Are You Unfocused?
Having trouble getting the important stuff done? At work are you constantly distracted? Yes? You are in good company, we live in a world specifically designed to distract us. Technology is specifically designed to get our attention, with the integration of technology in our daily lives we are distracted by loads of information. Email and texts are the first that come to mind, our watches, no longer just tell time, they now give us our heart rate, how many steps we have walked and flash the most recent text on the small square screen at our wrist! It is so easy to lose track of time on the things that may not be important to our business and life.
Focus Requires Discipline
As a Business Coach and entrepreneur, I am aware of the endless number of tasks we have to deal with daily in running our business, to succeed we must be vigilant of distractions and keep our focus on what is important. This requires both mental fortitude and discipline; the ability to focus and ignore distractions is a skill that takes time and effort to develop. Improve your ability to focus and you will have a huge advantage both at work and in life.
1. Be Intentional and Self-Aware
To develop any new habit you need to be clear on why you want to change, take ownership and commit. What do you have to gain by becoming more focused? What will it cost you if you do not take care of what matters most for your business? Be intentional, decide today you are going to focus and start developing the habits that will keep the distractions at bay. Set as an intention that you will not react to what the world is sending your way, that you will be single-mindedly focused on the task you are working on at that time. If you have trained yourself to multi-task, to check email and texts every few minutes, you will need to be disciplined and stop. Be self-aware, allow for the fact that you will not be able to do this over-night, that you will slip into old habits. When you catch yourself leaving a priority task and getting distracted, simply get back to the task right away, do not linger into the distraction.
2. Know your priorities – What are the top 3 tasks you need to accomplish today?
Work on the most important things first each day. What is the one thing you need to get done today? After that, what is the second most important thing? And, the third? Preparation is everything, it is best to identify the top 3 tasks you need to get done each day the prior evening. This is where being intentional gets applied to real life: write the top 3 priorities down, time block them in your calendar. A note to the wise: checking email first thing in the morning is not most important than your top 3 priorities for your business success. Make sure you get started on your #1 priority before you even check email. Think of Email and text as other people’s agenda and priorities for you. Now if your next or current important client is emailing you, that is a priority to be sure; however, if we are honest 90% of emails are not important to our business at this moment.
3. Start your workday early
You know the saying “The early bird catches the worm “. Morning is the most productive time, that is proven to be true even if we do not think of ourselves as morning people. There is research that shows successful business owners and leaders in their field, get up early in the morning, they have a morning routine and are at work focusing on their top priorities before anyone or anything can distract them. Improve your morning routine and your whole day will improve!
4. Eliminate electronic distractions
Set barriers to distractions. Your phone and your computer must be tools for productivity and eliminated as tools of distraction. This is where you may need to “trick yourself” into discipline. One step you can take is to make your favorite apps 2 or 3 steps removed and not easily accessible. For example, you can place your favorite apps in a folder that has to be 2 or 3 screen swipes away, not front and center of your screen. Another important step is to use a timer to focus on your goals for 30 or 60 minutes at a time; followed by a timed break. The optimal break schedule is a 10-minute break every hour. However, I find I do best with a 5-minute break every 30 minutes. Find your sweet spot, set the timer for the work time and set it again for your break time. At break time do whatever you need to do to take care of yourself and do allow yourself to give in to those distractions! I usually get up and move around, I may step outside or catch up on a personal call and texts. A word of caution, during your break, choose your chatting partners carefully, choose your on-line activities carefully, allowing a 10-minute break to turn into a 30-minute waste of time is not what you are going for here.
5. Set boundaries with others
This may be the biggest challenge for many of us. How do you avoid interruptions by co-workers? If you work from home, how do you keep the pets and family members from interrupting? It’s all about communicating boundaries. Do not keep your goal to be more focused a secret, share with co-workers and family that you are working on eliminating distractions. Share your routine: 1-hour commitment to work, followed by a timed break, assure them that the break will be a great opportunity to connect, enlist them in supporting your success. In the end, it’s up to you to stand up for your commitment to yourself and to request that others honor it. Be kind and ask for support as needed.
6. Make your work environment work for you
Curate your environment, make sure you have a comfortable chair and an environment that fits your work needs and most important an uncluttered desk! If we want to feel productive and focused you need an environment that is orderly and makes you feel positive about yourself.
Studies have shown that only a few hours of each day are spent on productive work. The rest of the time is spent on non-essential activities. As a small business owner, it is easy to be run ragged by the many and incessant priorities, fires and interruptions of working your business.
How do you want to show up, and how are you going to spend your time today? Be patient and kind to yourself, change takes time, it’s about self-awareness, a willingness to develop new behaviors and perseverance. Start with these 6 steps, minute by minute, hour by hour today renew your commitment to focus on what will move you closer to your big goals and dreams, for yourself and your business.