There’s a saying by Confucius: “If you chase two rabbits, you catch none.” We try to do as much as possible to grow, learn, and better ourselves.
We read books and blogs and soak up information on creating new habits. But, the fact is, a lot of this effort is in vain. Our attention is pulled in so many directions that our attention and energy are spread too thin.
To add to the mix, we have more ways to communicate than ever before: face-to-face, phone, email, instant messaging, Twitter, blogging, etc
Time for Action. Stopwatch Edition. We have more tools to get work done, but our energy is diminished after being pulled in a million directions.
1. Stop multitasking!
We often kid ourselves into thinking that we’re getting more done by multitasking, but we often end up just spending a lot of time spinning our wheels.
Try to give ONE thing your full attention, even just for 10 or 15 minutes, instead of spreading your attention across multiple tasks, and you’ll be amazed at how much more you get done.
The more time you focus on one thing, the more you’ll get done.
The reason why multitasking is so disturbing to our attention is a phenomenon called attention residue.
What it does is whenever you switch the activity you are working on, the first 15 minutes you are working on a new activity will be very hard to be fully focused.
That’s because your brain hasn’t stopped working on the previous task fully.
Even if we know that multitasking is messing with our focus it’s still often easier said than done not to do it. One of the main reasons is how we live now with so many instant dopamine kicks like that social media provide. As a result, we aren’t comfortable with the feeling of being bored.
So one crucial thing you need to learn to maximize your focus is to be bored.
I get it, but it’s vital for your ability to get stuff done. If you switch activities as soon as you feel boredom, you will never be able to get what you want to be done.
Besides getting used to boredom, another very effective method to prevent multitasking is to optimize your environment for it.
One thing you can do to optimize your room is to put your phone away. Because your brain ties your phone to instant gratifications it’s very easy to get the urge to do “something urgent” on the phone when it is in your view. For ways to optimize your computer for massive productivity, check out this video: How To Turn Your Laptop Into A Productivity Machine
2. Finish tasks that are easily completed.
My mantra is, ‘don’t get it perfect; get it finished?’ Well, I mean it! Most of the time, you’re having trouble staying focused is because of a bunch of little things on your mind that you know you need to do.
Write down everything that can be completed in less than 10 minutes and finish everything on the list before starting a project requiring more focus. This doesn’t mean that every time something comes up that would take less than ten minutes to do, you do it. Instead, you batch everything together, requiring ten minutes or less.
And don’t agonize or keep putting it off because it’s not perfect – just get the darned thing done! Finished.
3. Stay in the now.
As much as you can, practice focusing on the present moment. Constantly move your attention back to now. You can’t change the past and can’t be in the future, so you might as well make the most of what’s happening right now!
Don’t dwell on ‘might haves’, ‘should haves’, and ‘if only’s’ – don’t let the baggage of the past hold you back. Instead, focus on what you are doing and can do right now and let the other ‘stuff’ go. Some ways to be able to be more present are:
a. Accept your past. By doing that, you will be able not to get dragged down in the thoughts about what “you should have done” or “if I only did this”. You can’t control your past so it’s a waste of time to stay there. If you dwell on what you should have done, ask yourself, “can I control it” if not, count 3, 2, 1, and return to the task.
b. Another habit that will help you with being present is meditation. To only focus on your breathing and let your thoughts pass by isn’t something easy. But by putting yourself in that state, you will train your mind to focus on one thing. It will be very hard to do in the beginning, but with time it will be easier and easier. Besides strengthening your focus, it also strengthens your willpower and will help you keep a positive attitude throughout the day.
c. Don’t worry about things you aren’t able to control. Worrying about things we can’t control is like thinking about things you should have done in the past. In that manner that you are completely wasting your energy, time, and focus on something you have no control over. To stop this disturbing habit, you must constantly remind yourself if you are in control of the thing you worry about. By breaking this habit, you will find out that you will get much more done and feel happier.
4. Respond, don’t react.
We’re busy. Often the person who shouts the loudest gets seen to first – that’s how life works, right? Instead of reacting to the latest ‘urgent’ email or phone call, take time to think. If you keep reacting, then you’re not being productive. Work out what YOU need to do each day and protect your work time while you’re doing it.
Don’t immediately react to requests or messages. Instead, only check messages when it suits your schedule and doesn’t feel you have to return to people immediately. It’s OK to sit on an email for a couple of days while you consider your options or get something more important finished. Take control of your time – respond in a way that’s right for you and your business instead of reacting.
5. Declutter your workspace.
It’s hard to focus and be organized when your workspace is messy. If you have piles of papers, empty cups, unpaid bills, and other ‘stuff’ piled up and around you, how can you expect to think clearly, let alone find anything? Declutter your workspace. Do it now. You will feel much better once it’s done and you’ll find it easier to concentrate.
6. Love what you do.
If you don’t love what you’re doing, you will have a hard time staying focused. If you don’t love what you do, then change it! Life’s too short to spend our days working on a business that’s just not doing it for us. This is your chance to start fresh – change the things you don’t like!
7. Distinguish between urgent and important.
We often spend most of our time doing things that seem important but aren’t. They are just urgent. This doesn’t make sense because it would seem things that are important should be urgent, right? If you want to do meaningful things or accomplish things that will have a long-term impact, focus on the important.
Check for these 4 factors while you are planning which task to do and which not to do.
1. Urgent and important. Do it now!
Some examples of these kinds of activities are tight deadlines and crises.
2. Important but not urgent. Focus most of your time on these activities. They will bring you the biggest long-term return.
Examples of these activities are building relationships and working on long-term goals.
3. Urgent but not important. If you can delegate these.
These activities are, for example, some mail and phone calls.
4. Neither urgent nor important. These kinds of activities should always be avoided.
Some examples of these activities are checking social media and multitasking.
I know it can be easy to see things as urgent and important because you are stressed. To see what is really important you need to be less stressed. To do that, the methods I mentioned in number 3 will help you.
Another important thing you need to do to distinguish urgent from important tasks is to have a clear goal to work through. Here’s a complete guide about how to set smart goals.
One thing that’s crucial if you want to stay focused is that you regularly look at your goal. That will remind you about your priorities.
8. Set a Timer.
If you need to get something done and you keep getting distracted, set yourself a deadline. There are loads of free timer apps online or for your phone. Set yourself a time limit of 10, 20, or 30 minutes and focus on that ONE job for that period until the buzzer goes.
One of the best techniques for this is the Pomodoro technique. The method works like this set your timer for 25 minutes and work with 100% focus for that time. Then take a 5-minute break and repeat the process.
It’s amazing how much you can get done when you’re up against a deadline!
You may also like: 5 Smart Ways to Get More Work Done Every Day
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