How To Focus Your Mind Instantly

Brainman!When you try to do everything, you do nothing. (tweet this)

To avoid doing nothing, we must focus in the moment, which requires choice, clarity, and commitment. Saying “I’m going to focus” is not enough.

We’ve already covered how to get focused daily with a five step system and an impromptu five minute solution for late starts. Those solutions suggested making a list of objectives for the day. Lists are a great idea, but this post is about the mechanics of focusing, and focusing in the moment.

You don’t need pen and paper. You don’t need anything except to keep three steps in mind. Mentally running through these steps at any time will have you focused in seconds.  

So, how do you focus your mind instantly? It’s simple – choose, clarify, and commit!

1. Choose ONE Objective

Don’t say: “I’m going to focus.”

Do ask: “I’m going to focus on what single thing?”

This question will bring you to consider objectives. When you select one objective from a quick calculation of your situation and your most important tasks, THEN you can say, “I am going to focus on cleaning my dresser!”

Take the pressure off yourself for choosing the very best task (perfectionism). What you choose matters less than you think. It’s better to be focused on one good task than to be distracted with several potentially great tasks. (tweet this)

And choosing one single objective is the non-optional, required, ironclad, sealed, official, FDA-approved, permanent, necessary first step for getting focused in the moment. Don’t try any other way!

2. Clarify Your First Tiny Step

I like to treat myself as if I’m a little child. If I decide to write an article, I’ll say to myself in a baby voice, “can you write five words? Why don’t you do that right now and I’ll give you an animal cracker? Very good!” It’s so degrading, but I won’t turn myself in for mental illness or get too upset, because it works too darn well. It must be the animal crackers…or perhaps it’s the small steps.

Small steps are not just complimentary to focusing, they’re a necessary component of it. Who can focus on building a house? According to the broader meaning of focus, anyone can. But in the real world, you can only focus on mixing cement in a wheelbarrow or cutting a piece of rebar in order to accomplish the objective of building a house.

Many people aim to focus on a big multi-step objective, but it’s impossible. You can only focus on small individual steps.

We do ourselves a great disservice when we assume that we can “put the pieces” together for completing our objective. We are just like computers in that we follow specific instructions. You may be used to following instructions without thinking much about it, but you still do it.

Going to the gym

  1. Open drawer and get athletic shorts
  2. Put on shorts
  3. Do steps 1 & 2 for a shirt and socks too
  4. Put on shoes & tie the laces
  5. Grab water bottle, keys, wallet, and phone
  6. Drive to the gym

This list is obvious, and more effective than the one-step “go to the gym.” It is especially helpful when you’re resistant to doing work. When you don’t want to do something and know you should, you’ll think, “I should really go to the gym.” That statement is weak and ineffective compared to the simple step of putting on gym shorts, because the latter starts the process. When you’re ready to go to the gym, you’ll think, “I’m going to put on gym shorts.”

Don’t make it easy to opt out of important tasks. Be specific about your first tiny steps, and make them so small that you can’t say no. Small steps are the “meat” of the focusing sandwich—if you want to use them to completely transform your life (as I did), then read my worldwide bestselling book, Mini Habits, which is now in 17 languages.

3. Commit To Refocusing

You will lose focus. Count on it and prepare for it. I once heard that the average person loses focus every 10 seconds, and I believe it. They say that great writing is rewriting. In the same way, great focusing is refocusing. (tweet this)

Anyone can focus for seven seconds. It’s staying focused that holds value and makes you a focus master and über productive. It isn’t hard to stay focused, it just requires training like any other skill.

A common pitfall for me and many others is failing to update our current focal point. We’ll set the first small task, complete it, and then space out. To focus, you must know your current task in each moment. When you no longer have a specific task to carry out, you will lose focus. Every time. You can’t focus on nothing, as this quote points out:

“For a person to become deeply involved in any activity it is essential that he knows precisely what tasks he must accomplish, moment by moment.”
~ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Recap And Final Words

Anytime you’re struggling to focus in the moment, run through these rules.

