rocket your career forward to an insane degree. Our focus and ability to concentrate is like a muscle. Days that are bereft of deep work gradually wear away at our ability to create meaningful work. Very few people doing creative work today are able to focus for extended periods of time. An 8 hour day may contain 1-2 hours of quality output at best.
But it simply doesn’t do to just say “Hey, focus more and everything will be fine.” For a brain that’s used to distraction, forcing it to focus on the task at hand is like asking a gold fish to climb a tree.
To be able to work deeply, we just need to gradually train that focus muscle and bring our brains back to their natural states.
From Near-Dropout to TED Speaker
I’d like to share with you my absolute favorite technique for training focus. This is how I brought myself from near-failure in college to being able to work on Destiny, Hyper Light Drifter, and a TED talk all at the same time without losing sleep.
[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]To be able to work deeply, we just need to gradually train that focus muscle and bring our brains back to their natural states.[/pullquote]
There are hundreds of ways to get your focus back–this is just one I’d like to share with you that you can do immediately and get fantastic results.
It’s called moving meditation.
Some of you may meditate already, whereas others may not. Your prior experience with meditation doesn’t matter! This is a bit of a different take on things.
Moving meditation works like this:
- Go for a walk/jog in a familiar area.
- Make sure you’re not using headphones or listening to anything. Ideally, you won’t even bring your phone with you.
- While walking, focus your brain on just one problem or task that you’d like to make some progress on.
- Keep yourself focused on this task and keep thinking on it as long as possible.
- When you get distracted, acknowledge your distraction and gently guide yourself back to thinking about the task at hand.
- Continue doing this for the entire walk, gently guiding your brain back to focusing on the task at hand whenever a newer/more enticing thought occurs.
The key is to make sure that you keep bringing yourself back to the task at hand. Even if you firmly believe that something else has come up that’s more important, do not switch your focus. You also do not need to solve your problem outright during that one walk. You just want to make some degree of progress.
Here are some example topics that I’ve used this technique for:
- How to optimize the studio in between projects.
- How to systemize my follow-up process to turn leads into gigs faster.
- Future field recording trips I’d like to take.
- What my next Youtube video should be.
Your walk can be as long as you want. Start off shorter to make things easier for you and gradually increase the length.
You get the benefit of some fresh air, some mild exercise, and you’ll blow your own mind at how much progress and clarity you’ll make towards your bigger goals.
And to top it all off, you’re teaching your brain to focus again.
This will bleed into everything else you do in life and can mean the difference between a mediocre and stellar career.
A Focused Mind is an Inspired Mind
Give this a shot. Maybe you’re struggling with a lack of passion and inspiration at the moment–something that I’ve dealt with more times than I care to count in my life. Allowing ourselves the ability to work deeply will allow for inspiration to come knocking at our door. After all, inspiration is reserved for the dedicated few who give their craft the time, love, and energy it deserves.