Personal Development

How to be more focused

Steven Aitchison
Written by Steven Aitchison

The downtime and uptime of the attentive mind

In NLP there are two states of attention called downtime and uptime.

Downtime is when we are focusing our attention on our internal
world. We
drift in and out of downtime all the time. When we are reading something
and we haven’t taken the text in at all as we have been focusing on
something else in our minds. It is an unconscious process, we don’t
really have control of it unless we become conscious of it.

givers_of_energyUptime is when we are concentrating on the external world. When we need
to focus on driving a road we don’t know, we are in uptime. Our
thoughts tend not to drift internally when we need to concentrate on something.

The importance of downtime and uptime is that we can balance them by becoming
conscious of our attention. The benefit to you is that you can
become more focused in the external world (uptime) and more relaxed in your
internal world (downtime).

Being focused

After an argument, do you ever have conversations in your head, about what
you could have said to that person if you were calmer or had been a little
more quick witted? We all have thoughts like this every day. I was driving
down to work the other day when another driver cut in front of me, I then proceeded
to think of a whole scenario whereby I had an argument with the driver, what
I would say, what he would say, the police getting involved, how my wife would
feel, how the kids would react…….it was crazy. I had a
full blown argument in my head, I felt the emotions, I saw the outcomes of
different scenes and I put myself into a state of anger all because someone
had cut in front of me. From that one event I wasted so much energy,
wasted time thinking about what might have happened, put myself into a bad
mood, and it could have been such a shit day had I not caught myself in time. I
thought of something happy in my life and quickly changed the state, but you
can see how being in downtime when we should be in uptime can change us.

If we are focused and make ourselves aware of what we are
doing at any particular moment we can learn to concentrate better and have
a more productive life. In
buddhism this is called ‘being in the moment’ or ‘mindfulness’.

Becoming more focused in uptime

  1. To start becoming more focused take it a step at a time. For
    the next week make a point to become aware of your surroundings on the
    hour every waking hour. So for example your are in the office and
    it’s 10
    O’Clock become aware of your surroundings. Become aware of
    the people sitting next to you, become aware of the caller you are speaking
    to, their voice, their tone, their state. Just try and take in everything
    around you and notice little things like the colour of the poster on the
    wall, the smell in the office. This will kickstart your uptime focussing.
  2. After 2 or 3 weeks of general focussing become more
    specific. Notice
    what people are wearing from day to day, notice their hairstyles, notice
    their moods, notice the changes in the office. Also begin to notice
    your thoughts at any given moment, how are you feeling? Don’t question
    it, just notice it. Pretty soon you will start to see patterns in your
    thinking. You are happier around particular people, you are happier
    at a particular time of day.
  3. After another 2-3 weeks focus on the job your are doing. If you are
    a plumber, notice the tools you are using and how they are used, concentrate
    of every turn of the wrench, listen to your breathing as you are working,
    every time your thoughts drift internally pull them back to the moment. It
    can help to say out loud or internally what you are doing: “ I am typing
    on my keyboard”, “ I am driving to work, I can see a blue car
    in front of me” etc
  4. Over time you will become much more used to being mindful
    and it will happen automatically. However do not get complacent,
    every now and again remind yourself to be in the moment.

Being more relaxed in downtime

  1. By being more aware and concentrating more in uptime
    you will automatically become more relaxed in downtime. Ultimate downtime is sleeping and
    you will find your sleep is deeper therefore you are more relaxed
    and refreshed in the morning.
  2. Also practicing simple meditation will greatly enhance
    your downtime and life in general. 15 minutes per day in downtime
    meditation will greatly enhance your concentration, focus, visualisation,
    law of attraction and your life in general.
  3. I listen to guided meditations for my downtime meditation and use it in
    the morning and afternoon.
  4. Take downtime breaks at work. As I am out in the car visiting clients
    a lot of the time I take a few 10 minute breaks on a hill overlooking countryside
    and it’s great just to sit there and look out. I find it refreshes
    my mind and prepares me for the next few hours ahead.