  1. Do I have a single objective? Name it.
  2. Do I have a related small task to focus on right now? Define the first step.
  3. Am I committed to it? Refocus on small steps until your objective is complete.

“You can do anything” is an inspiring phrase, but it’s not usually the issue. Are we really stretching the boundaries of our human abilities so much to be looking at seemingly impossible tasks and saying that we can do anything? Is that relevant to the average person?

We know what we can do and we’re wallowing well below it. It’s whether or not we can get ourselves to do what we’re capable of, which is why I prefer the phrase “you can get yourself to do anything!” This is the problem most of us struggle with, and when you become a focus master, you’ll be able to get yourself to do anything, and your focus will enable you to do it well.

You must master yourself before you can master the world. (tweet this)

About the Author

I'm lazy, but you can call me Stephen. When you're as lazy as I am, you need superior strategies to live well. My strategies are so effective that I'm productive every single day. As the world tries to figure out how to always stay motivated, I create strategies that don't require it.


I’ll say to myself in a baby voice, “can you write five words? Why don’t you do that right now and I’ll give you an animal cracker? Very good!”

ha ha ha even before going through the entire article- I’d like to comment that it is truly a BEAUTIFUL way to approach yourself. Whoever in her mind thinks that it is degrading will soon come to this immensely satisfying way of living!
Ok- Now will get back to the article! 🙂

Kevin Cole

Animal crackers are always a solid incentive 🙂

I’m totally on board with breaking things down into smaller components. That’s literally how I survived in college. With dry textbooks, term papers, exams, etc. it was easy to lose focus. But by breaking down each task into the smallest form possible, it became much easier to handle. Not to mention it allowed me to never feel overwhelmed.

Great stuff Stephen!

Stephen Guise

It’s a fun way to approach yourself/life. 🙂

Stephen Guise

I will be telling the wonders of small steps until my dying days! You were smart to use them in school. They’ve done so much for me too – like you said, they remove the overwhelming feelings that can lead us to do nothing instead of something.

David O. Lawal

Very inspiring and timely. Found every tip true. Thanks for sharing.

Stephen Guise

You’re welcome David. Thanks for the comment. 🙂

Onder Hassan

The second point about taking a tiny step helped me massively when it come to self motivation.

I remember when I first started salsa classes, it was a pain having to go there and take lessons as I was so bad at it. But it wasn’t until I realized that I had to simply focus on the first step of getting out of the house and starting my car that it made things easier. Because by that point, there’s no turning back.

It’s always the first step that makes all the difference because it builds massive momentum.

Stephen Guise

That’s a perfect example of what makes small steps work. No turning back + forward momentum can propel people to do amazing things! Thanks for sharing that, Onder.

Salsa, huh? I bet that would be fun once you got good at it.

Bruce Scott

This sounds all very good yet I found myself asking, is this a technique I should or could use all day long? With literally every thing I do? Or is there a necessary period of time through the day where I should “let go”? Or when it is just better to let go of focus. Also could this type of focusing limit creative possibilities?

Stephen Guise

My philosophy is that you should use it as much as you want to. Focusing uses up a lot of energy, and it isn’t realistic or even desirable to focus 24/7/365. So when you find yourself wanting to be productive, that means you’ve got the energy to do it and focusing will benefit you. If you’re completely exhausted already, then trying to focus will probably put you to sleep.

The takeaway is that it’s better to have 4 hours of focused effort than 10 hours of unfocused effort. And this is just an idea, but I imagine if you “focused on relaxation,” you could recharge yourself faster. This is something I plan to research in the future.

So I think a lot of it comes down to understanding your natural limits vs. your self-imposed limits by asking yourself if you are truly out of energy or are making excuses. For someone who doesn’t focus at all, they’d see a huge boost in productivity even from a couple hours of focused effort per day. Even one hour. I know because I’ve lived both ways, and the difference is astounding.

