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3 Ways to Find Focus
Is it me or did time speed up as we got older? If this month is any indication, this year will be a blur. If that's true, what can we do to make the best use of our time? How can we make sure we get the right things done this year, this month, this week, or today?
You know that as a leader you are pulled in a thousand different directions, personal and professional. Juggling isn't a leadership skill per se, but it kind of is. The ability to maintain focus amidst the numerous distractions, projects, drive-by meetings, and formal meetings is a strategic advantage.
A key idea is to make the most of the time you are at work. During a normal 8-hour workday most employees are only productive for about 2.5 hours. This explains why you come home tired but not feeling accomplished and why your to-do list continues to grow and why you feel compelled to bring work home with you. This also means there is a huge opportunity for more efficiency in your workday by improving your work habits and time management, which will, in turn, lead to higher quality work.
Little distractions add up to a lot of lost time. When life is coming at you 100 mph or 160 kph, if you prefer, it's difficult to focus on what really matters at work and at home. We can find ourselves reacting to circumstances and putting out fires instead of creating the circumstances we need to succeed.
It's difficult to find time to focus when you have an overflowing inbox, 300 voicemails, a sick parent, and a you just said yes to the big project. This type of schedule leads to stress, overwhelm, and eventually burnout. You need to get back to what's important and that starts with remembering or clarifying your goals but I talk about that in another post.
In this post I want to share 3 simple, easy and free ideas that will help you focus more on what's important. I wrote about some additional productivity hacks that I use to improve focus. You can find them here.
1. AIRPLANE MODE NOT JUST FOR AIRPLANES ANYMORE
Smartphones are technological marvels. I swear by my iPhone. But they can be a blessing and a curse. What is it about our phones that whenever they ding, buzz or ring we are compelled to check them? Text messages, app updates, and phone calls (yes, some people still actually talk. I know right?!) can cause us to lose focus and keep us from getting any work done.
With every buzz we lose focus, it takes time to get back to what we were doing. All of these minor distractions add up over time. When you need to get things done, put your phone on Airplane mode or take your office phone off the hook.
This will stop all notifications, and send all of your calls to voicemail. If the idea of calls going to voicemail makes you break out in a cold sweat don't worry, that's what voice mail is for. Try this for predetermined amounts of time, an hour or two. This way you can maintain focus, remain available and have time to get things done.
2. TIMERS HELP WITH TIME MANAGEMENT
If you have deadlines to meet, but have trouble staying focused, you need to use a timer. When you use a timer you understand that time is moving whether you are being productive or not. When you get up and chat, take a walk around the office and/or check on fake crops (no shame, I play Hay Day too) and then sit back down, the timer will tell you the truth.
It doesn't care what you are doing. It becomes your silent accountability partner. Timers are a great reminder of the value of time. Once it's gone, you can't get it back.
Here's another benefit of using a timer – a focused block of time makes you are far more likely to accomplish your task(s). Having a reminder that time is passing regardless of whether you're productive or not can be surprisingly motivating. There are free online timers, app timers or you can use the timer that comes with the clock on your phone. Those dang smartphones, gotta love em.
3. RESOLVE TO REFLECT
I am a firm adherent to the “let me think that over” school of thought. In a constantly connected, fast-paced world sometimes we make decisions, respond to emails or react to situations before we have had time to weigh all of the options. I am a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell and Blink, but I also understand that Lack of Reflection leads to loads of Regret.
The bigger the decision, the longer you need to think it over. Mull it over with trusted friends or business partners. Sleep on it or bounce the idea off of your business coach or mentor. This is not stalling, but taking a moment to allow your mind time to make all the connections necessary for the best possible outcome. Generally, 24 hours should be more than enough time for most decisions.
I hope these few suggestions help you become more productive and stay more focused.
BONUS: DO NOT DISTURB
One of the easiest ways to cut out distractions is to use a sign on your door or cubicle that let's people know you are working and can't be disturbed. Couple this with a pomodoro timer and you take 25 solid minutes to work and then get back with people during your 15 minute break.
If you are in a cubicle, you can always use headphones. I did this with a great deal of success at a previous job. The headphones or the sign will let people know that you are focused and don't want to be disturbed.
I would love to hear what you do to cut out distractions and make the most of your time at work.
Until next time,
Make today count!