It’s a new year and with it, you may be facing a lengthy list of goals, intentions, and to-dos to tackle. According to Harvard psychiatrist Dr. Srini Pillay, who runs the NeuroBusiness Group (a company which uses brain science to help leaders further their personal and business goals), while you need a certain amount of focus to get things done, too much focus can actually keep you from achieving the success you’re after.
Instead, Pillay recommends a pattern of focus and unfocus throughout the day to help you achieve success — via ‘breaks’ with doodling, constructive daydreaming, and even napping. His new book Tinker Dabble Doodle Try, Unlock the Power of the Unfocused Mind is packed full of such solutions to help you unfocus – thereby tapping into greater ingenuity and creativity.
Still not convinced that doodling and daydreaming is the way to lead a more successful and fulfilled life? Here are Pillay’s top five reasons why too much focus may do your goals in.
1. When you focus all day long, you deplete your brain of energy
Brain energy is important, says Pillay. “We think we can keep on focusing the whole day, yet we don’t realize we’re depleting our brains of energy – and [when that happens,] we actually stop caring. We even stop being able to focus effectively in the first place.”
2. Too much focus blinds you to what’s in your periphery
“Focus prevents you from seeing what’s going on in the wings,” explains Pillay. You can be on track, thinking ‘This is my career. This is my startup. This is what I’m doing,’ but you can completely ignore the competition. Classic example: An Wang, who invented the revolutionary word processor… got into an issue with IBM, and didn’t trust them. While IBM was releasing the PC, which Wang could easily have released himself, he was focusing on the second version of the word processor. By only focusing on the word processor, he was going through life with blinkers on… and as a result he became bankrupt and lost his business.”
3. When you focus too much on what’s happening in the moment, you lose sight of the future
Pillay reveals that if you focus with your nose to the ground, you don’t have eyes into the future. He shares, “My niece, for example, called me. She said, ‘I want to let you know I got a 100% on my accounting test,’ and I was like, ‘That’s great. But do you realize that you’re in a field that’s becoming extinct? Very soon robots are going to be doing what you’re doing. Maybe you want to take a leadership course, so you can learn how to run a company of robots that are doing accounting?’ So if she’s just focused on the test, but she’s not focused on the future, she’s missing out on what the upcoming patterns are.”
4. Focus doesn’t allow you to make connections
“Gillette was a company that had a battery division, toothbrush division, and an appliance division,” says Pillay. “But they were not first to market with the electric toothbrush…because nobody was talking across the company. Each division was just focused on what it was doing. So there was no connection and no creativity.” Likewise, taking time to talk to friends or colleagues can inspire your work and vision for success.
5. Focus prevents self-connection
“When you’re super-focused, your brain operates a little bit like a fork, so it picks up all the parts of your identity that are like your LinkedIn profile or resume. You know – went to school here, did that. But we all know our LinkedIn profiles don’t really describe who we are as people.” Stepping back ensures that you’re a well-rounded person with multiple interests and dreams, which can lead you into exciting, unexpected territory.
To learn more about these strategies and his new book, listen to the podcast on Bulletproof Radio.