Focusing For Creativity
On the contrary, focusing and restricting options greatly enhance creativity! It is commonly believed to be the opposite, but studies continue to show that restriction of choices and options are a boost to creativity. It seems counterintuitive at first, but when you think about what creativity involves, it does make sense. This quote from a study says it well:

“Interestingly, in two experiments, we find that increasing the choice of creative inputs (from a moderate to an extensive choice set) for consumers experienced in a creative task can hurt objective creative outcomes…

These effects on actual creativity stand in sharp contrast with consumers’ perception of their own creativity: regardless of their experience level, we find that consumers perceive themselves as being more creative, when they have more choice. Thus, restricting choice can benefit objective creativity but hurts creators’ self-perception of creativity.”

source –

Thanks for the great questions!

Emmanuel Ocharles

This is a great article,if only i was focused enough to read everything through, i got to the last world” tweet this” but just realized, i had lost focus halfway reading an article on focus

Stephen Guise

Haha, then you didn’t do step #3 – commit to refocusing. 🙂

Emmanuel Ocharles

Oh! you have no idea, my mind is like a subway, with thoughts moving in and out at will and i have the attention span of a jelly fish.

Stephen Guise

With practice, I’m sure you could improve to at least the attention span of a more focused sea creature.

Onder Hassan

It’s tough to get motivated at the start as I had 2 left feet, literally.
But it got very fun after about 6 months of consistent practice after I got my basics down and built muscle memory enough to no longer think about it 🙂

I suppose it could be said with everything we embark on at the start of our development when learning a new skill.

At the start, we’re impatient and want to be as good as everyone else in the class.

Stephen Guise

My favorite part is when you’re better from the work you’ve put in, and you look back and see how you’ve progressed. That’s a satisfying feeling.


Refocusing is definitely the hard part for me. I find that unless I can find a reason I can truly accept, it is incredibly difficult for me to focus for long stretches of time. So for work, just ‘the boss says so’ doesn’t cut if for me, and I end up doing poor or slow work. If I can visualize the end result of working effectively, like promotion and increased flexibility, it gets easier to focus on doing menial tasks as effectively as I can.

Stephen Guise

Refocusing is the most difficult part of focusing. Great insight though about visualizing the end result. That’s the force that pulls us forward into focusing.

With visualization and clear moment-by-moment tasks, it becomes much easier to refocus!

My struggle with refocusing is often in not making a firm decision or failing to make the decision clear and specific enough to know the precise action I need to take next. For complex projects, it can be really challenging to simplify your thoughts, and this is where writing ideas down helps immensely!

This is something I want to explore in a future post. Thanks Ragnar!


Yeah sometimes the simplifying itself becomes a task you need to simplify and commit to on it’s own… especially if you’re exploring unfamiliar territory.

That’s awesome, for the most part I’m on the being inspired end of the specter in the blogosphere, so I’m happy to have inspired you! Looking forward to reading it. ^^


Jut a minor thing I keep noticing in your articles. You mentioned some times that the subject ‘drives’ to the gym. Isn’t that a bit dumb though, to use resources and money to go exercise while you can also replace this driving part with walking or biking? It will save you money, CO2 and perhaps the most important of all: you will exercise more!

Otherwise, this is good stuff and I am enjoying reading these articles. Your advice is helpful!

Stephen Guise

Hi Dirk, I understand your points. As for walking or biking to the gym, that isn’t really something I’m interested in or can do right now (no bike + it’s too far). If you or anyone else can, then that’s great. What I’m doing now has me exercising consistently and in great shape, so that’s good enough for me.

It helped tremendously when I switched from working out at home to driving to the gym. And I recently wrote an article with 6 reasons to choose the gym over home workouts (not published yet). You mentioned the increased time/money from driving, but I’ve found that to be a key benefit to motivate me not to waste my trip to the gym. We care more about things we invest in.

Biking and walking are fantastic. I would LOVE to go carless at some point, so depending on where I move, I might look to get a nice bike, and then I’d be biking everywhere! 🙂

Vishaun Kistan

Great guide! I would probably do all these!


I see your blog needs some fresh articles. Writing manually is time
consuming, there is tool for this task. Just search in gogle for; marihhus content tool


This is a great blog, would you be involved in doing an interview about how you created it? If so email me! cgededeeddekedaa

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