As defined, focus is the state or quality of having or producing clear visual definition. One notion I often tell my students, football team, fellow educators, etc. is to ‘lock in’. Whatever the task at hand currently is, ‘lock in’ and give your all to that particular activity ‘right now’! This idea (which is truly helpful when I remember to utilize it) actually comes from Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The concept is to 'put first things first'. Seems simple enough until real life hits with a flurry during the work day or any other time, for that matter. However, if we were to follow this simple rule; learn how to focus our attention . . . those hectic days could be simplified greatly.
One's life can be quite active, but it also can turn into chaos in the blink of an eye. Remember, while certainly my opinion, multi-tasking is not a strength; it's simply doing multiple things marginally, at best. Lock in on one item and knock it out of the park, so to speak.
As an example, let's take a very possible morning in the life of a teacher (but this concept could be applicable to any job, age, etc.).
Said teacher enters school at 7:20am and is immediately called to the office. While in the office, they are asked to sub during their prep hour (2nd period), since no substitutes are available. After you say "sure" you get to your room where a student, who is leaving before they have your class, is asking for any homework for the night. You tell them to come after homeroom to pick it up. Now, you login to your computer and open your school email. There are 20 messages from the previous night, none of which seem of vital importance. The minute before homeroom starts an announcement comes over the PA reminding teachers to check their grade printouts for any errors and send them down with a student by the end of homeroom.
Now, mind you . . . all of this has occurred within a 10 minute timespan from the moment you walked into school. Just typing it has my head in a spin. However, if you focus on the most important item and work your way from there, it should make things more manageable for yourself. Let's take a look of your responsibilities from the first 10 minutes of your morning.
1. You need to sub for 2nd hour.
2. You need to get homework for student coming to see you after homeroom.
3. You see tons of emails.
4. You need to turn in your grade report sheets before homeroom is over (10 minutes).
By looking at this list, it's time for the teacher in you to come up with a game plan! Being a coach, as well, here's my suggestion for a winning plan to start your day and not lose your mind.
1a. You aren't needed to sub until 2nd hour, so check that off your list.
2a. Student will be in your room in about 10 minutes to pick up homework. You have to be ready for this one.
3a. Never, ever get tangled in emails when your students are requiring your attention. Wait until a prep period, lunch, or after school to deal with emails.
4a. This is the one. Those grade reports are due in 10 minutes. If you were smart, they're already looked over, so all you need to do is sign them and send them to the office. Bottom line is THIS IS THE FIRST THING TO GET DONE!
Therefore, our game plan is as follows:
Quickly check over your grade reports to see that everything looks alright. If you make a mistake, you can always fix it. Then, send it down with a student. (Check) Now, realize that this one assignment (or homework) is not going to be life altering in the grand scheme of things. Drop it. (Check) Don't worry about 2nd hour, you have to teach your 1st hour . . . why look that far ahead? (Check) Emails . . . NO! Not until there is time without students needing your attention. (Check)
Obviously, the key here is to prioritize. You cannot get everything done at once (or even multi-task your way out of it), as something will most likely get missed. Lock in on what’s most important, complete and move on to the next item on your priority list. Thereby, you are being strategic, proactive and not getting caught on your heels (which is never optimal).