Life is like a camera . . . Focus on what’s important and you’ll captured it perfectly!
We all have goals and dreams, but it can be difficult to stick with them. Don’t worry. I’m just as guilty of this as anyone else. For example, I’ll start one project, work on it for a little bit, then lose focus and try something else. And then I’ll lose focus on my new goal and try something else. And on and on. When everything is said and done, I’ve stopped and started so many times that I never really made much progress. 🙁
In a world filled with instant access to information, coworkers and friends, finishing a solid eight hours of work seems nearly impossible. Avoiding distractions, however, is not a magical task. Just like getting to the gym each day, staying focused while at work is a matter of building good habits. We are naturally addicted to wasting time.
I believe the biggest risk of losing our daily focus is wasting our time and living a meaningless life. The solution is to simplify. Get back to the basics of doing the important.
Set clear goals
- Instead of saying, “I’m going to work a solid eight hours every day,” make a list of your top priorities for the week. This helps you avoid reacting to every distraction that comes up. Review your list each morning and decide realistically what tasks you can accomplish that day. Be concrete: “I’m going to finish steps 1-3 of the project by noon.”
- Know what actually matters and realized that mindless work is an addiction. It’s just as dangerous as smoking or alcohol. I’m not kidding. Email, Facebook, twitter, texting, surfing, news, it’s all a deadly serious addiction. We just think it’s ok because everyone else around us is wasting their life on it. These things can be scheduled as distraction and can be dealt with as part of the distraction session.
Work in 60-90-minute blocks
- As we work, our alertness drops off, increasing the lure of distractions. Set a timer and take a break at the end of each cycle. Reset your focus by listening to music for a few minutes, taking a short walk, or going for lunch.
- Stop thinking it’s more efficient. It’s not. No surfing during phone calls, reading during meals, chatting while writing. Do one thing at a time. Simple. Not only is multitasking terribly inefficient but it stresses you out and it’s rude to anyone around you.
Tune the world out
- Let’s face it, the world is a distracting place. Avoid temptation by severing all ties. This includes email, office phones, cell phones and your coworkers. This might require finding a quiet place away from your office to work such as booking a conference room or hiding out in your office.
- Don’t check email in the morning. This is the most effective (and very difficult) single practice for me. I know every one of you have heard this one. So why doesn’t anyone actually do it? It will change your life. It feels terrible to know we’ve spent a couple hours refreshing and going in and out of email without really getting anything done. I assure you that if you check it, you won’t be able to help yourself, and you’ll stumble face first into the worm hole. So don’t even open it until you have a few hours of focused action under your belt (this is at least 11am for most).
- Turn off email and notifications (and anything else that interrupts you). When you sit down to do something, nothing else gets attention. Just because someone decides to email, chat or call you, doesn’t mean it’s more important. Those things can wait. But if you know they are waiting there, you’ll be too tempted. Avoid temptation at all cost. We are too weak. As for me, I don’t trust myself with email on my iPhone so I totally ignored it.
- Lastly, do not connect to anything until your core tasks are done. Don’t convince yourself you need the internet or email to do your most important tasks. For the most part of the time you don’t. There might be an exception (unless you are a full-time blogger) Leave the internet off and phone on airplane mode until you crush through the important stuff first
- Distractions are really not all bad, but you need to make them work for you. Use them as reward for a solid chunk of work. Start out with distractions that are good for you, such as working out or calling your friends. If Facebook and Twitter are your thing, block off time in your schedule to post or browse other people’s updates, and check your email for any important must do, but for a short time only, and stick to your schedule. Remember, you control the distractions.
Practice not being distracted
- Meditation is a great way to do this because it’s just you and your thoughts. If that’s not your thing, practice single tasking throughout your day. At lunch, just eat. Don’t read the newspaper or check your email at the same time. In meetings, don’t doodle in your notebook or play with your phone.
Pay attention to yourself
- Start to notice when and how you get distracted. What thoughts happen just before that? Are you tired, hungry, or bored? As you learn what triggers your distractions, you can head them off and deal with it before you slip into an hour-long IM chat or just plain snap chatting.
Use technology to your advantage
- From blocking out distracting websites to tracking how much time you spend surfing the web, many apps can actually help you stay focused. Once you identify what your habits are, pick one that will help you meet your goals, but don’t let these become distractions in themselves either.
Take breaks and reward yourself
- Most of us can only intensely focus on something for an hour at best. Take at least a few-minute break every 30 or 60 minutes to clear your head. Find a fun way to get you free and clear. Take a quick walk around the block, meditate, feed the cats & dogs, practice deep breathing, get a snack or some water or listen to an inspiring song. Your choice. 🙂
It’s a pretty awesome feeling. we’ll get way more done than we planned but our mind and schedule will also be clear to enjoy life a little more.
The path to freedom can be difficult to see, mostly because the world is telling us it’s not there. A path begins by walking. These addictions have caused us to lose our way and most importantly, lose our focus. We avoid the present. We avoid what matters. And we avoid what’s right in front of us.
You’ll get more done in a day than most get done in a week, with time left over to savor the subtleties of life you forgot you enjoyed so much.
When in doubt, ask yourself “Am I wasting my time to avoid the important?” Be honest. You’ll know the answer then do something about it.
How about you? How many important things did you get done last week? I mean the things that actually got you closer to your biggest goals and dreams.
Bonjour Thursday! Now we can reward ourselves to some Macarons! 🙂