There’s a saying by Confucius that goes “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, blogs, and soak up all sorts of information on creating new habits. The fact is, a lot of this effort is in vain. Our attention is pulled in so many directions, that our attention and energy is 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 multi-tasking!
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 how much more you get done.
The more time you can focus on one thing, the more you’ll get done.
The reason why multitasking is so disturbing for our attention is a phenomenon called attention residue.
What it does is whenever you switch the activity you are working, 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 its still often easier said than done to not do it. One of the main reasons is in the way we live now with so much instant dopamine kicks like that social media provide we aren’t comfortable with the feeling of being bored.
So one crucial thing that you need to learn to be able 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 activity as soon as you feel some kind of boredom, you will never be able to get what you want to be done.
Besides getting used to the feeling of being bored another very effective method to prevent multitasking is to optimize your environment for it.
One thing you can do to optimize your room is putting 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.
You know that 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 you start on a project that requires more focus. This doesn’t mean that every time something comes up that would take less than ten minutes to do, you do it. You simply batch everything together that requires ten minutes of time 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 your attention on the present moment. Constantly move your attention back to now. You can’t change the past and you 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’, and ‘should haves’ and ‘if only’s’ – don’t let the baggage of the past hold you back. 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 is:
a. Accept your past. By doing that you will be able to not get dragged down in the thoughts about what “you should have you done” or “if I only did this”. You cant control you’re passed so its a waste of time to stay there. If you find yourself dwelling about what you should have done ask yourself “can I control it” if not count 3, 2, 1 and go back 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 are going to train your mind to focus on one thing. In the beginning, it will be very hard to do, but with time it will be easier and easier. Besides strengthening your focus, its also strengthening your will power and will help you keep a positive attitude thru out the day.
c. Don’t worry about things you aren’t able to control. Worrying about things that 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 of. To stop this disturbing habit you will need to constantly remind yourself about if you are in control of the thing that 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 that you have to come back 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 really hard to focus and be organized when your workspace is a mess. 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 so much better once it’s done and you’ll find it easier to concentrate too.
6. Love what you do.
If you don’t love what you’re doing then you’re going to have a really 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 have a fresh start – 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 really aren’t. They are just urgent. This doesn’t really make sense, because it would seem things that are important, should be urgent, right? If you want to do meaningful things, if you want to 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 longterm 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 or important. These kinds of activities shall always avoid.
Some examples of these activities are checking social media and multi-tasking.
I know it can be easy to just see things as urgent and important because you are stressed. To be able to see what really important you need to be less stressed. To be able 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 thought. Here’s a complete guide about how to set smart goals.
One thing that’s absolutely crucial if you want to stay focused is that you regularly look at your goal. That will remind you about your prioritize.
8. Set a timer.
If you really 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 of time until the buzzer goes.
One of the best techniques when it comes to 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