4 simple ideas to help you focus in the early days of a new job

Nov 4, 2016


You have just landed a new job and there’s so much to learn: new colleagues, teams, clients and suppliers, not to mention the targets and deadlines.

These early days, weeks and months at your new job could become overwhelming so the first thing you need to do is to get focused.

Whatever you want to do in life you stand a much better chance of succeeding at it, and succeeding quicker, when you are focused. Just think about people like Richard Branson, Nelson Mandela, Jim Carrey and J K Rowling, whose stories of succeeding against multiple setbacks are well documented. You will find that they all had in common the ability to focus on their goals.

You never really hear about people who lack focus because they never stayed with a goal long enough to achieve it. Focus is really the ability to rule your attention, to decide where you will place it.

The following 4 simple ideas will help you focus in the early days of a new job.

  1. Know what to look at.

    In order to focus, you do of course need to have a goal to work toward, otherwise what are you looking at? Having just started your job you should make sure you know what your manager wants from you. That’s your top priority. Next, be clear on what you personally want to get out of your job, the company or your career. How do they fit together – is there a clash? The number one enemy for lack of focus is not knowing what you want or what other people who are important to your success need from you. You will be like a ship without its compass – steering all over the place. So, get clear today, know what to look at.

  1. Focus on one thing at a time.

    You may want more than one thing, and you may have multiple targets, but you need to focus on one of them at a time. Research clearly shows that we don’t do well when we try to multi task. We have only a limited amount of mental resources available to us at any one time and overloading our brains by trying to focus on too many things at once will send it doolally. As that old Chinese proverb says, “If you chase two rabbits you will lose both.”

    Research also shows that when you move from one task to another it takes the mind time to readjust itself to that new task – which is why we become less productive when constantly distracted and interrupted. You can help yourself by shutting down phones, emails and social media so you can concentrate on completing a task.

  1. Watch your thoughts.

    This is perhaps the most important. People who are focused are disciplined in what they think about. Some people are naturally optimistic but even those who tend towards pessimism can train themselves to become more positive in their thinking habits. Psychology of success speaker and author Denis Waitley says that when you mess up, “Don’t dwell on what went wrong. Instead, focus on what to do next. Spend your energies on moving forward toward finding the answer.” The scientific term for this is cognitive control – we can all control our thoughts with a little willpower. Of course, if you spend your energy thinking about what went wrong you have none left to work through to an answer.

  1. Sharpen your sword.

    If you work at all of the above, you will become sharper. Let me use author Mark Joyner’s illustration to explain what I mean. He said if you study the surface edge of any blunt object, like a spoon, you will see it is diffused and spread over a wider surface. However, a sharp object, like a knife or scissor tip, has a much more pointed edge. If you take the spoon and attempt to cut through say a piece of wood, it is of course going to take you lots of time and energy to do it. The knife is going to do a better and quicker job. This very simple illustration (which you really do not need to do to know which one is most effective) shows that when energy is focused towards a narrower area, the point is sharper. The more diffused the energy is, the less sharp it is.

These are just a few simple ideas to help you focus during the early days of a new job when everything feels overwhelming. Use them and you will be much more effective in your goal to succeed in the company and throughout your career.

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