Downtime and uptime go hand in hand and you can greatly enhance
your life if you practice focused mindful uptime and more relaxing downtime. Why
not try it for 21
days and make it a habit
or just let it go if it doesn’t work for


Some Amazing Comments


About the author


  • I found this interesting and helpful, i work as a nurs and was told i often seem scattered and unable to focus, so i tried to be more aware but I also wonder if i often have an expression on my face? as a nurse you often juggle many activities and have to prioritize according to importance. I was not given any concrete examples as to what makes me appear that way so it,s quite upsetting to hear I appear scattered but no one can give an example… any advice?

  • Dear Mr. Atichison,

    Your blog is so simple & interesting. I never visit any blogs or so, cos I feel its a waste of time, however your personal touch is something that is really inspiring.

    I shall visit your blogs more often.

    Thank you,

    Ghanshyam Tawadia.

  • hello my name is daniela im 20 years old and i am extreamly un foccused and forgetfull i go to the kitchen and i leave all the cabenets open i forget to turn off the lights i leave my keys stuck to the door all the time i try to start doing things better but it just last me one day and the next day im back to my habbets its really anoying to be this way im constently loosing money and important papers i get complaints at the jobs i work at my boyfriends argues with me all day about it i wish i could be more focused and orginized so i could just have a better life please help!!!

  • Hi readers! in my university days am used to waking up at night and read, which i enjoy doing most. But now it is just too hard for me to do, albeit am working. Nevertheless, i should be able to strive and proceed with that. Have thought of stress being amongst the cause. Please i need your help, i want to strive and be guru in dealings.

  • hello. i have trouble concentrating and focusing on certain things. i know i think toooo much and this is affecting the reality . i’ll start school in 2 weeks and i need help. i need to be more focus. sometimes i fee like i’m living in another world, more in downtime than in uptime. do you think you can help me?

  • Hi, im 27 years old. I adopoted 2 boys when I was 19 after I decided that it was time to grow up and take on some responsabilities. They have changed my life and I am very proud of them but I have problems feeling proud and focus about myself. I’ve always been very artistic and intelligent since I can remember. I have photographic memory and I am able to do many things like cooking, painting mostly portraits, design clothes, cut hair etc.. but still don’t feel happy. I am very lucky to say that I have met hundreds of wonderful people in my entire life but I have problems keeping in touch with them and I ended up ignoring their phone calls or emails until they finally give up and never call me again… I am still trying to figure out what kind of fear am I experiencing that prevents me to keep all these awesome people around me and the part that hurts me the most is that I know they truly like me and care about me. I just feel that I have to many thoughts in my head and I am unable to focus and finish projects or tasks. I am a great mom and dedicated worker but I think and worry to much. Now a days my thoughts are all over the place. Do you have any advice for me? I would really appreciate it. Thank you.

  • Hi,

    What we focus on and pay attention to at any given time is very important. we need to concentrate to finish what you started. If we don’t focus, we can be easily distracted and pass our whole life away, frustrated and unfulfilled, without accomplishing anything of what you wanted.

    Usually we have to do one thing before we do another, so there is a progression and order. On occasion we have to complete two or more tasks almost simultaneously. Do what we need to do to the best of your ability, but do not lose our focus!
    .-= Ben Tien´s last blog ..5 Rules to Increase Your Optimism via NLP Reframe =-.

  • Hi.
    Very informative…i practice meditation to manage stress and and get rid of disturbing thoughts”. I work during night shifts, which is why i’m not at a state where mind functions normally which i “feel”.I would like to know, can having more focus control on surroundings would help me getting more control on my mind?


  • Hey,

    I never thought I would meet people who feel so similar to mine. My goodness! This life’s such a torture. Even I feel I cannot focus. Although things werent like this when I was young. Currently I’m 25 and already sick of life.

    Anyway here are certain facts that I gather:
    1)One thing that is common to all of us is that we think we are intelligent (yeah maybe we are)
    2)We are having work that has a lot of stress or that gave us a lot of stress before (I’m working in an IT company).

