These five sites (plus the one you're reading right now) have everything you'll ever need to become super-focused, super-productive and super-creative. There's no need to look all over the internet in search of self-help advice - all the tools to tap into your inner genius are right here.
Where is the best advice on the web to move your mental focus to peak levels? Where can you find truly useful tips that will empower your mind to reduce stress, increase productivity, and reach your potential? Clients and readers ask me all the time which experts and which websites I turn to for information and inspiration.
I’ve looked at hundreds and hundreds of sites that promise to teach you how to focus, or be more productive or reduce stress. But most don’t deliver. Many of the blog posts and videos out there give the kind of advice that tells you you’ll focus better if you simply “block out distractions” or “avoid multitasking,” or “practice mindfulness” (perhaps currently the most overused word on the planet), or even grab a cup of coffee.
Rarely does this online advice give you useful specifics as to exactly HOW to block out distractions when you are literally addicted to your Facebook feed, can’t quite figure out a way to stop checking your email every ten minutes and have a steady parade of co-workers or family members clamoring for your attention. And if you knew how to focus on one thing at a time and avoid multitasking, you’d already be doing it. As for that cup of coffee, while I do drink several a day, I wouldn’t rely on caffeine as a pathway to optimal focus.
All of my daily work is focused (forgive the pun) on focus. Years ago, I began helping executives, athletes, musicians, ADHD students, and their stressed-out parents – all of whom need to focus better, and are seeking the necessary skills to achieve optimal focus.
One of the reasons I dedicated myself to empowering people one-on-one to develop these critical skills, and why I’ve recently moved online to reach the many more people who are seeking and need these skills, is that truly good information is hard to come by. So many of the blogs, books and other materials about focus, mindfulness and productivity fail to offer truly actionable, easily implemented advice.
Amidst the internet clutter, though, a few people stand out – the go-to gurus whose blogs, videos, books and podcasts I turn to often for solid, actionable advice on how to focus better to enhance every aspect of life.
Rather than browse through endless materials that don’t actually help you focus better, here are the top five people on the internet I recommend you seek out when you want to quickly and effectively jumpstart your mental focus, your productivity and level of performance, and your ability to manage stress (in addition to any tools you may find here on the Change Your Focus – Change Your Life blog). Of course, there are several other excellent resources on the internet covering these topics – but these are among the best and together will provide all the information you’ll ever need.
Developing Your Focus and Concentration
If you’re looking for the baseline skills to develop unwavering focus and to apply that focus to performing your real-world tasks at a higher level – not to mention improving your overall quality of life – Dandapani and Tom Sterner should be your first two stops on the internet.
Dandapani is a Hindu priest. And although some of his blog articles and recorded talks address life specifically from a Hindu perspective, you need not be Hindu to benefit from his expertise, as much of his nuts-and-bolts advice on how to focus can work seamlessly with any type of spiritual practice, or none.
As a child, Dandapani had great difficulty concentrating, so much so that he was teased by other children for his inattention. As an adult he spent a decade as a Hindu monk at a Hindu monastery in Hawaii, where he finally learned and put into intense practice the tools he needed to live a focused life.
Dandapani then left the seclusion of the monastery for the bright lights of New York City, and has dedicated his life to giving others the same tools that transformed him from an extremely inattentive child to a razor-focused adult. He speaks around the world and works regularly with several leading corporations.
His web site, dandapani.org, is chock full of articles and recordings that offer great tools to live a life that is focused and purposeful. You can also sign up for his articles, download his app from his site, which provides great meditations and focus exercises, as well as sign up for his focus and meditation e-courses.
Dandapani has numerous great videos on his YouTube channel. The best place to start, however, is with his TedX Talk – Unwavering Focus – which has over 3 million views. One of the reasons Dandapani’s videos are so popular is because, as I said, very few people who talk about focus tell you exactly how to do it – but Dandapani does.
2. Thomas Sterner - The Practicing Mind Institute
Thomas Sterner literally wrote the book on how to focus in the present moment and accomplish your work at peak levels. I turn to The Practicing Mind over and over again for practical advice about what Tom calls “Present Moment Functioning.” There simply is no better book on the subject – distilling over a quarter century of Tom’s research and personal application of Eastern thought, sports psychology, and peak performance.
At Tom’s web site, The Practicing Mind Institute (and at tomsterner.com), you can download the first chapter for free of The Practicing Mind. Or you can purchase The Practicing Mind here, or his excellent follow-up book Fully Engaged. These two books will give you more excellent tools for living a focused life than most of what exists on the subject on the internet.
While at Tom’s sites, you can also sign up for his newsletter, full of tips for putting these techniques into practice, and access videos, audio downloads, and a mini-course on focus. Tom also provides one-on-one coaching.
Being More Productive
3. Asian Efficiency
Nearly a decade ago, Thanh Pham started reading everything he could get his hands on about productivity to try and keep his head above water as his job responsibilities grew beyond his seeming capacity. He found the techniques that truly worked and started writing about them. What began as a series of productivity tips for friends and family has grown into one of the top productivity sites on the web.
As the Asian Efficiency site says, “Don’t let the name fool you – this website is for anyone who is interested in time management and productivity, not just Asians.” In fact, the name began simply as an inside joke.
In any event, whatever your background or situation, you’ll find helpful blog posts and podcasts on virtually every conceivable subject related to time management and productivity. You also can access free training as well as purchase in-depth productivity courses. If you’re overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information, you can start with Asian Efficiency’s recommended top 10 posts.
4. Scott Young
If you're looking to learn new material or skills in less time, Scott Young is the best guide you will ever find – he learned all the material and passed all the exams for MIT’s 4-year computer science curriculum – in 12 months. Scott then went on to learn 4 languages in one year.
In Scott’s book, Ultralearning, he tells exactly how he did it, and how you too can make a quantum leap in your ability to learn. You can also learn a lot from Scott’s web site, where he offers excellent and highly actionable articles and podcasts about how to learn, think and perform better. Scott also offers courses on rapid learning, career development, goal setting and habits development.
Becoming a Creative Genius
5. Michael Michalko – Thinkertoys
Now that you have unwavering focus, have become insanely productive, and know how to learn massive amounts of material in the blink of an eye, what about your creativity?
How will you come up with your next great idea, the one the world has been waiting for?
Michael Michalko provides one-stop shopping to think outside of the box, change the design of the box or create a new box entirely. I turn often to his groundbreaking book, Thinkertoys, which is chock full of field-tested techniques to generate new ideas, and think of old ideas in new ways. Many books and websites promise to teach you how to be more creative, but Thinkertoys actually gives you real tools that will make a tangible difference in your creative output. His other books are similarly helpful in the creativity department – Cracking Creativity, Creative Thinkering and Thinkpad (a pack of brainstorming cards to jumpstart your creativity).
Michael’s web site, creativethinking.net, also offers a wealth of resources to help you become a creative genius – including exercises, articles and thought experiments.
So there you have it – access to all the information you need to focus better, manage your time effectively, learn virtually anything, and generate creative ideas for any area of your life – all in one article. What could be better than that?
(In case you were wondering, I have not been asked by any of the site’s creators, or anyone else, to include them in this article – nor have I been offered any remuneration of any kind for doing so. These recommendations are based entirely on my personal experience.)
Let me know which of these resources you find most helpful – in the comments below or on my Facebook page.