Focus and productivity go hand in hand. One cannot become a productive worker if you allow your focus to be disturbed. To be productive you must maintain your focus at all times. This can be very difficult with the amount of disruptions most of us experience on a daily basis. We are constantly being disturbed by our email, our mobile phones, by our colleagues and our boss and by the one we can’t seem to shut out; our inner dialog !
What can we do to become more focused?
Here are some useful ways to prevent disruptions, allow more focus and quieten the inner chatter of the mind.
1. Vision – Having a personal vision or mission allows you to stay on target to what you what to achieve in life, when you are aware of your goals it is easier to maintain direction and not get side tracked by other activities which are not in keeping with your personal vision. As Covey describes it in his 2nd Habit “Begin with the end in mind” then if you are getting distracted you can ask yourself is this activity in keeping with my goals?
2. Awareness – Know how you are currently spending your time, only then you can assess what activities are important and which can be eliminated or reduced. One way to do this is with a timesheet. You can do this manually by writing down every single task you have completed in the day or you can do it electronically where you activities are recorded automatically for you. Go to www.paretoproductivity.com and click on the officemetrics link to download a free personal edition of officemetrics an electronic timesheet which will monitor all your activities on your PC and show you how you are spending your time. Equipped with information you can then apply the Pareto Principal (the 80-20 rule). This will help you to Focus on the important 20% the tasks that make a difference.
3. Plan and Schedule –When you have eliminated the time wasting activities and identified what tasks you should be doing that will make a difference and impact positively how you live you life and spend your time, then you must schedule the tasks. Use a diary or an electronic calendar but what gets scheduled gets done. Life will throw distractions and emergencies at you daily but if we have scheduled the work we can reschedule for the next day and it is much more likely to get done. Every athlete has a game plan, it won’t always work out the way they planned but it gives them a map to come back to. Any task that takes longer than 30 mins should be scheduled.
4. Break down tasks– one of the chief reasons for Procrastination is when the size of a project or task is so large it overwhelms you. The best way to tackle this is to break it down into achievable chunks and then schedule the next action that has to be completed. Don’t worry about what has to happen in between to achieve the final outcome
5. Clear the Clutter – Clutter can be a huge distraction, subconsciously it affects our focus as it we know that it is work which needs to be addressed in some way. Clutter represents postponed decisions, either we need to file the item or put it away, throw it in the bin or place it in the correct file for action. Schedule time to work through the things lying around and adopts the Barbara Hemphill FAT method. There are only three things that one can do with an item and they are FILE, ACT or TRASH. If an item has to be acted on either schedule time for it to be done or add it to your task list
6. Batching Emails – Emails are one of the biggest focus killers, we do not need to be available to answer emails at all times of the day. Batch process your emails for example at 11 and 4 daily. Do not open your email first thing in the morning unless your job absolutely requires it, as this will start you off reacting to circumstances rather that working on your schedule. If your industry expects you to answer questions promptly you can set up an email responder which lets the person who emailed you know that you will be processing emails at allocated times during the day and if something is highly urgent and cannot wait for those times to call you,
7. Take regular Breaks – Regular breaks prevent you from becoming too tired and keep you sharp and focused.
8. Closed Door Policy – Contrary to many workplaces and current leadership thinking, the closed door policy can be very beneficial for your productivity, and invaluable for focus. Advise people not to disturb you at certain times of the day, block out times in your calendar and ask not to be disturbed. Watch how your productivity will soar.
9. Turn off message notifications – Switch off all email notifications that advise you when you have received an email or a post on a social network. These will distract you from the job that needs to be done
10. Meditate – Meditation is used by many highly successful people to assist focus. Meditation helps to calm the mind and allows you to focus more readily and effectively. Even ten minutes a day can help eradicate the monkey mind and help you to focus like a monk
Follow these tips and you will feel a profound difference in your personal focus and get a lot more done.