Get on Track, Keep Your Focus: Steps You Can Take Now

Article by Dee DeWitt


For all the tips and advice on being productive, it’s all ineffectual if we can’t focus on what we’re doing.  We need to work as efficiently and in as stress-free a way as possible to be productive. 


Yet we can’t do any of that if our mind keeps flicking to other things every two minutes.  Having had my own struggles with focus recently, here are some tips to get back on track when focus is lost:


Finish Work
A sure way to lose focus is to have too many things going on.  At the moment, my wife and I are working on repairing a bathroom wall and decorating the bedroom.  The challenge is that I keep starting new projects without finishing these old ones.  With my attention spread all over the place, it’s hard to focus. 


So my goal is to keep the number of incomplete tasks to a minimum.  The same can work for you.


Focus on the Important
It’s not just the unfinished projects or tasks that we need to get off our radar.  It doesn’t matter if it is a dozen minor tasks clogging our to-do list, or projects that we really could care less about, we need to address them … either get them done and resolved … or take them off our to-do lists entirely.  


It’s easier to focus on just a handful of important tasks and far less stressful than worrying about projects that we really don’t care about anyway.


Start the Project
How many times to we wait to start a project until we have 100% of it mapped out to perfection?  And how many projects never get started at all because we wait to the entire picture to come into focus?


Focus doesn’t always come right away, especially if you have a big, complicated project.  So don’t wait around till that focus comes.  Sometimes, we just need to get started.  Once we have some momentum, focus will often follow.


Focus on the Next Step
The best way to start a project (or move it forward if you are stuck) is to focus on one step.  Just one next step.  Many times we can move quickly through our work if we know what the next actionable step is.  Rather than taking on some broad work that covers all sorts of areas, pick out the one task that will move things forward.


If you are struggling to empty your email inbox, it’s probably because you’re focusing on working your way through the entire contents and not just about getting that first email out of the way.


No Distractions
It’s practically impossible to get into that special place where we’re totally focused on what we’re doing when we have cell phones ringing every two minutes, too much background noise, etc.  It’s far better to deal with a messy desk or a colleague vying for your attention before starting to focus on your project.  And while I know from personal experience how difficult it can be to turn off the phone or email, doing so will allow you to focus and accomplish your immediate tasks better and in less time.


Break Time
May times, all we need to do to regain focus is just take a break for a few minutes … and other times we might need to take a long holiday to feel the benefits.  The point is, every so often we need to get away from our work, clear our mind of it, and just think about something else.


Even though sleep is break time, it has other benefits.  Getting plenty of sleep allows our body and mind to recharge.  If you’ve ever tried to focus on your work when you are tired or didn’t sleep well the night before, then you will know what I mean.


It seems like our to-do lists are always full, our calendars are constantly packed, and we regularly have people knocking on our doors seeking our attention.  Too often we react and at the end of the day we feel nothing was accomplished that we wanted to do.  All we did was react to others’ demands.  With all of the demands for our attention it’s no wonder focus is hard to find. 


So come up with a plan.  Cut through all the chaos and figure out what you really want to do, how you’re going to do it, and when you want to do it.  Get it all out of your head and into a trusted system.


“The trouble with so many of us is that we underestimate the power of simplicity.  We have a tendency it seems to over complicate our lives and forget what’s important and what’s not.  We tend to mistake movement for achievement.  We tend to focus on activities instead of results.  And as the pace of life continues to race along in the outside world, we forget that we have the power to control our lives regardless of what’s going on outside.”
-Robert Stuberg


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Posted on 10 December, 2008 in Balance, Goals, Productivity
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One Response so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Brandon Lawrence
    December 15th, 2008 at 2:34 pm #

    I have the most trouble getting somethng started. Once started, it seems fairly easy to see it through, but it’s the initial step that I think a lot of us are intimated by.

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