Learning to Focus

imagesReal Life Experience Today:

I arrived to my office, where I’m patiently waiting on an internet technician to show up to fix a problem. While driving to my office, I made a list of the things I needed to accomplish this morning. When I arrived at my desk, I immediately began trying to do them ALL. 7 things at the same time: I was planning the rest of my week and confirming appointments, I was working on an expense report for my office, I was reading through minutes from a meeting last week, I was making coffee and picking up my office, I was texting with one of my kids, I was cleaning off my email, I was listening to a podcast on my phone.  All of this happened between 8:00am and 9:00am today. Of course, I wasn’t able to finish any of these. It’s now 9:00am and I’ve done some of these things, but I haven’t finished any of them.

Do you do this sometimes? Do you eventually realize what you’re doing and stop and adjust?

After an hour of trying to do all of this, I stopped. I caught myself. I realized that I had fallen prey again to living my life without focus, without priorities, without a plan.

So, I stopped each of those 7 things, and am now writing this thought down while it’s fresh.

I used to not catch it. I would work for hours this way then at the end of the day I’d be frustrated that I hadn’t gotten enough done.

Now I’ve learned that I have to catch myself and I have to FOCUS.  I guarantee that I’ll be able to work through all 7 of these things over the next few hours if I focus on them one at a time. I’ll then be able to address some of the projects and priorities I have for the rest of the day and the rest of the week.

So… here’s how I handle this:

*BLOCK OUT DISTRACTIONS.  In my case, turn off the podcast, finish the text, get my coffee ready, schedule a time to clean the office.

*DO WHAT’S MOST IMPORTANT. I just returned from a weekend meeting, so I need to do my expense report and work through meeting minutes. I do this best while things are fresh. If I wait a couple of days, I might forget some things. This morning, it’s fresh and I want to work through this before addressing other things.

*MAKE A LIST & SCHEDULE APPOINTMENTS. I have found that when I can write things down that need to get done, it helps me focus and prioritize. I also schedule appointments with myself throughout the week to address projects. This allows me to set that aside until the appointed block of time. Example: I’m working on a leadership event that’s coming up in 3 weeks. I scheduled a 2-hour block on Tuesday of this week to solely focus on this. I don’t have to think about it again until that time.

*GET ORGANIZED. For me, to get my best work done, I must have things in order. This means that I’ve responded to pending email from last week. This means that I get my office picked up and work through my mail. This means that I block out some personal time this week to work-out, to do some projects at home, to connect with my family, to pay bills. Until I have this week organized, I have a difficult time focusing.

*DISCIPLINE MYSELF. I have to work at being focused. It’s doesn’t come naturally. When the phone rings, sometimes I have to ignore it so I can finish the thought or the task I’m in the middle of. When a link pops up on Twitter or Email, I have to work at not clicking on it, realizing that it will absorb time and distract me, even if it’s funny or insightful. I have to work at being focused!

Now, it’s time to get back to my list.

I caught myself. I’ve identified the issues. I’ve shared this process with you.

Let’s get back to work.

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