    If point no.2 is true then probably the matter is solved. What we are all feeling are the after-effects of stress (or maybe we are still in the stress). I really dont know how to deal with it. But currently I’m trying out a guided meditation audio.

    3)One more thing that might be common in all of us is that we dont do much physical work. I think that might also be wearing us down. Lets make it a point to get up and jump 30 times every morning/or jog for exactly 2 min by watch after getting up. It would be great if we could do 3-4 push-ups too daily.

    Please tell me if these points are common to you all.

  • I can relate to all of these responses so far.

    I am healthy, and well, make friends easily (though quickly find faults with them) and am generally positive (I think) and active(ish). I believe that I’m intelligent. I take an active interest in the world around me, in causes, in trivia. I love to travel, and have hobbies like photography that I enjoy doing…

    BUT,in terms of work, there is a problem.

    Anything that I see as a ‘job’ becomes impossible to do.

    I want to do something that I love doing, but I either can’t find that thing, or else I’m just not good enough at it.

    I too am full of initial enthusiasm and ideas, but don’t see things through and lose focus. I am sort of lazy too… am happy doing absolutely nothing sometimes… and then full of boundless energy at other times. I too, feel as though I could achieve great things, if only I could start something and actually stick to it. My mind is all over the place – driven hither and thither by emotions, fantasies, day-dreaming…

    I have an active imagination, and can be somewhat creative. But, inside me there is a person who wants to achieve, but who lacks a go-getting attitude. Am I am afraid of failure? Don’t I have enough focus or concentration? What is it about the way that my brain works that prevents me form just ‘doing’- organizing things out, and doing them one-by-one, ticking off the boxes in my to-do list…?

    Instead, I somehow fail… I get confused by the enormity of the task, I get frustrated and impatient… In my head I want it all done NOW, but fail to be able to do the steps necessary to get there. It makes me feel very despondent and I feel like a failure. So then I stop and do nothing again.

    I have been like this my whole life. I have many qualifications, and should, I believe, be very successful. But, I’m not. Is this ‘mental stumbling block’ a result of ‘bad mental processes’? Is it something that can be cured? Do I have something like ADD? Can anyone help me?

  • Hi Maral, I feel your pain! No need for me to describe all the reasons why I’m here on this site, cause they’re the same as yours. So obviously I can’t give you any advice, but I will send you a “cyber-hug” and a prayer for all of us to be gentle with ourselves until we can finally cross the burning sands and do the backstroke at the oasis!

  • Hi All,

    conners, I felt very happy reading your post I thought I was the only guy like that. I was in much worse place 2 years ago. I even didn’t have the to do list and was doing everything what others told me. Then I decided to change it was very hard really very very hard but I didn’t give up and it worked, now I have a to do list (wish list) and very long one:)) Now I’m also struggling to do it. Reading your post I understood that the only way to do it is to do it. I guess it’s much easier than changing the life.

    Steve thanks for this article. I’m just tired it was really very hard to turn the life for 180 degree. I was hoping that the rest will come by itself but it doesn’t seem to be true. I have the things to be done and I’m doing everything to avoid it:) that’s how find this article (and a lot others) and I liked it.
    I feel like I’m missing some motivation and I could find something in your article. Good idea to do things step by step not all together:)

    Thanks. I’m sure it will work.

    I just wanted to share my thoughts:)


  • Helllo, I have this “unable to focus” nature.
    People always tell me Im talented, but I think more about what I could have done, instead of doing something.
    Little non-iportant problems become a huge major thing in my head, and I feed them with my feelings, and they become bigger and bigger, I feel I could turn insane.I was rying to meditate, and do yoga.
    Im uncomfortable wherever I go.
    Advices like, get more concentrated and calm down, do not help.=(
    Im trying, im doing my best.IT never works.I do it one time, and later I just come back to my familiar routine.
    I cannot organize things out, is it because of my laziness, or something else, but for some people it’s so easy to get everything done quicky and without any feeling, put in that
    , for me its a torture!!!
    and most of the time, Im messing everyhting up.

    Please, help me if you can.



