Last night my wife was helping my 12 year old learn some new things when my daughter and I walked in playing and giggling. Once we stopped in respect for them, I noticed he was having trouble concentrating because the television was on. After I suggested he turn it off, they made great progress very quickly. We all have done it, whether we are parents or not. We’ve encouraged someone to remove a distraction so they could focus on the task, conversation or subject at hand. If you wear corrective lenses of any kind and go for your annual vision check, you know what it is like when your new prescription is applied. You see more clearly with greater focus. Suddenly your mind doesn’t have to think about focusing, things already are without “working” at it. It is crystal clear to me that we all know how important focus (of all kinds) is, but many of us aren’t very good at it. (As a side note, I write this article because focus is something that I continually work on getting better at; it is my hope that the things I will share from my journey, will help you too.) This article will target three specific areas with specifics suggestions for practicing improved focus: planning, questioning and removing.
Planning Daily planning is critical. Many people have a “to-do” list, and while having one will help you be more focused than not having one, most people don’t use them to their maximum benefit. Too often the list degenerates into a list of the crises that MUST be handled today – or as Dr. Stephen Covey says in his work, the urgent, but not necessarily important things. The other problem with many people’s lists is that they are way too long (too often, mine included). Here are three things to do to improve your daily planning for greater focus:
1. Align your daily work with your goals. The most important thing you can do to increase your focus is to have goals. If your goals are clear (which includes having them written down) it is much easier to re-focus your efforts towards them. Goals provide a compass for your efforts. Make sure your list for the day includes items specifically related to your goals. 2. Do your daily planning before the day begins. Many suggest it is best to do this the evening before because it allows your subconscious to “work on” your list as you sleep. If not then, do it at the close of the previous day or at the very start of your morning. 3. Prioritize the list. If you have the long list syndrome, identify the 5 things that are most important to be completed that day. Make sure that at least one of those things is in service of your most important goals, not just putting out the urgent fires you are facing.
Questioning There are some questions you can ask yourself throughout the day to help you stay focused. They include:
- Is what I am doing now focused on my most important objectives? If the answer is yes, great! If the answer is no, time to re-focus.
- How is my energy level? If you feel it waning a bit, take a five minute walk, a ten minute power nap (click HERE to read more about my thoughts on power naps) or eat a smart snack of almonds or some other energy food.
- What is distracting me now? If something is, determine how to quickly handle it, or remove that distraction. Which leads to my third set of ideas…
Removing Distractions are everywhere. The TV, a cluttered desk, the “ding” of a new email being delivered, more advertising in more places, cell phones and pagers… I could go on, but you are already thinking of the distractions in your life. Turn off the TV. Clean your desk. Turn down the volume or turn off the ding. Have someone answer your phone while you work on that project. Screen your calls. You get the idea. Make a list of the 5-7 top things that distract you (at work or at home – wherever you are trying to increase your focus). That’s right make the list right now. Then identify what you can do to remove, eliminate or defer the distraction when you most want to be focused. Focus and clarity are siblings. Both of them are required for us to get greater results, and come ever closer to unleashing our potential. I wish you the best in your efforts to increase your focus. I promise that your efforts will rewarded with greater productivity, higher quality work, and greater opportunities.
Article by Kevin Eikenberry