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Be inspired every day with Living North
Stay Focused
Health and beauty
March 2024
Reading time 4 Minutes

Becoming more focused and learning to ignore distractions will be a game-changer when it comes to your own success

Living North columnist Dr Maurice Duffy explains why unwavering focus is the real key to success.

Focus is an extraordinary force, akin to a superpower. The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, states a mere 20 percent of your efforts can yield a substantial 80 percent of your results. It becomes paramount, therefore, to invest more time and energy into honing in on this impactful 20 percent. The real crux lies in distinguishing between those who triumph and those who falter, and this distinction hinges on the possession and cultivation of an unwavering focus.

Successful individuals are marked by an unyielding focus on their core objectives. They eschew the distractions of ephemeral trends and the superficial advice of business influencers. In contrast, those less triumphant find themselves perpetually enticed by shiny distractions, unable to wrest control from fleeting impulses.

The winners, however, seize success with a metaphorical grip, developing a concentration so impervious that it repels any potential disruption. Their focus is their shield, enabling them to navigate the complex landscape of goals and aspirations. Those who excel in focus become the architects of change, embodying the transformation they aspire to see in the world.

Conversely, those who struggle to maintain focus find themselves grappling with the challenge of sustaining the relentless drive essential for achieving their aspirations. The question then arises: will you be the architect of an unstoppable plan, meticulously executed with unwavering focus? Or will you be the one who, when the stakes are highest, falters in holding it all together? The choice is yours to make.

Now here is a question I got from one of our readers. ‘I have a demanding job and family responsibilities, but I feel I am getting pulled in 100 different directions every day. I set personal goals at the beginning of this year but just don’t feel like I can fit them into daily life. How do I focus on my own development?’

My advice is to take excellent care of the front end of your day, the rest of your day will take care of itself.

Use the 20/20/20 formula; 20 minutes of exercise, 20 minutes of reflection (journaling, meditating, or quiet contemplation), and 20 minutes devoted to growth (reading, reviewing your goals, or studying a topic of interest).

If you do not know where you are going, every road will get you nowhere… so prioritise and set realistic goals. Revisit and refine your personal goals, ensuring they are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound (SMART). Prioritise them based on their importance and their impact on your overall wellbeing.

Be kind to yourself. Treat yourself as you would your best friend. You wouldn’t criticise them, so don’t do it to yourself. This isn’t about being self-indulgent or lazy, it’s about being more encouraging and compassionate towards ourselves.

You need to answer this question for yourself, ‘Why am I even doing any of this?’. Make sure that at the end of your productivity journey, you can look back and see that it was all for something bigger than yourself. Use time-blocking techniques to allocate specific periods in your schedule dedicated solely to your personal development. This might involve carving out time each day or designating certain days of the week for focused self-improvement activities.

It’s not that we have little time, but more that we waste a good deal of it. So delegate and outsource. Identify tasks at work or home that can be delegated to others, or outsourced, freeing up more of your time for personal development. Delegating responsibilities can help lighten your load and create space for your own growth.

You get what you tolerate. Are you a people pleaser — someone who tends to put other people’s needs before their own? You need to establish boundaries. Clearly communicate your boundaries at work and home. Let your colleagues and family members know when you need focused, uninterrupted time for personal development. By setting boundaries you can create a conducive environment for your growth. 

Look for opportunities to be still. It doesn’t need to be a formal meditation practice; just take 60 seconds to check in with how you feel and focus on the rhythm of your breath, whether that’s during your commute or while you’re waiting in the queue for your lunch. Mindful Practices can help you centre yourself, reduce stress and enhance your ability to stay focused on your personal goals.

Evaluate and adjust as you break down goals into manageable steps. Break down your larger personal development goals into smaller, more manageable steps. This makes them less overwhelming and allows you to make consistent progress, even if you only have short periods of time available each day.

Energy channelled in one direction moves the needle to the goals you want. Focus on what lights a fire inside of you and use that passion to fill a white space. Don’t be afraid of the challenges, the missteps, and any setbacks along the way. What matters is that you keep going.

Align your energy to your goals and plans. Remove what doesn’t fit. Clear the space to find the focused and dedicated time for meaningful actions. Remove the overwhelming distractions that could be holding you back and see what you can do when you’re not so rushed. I say to Sarah, and all those who want to improve, intentional personal development is a journey that multiplies your effectiveness and success, rather than just adding to it. ’Always remember, your focus determines your reality’ — George Lucas.

Dr Maurice Duffy is Visiting Professor at Sunderland, consulting coach to the NHS, the Australian cricket team, Durham Cricket Club, international golfers, rugby and many sports people, and also coaches many senior FTSE 100 business leaders and politicians around the world. Find out more at or follow him on X @drmauriceduffy.

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