  • Hi Ruth

    I would appreciate if you would contact me using the contact form and we can work through this via email. You may see this as a problem but it can be fixed if you are willing to work at it and i would love to help you.



  • Dear Ruth,
    You did not mention your age but I am 65. I came across this site as our son is now 40 and I thought I would look for similar letters to a grown child and that is how your letter came up. I was struck about your profile as it is almost identical to mine. I can only suggest that you be tested for A.D.D..I was about 15 years ago and have been medicated nad it makes my brain just “feel better” if that makes sense. My husband of 42 years has noticed a change. I have had to work on my patience as well. Askk God to show youu very clearly what gifts he has given you and act on them. Read a Proverb every day (love how there’s one for every day of the month!) Also know that I have found myself to be impulsive and tend to make choices too quickly and do things too impulsively as well. Back to the Bible, in the old Testament the book of Jeremiah 33:3 it says”CALL TO ME AND I WILL ANSWER YOU AND TELL YOU GREAT AND UNSEARCHABLE THINGS YOU DO NOT KNOW’. wELL, THAT IS very COMFORTING FOR ME AS IT GIVES ME HOPE AND THE DIRECTION i NEED. Ruth, I will pray for you, your wonderful spirit and that God will guide you onto himself so that you may experience his peace. It is also very important that you eat the right foods and at the right times. Three meals a day. Let me know how you are doing. Your new Friend, L.Jane

  • I never feel completely relaxed, I am not lazy but start many jobs and do not finish them. I am full of enthusiasm but get fed up too quickly. I do not have any money or health worries. I make friends very easily but after a while find them irratating. I feel that I have to be the one that keeps the conversation rolling and ideas going in a conversation, I cannot stand awkward silences.Please can you help me?

  • I think that’s a great article. Often to make tips like these work you need to take them and own them. In other words make them yours by finding ways of adapting them to your life. Even partially adding some of the points here will help if you persist with them.

  • thank you mr aitchison for your reply but i am sadley to report back that your method did not work. i did try ur advice getting up 1 hour before normal but the things i have on my to do list can be noisey when others are in bed. also it made me even more tired in the evening when getting back from work.

  • Hi Conners

    Thanks for leaving a comment.

    You admit you are lazy and you also state your to do list is looked at in the evening when you get home; when you are tired, your brain is tired and your motivation is low.

    Try starting your to do list in the morning, first thing. get up 1 hour earlier and do everything you can in that hour and tick off each item.

    Try it for 1 week to start with and your motivation and enthusiasm should grow as you cross off more items.

    Let me know how you get on with this and we can speak further once you have tried this if you wish.

  • hi my name is conners, i’m 21 and work in a dead end job. i have always found it hard to concentrate, all my year reports all say the same, “ok but with more focus Conners could do very well”. I dont want to start from the bottom and work my way up in a job, i want just to make money with my own ideas. i have some very good money making ideas through being a day dreamer but being a day dreamer comes at a price in being very lazy. i get home from work look at my to do list and then become very lazy and not do any of them. it is not like i use my energy at work, as i think i put more effort in pretending to work. I feel i have the hunger and dssire to be at the top but i lack concentration and focus. Can you help me?

    • everyday there is hurricane of thoughts running in my mind..i try my best to avaoid the imaginary conversations but it just does not go…ur views are really eye opener and would certainly try to involve in my life…thanks

    • Hey there Conners!

      Don’t know if this will reach you, but I’m wondering if there have been any developments over the years?

    • Hi, I to have a problem. I take unusually long time for tasks which used to take a fraction of the time that I take now.Earlier i used to study for not less than 8 hours but now i am unable to focus for not more than 10 minutes.At the end of that 10 minutes i am so stressed out that i have to take a long break in order to gather myself. Sometimes i am reading for long hours but i hardly process whatever i read or i cant remember or practise the lessons that i have studied.
      Also to relieve the tension i take unhealthy waya like masturbation,fantacing etc. Kindly help because i am falling…..I am 28 years old, preparing for a legal job. I am a law student.

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