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Find Your Focus Zone

It can be a tough spot to reach, but once you're there, it's worth it.

Allyson Lewis, 05/27/2010

Your "focus zone" is that perfect balance of attention, concentration, enthusiasm, desire, and motivation. Your senses are in tune with what you are doing. You experience an incredible sense of fulfillment and have an uncompromised feeling of productivity and efficiency.

Athletes often speak of being "in the zone" when they are competing at their peak levels of performance. And great businessmen and businesswomen have knowingly or unknowingly discovered the secret to finding their focus zone. Recently, I interviewed Lucy Jo Palladino. She is an award-winning psychologist and attention expert with 30 years of professional experience and the author of the 2007 book "Find Your Focus Zone: An Effective New Plan to Defeat Distraction and Overload."

Foundations of Productivity
She's a time-management and productivity expert, so I first asked her to define time management and explain why it's important to financial advisors.

Lucy Jo Palladino: "Most people think of time management as being defined as writing down your priorities on paper and allocating the appropriate amounts of time for completion of each task. But, this is only a good first step. Time management is really attention management. It is making a conscious choice to engage the full power of your brain and the chemicals it releases to turn your written priorities into daily activities.

The best analogy I have is if you are going on a trip and you are merely holding the map in your hands, then the map is a great first start--but the map doesn't take you to your destination--only action can take you somewhere. Absolutely taking the time to define your priorities and allocating time to complete each task is the beginning of time management, then choose to take it one step farther and choose to initiate the action on accomplishing each of the priorities you have deemed important in your life."

Question: Once you have established your priorities, how can you really find your focus zone and work at a more optimal level so priorities turn into action?

Lucy Jo Palladino: There are three steps to finding your focus zone:

* You need to understand what your personal optimal focus zone is. It may be helpful to understand how the brain works. Your brain is like an elaborate orchestra and the frontal lobe carries out the executive function and is in charge of attention and planning. Your focus zone is closely tied to your intellectual arousal levels. You have neurotransmitters or chemicals in your brain that are adrenaline based that act like a dimmer switch in your brain--pump more adrenaline, then you can increase your attention span--pump too little and you lose interest. But, adrenaline only works to a certain point. If you pump too much adrenaline--you can move quickly past your optimum focus zone and you can become overly excited, frustrated, irritable, anxious, and distracted. The key to working at your most efficient level is to find the perfect blend of brain chemicals--where you are pumping just the right amount of adrenaline based chemicals to keep you interested in what you are working on, but not so much that you feel stressed or overwhelmed.

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