The ever increasing number of distractions, often makes the art of focusing seem like an impossible task. But, rest assured it is possible to learn to focus, and learning exactly how to focus can often be the 'tipping point' to great success.
This mini series will step by step approach the art of focusing and will also provide some of my highly guarded tools which have helped me become the 'King of Productivity'.
The thinking exercise (15 to 20 minutes thinking and writing down required)
The very first thing you need to do is to try and understand yourself. Think back to times where you were super productive/focused and times when you were not. Take one page to write down times when you were productive and one page for when you were not, and describe what the environment was like:
Was it noisy?
Was it when you were alone?
Was your desk clean?
Was it at certain times of the day?
Was it a certain type of work that made you productive/unproductive?
Were you under a tight deadline?
and so on...
Write these things down so it is clear for you to see. What we are trying to identify are the circumstances where you are productive, so that we can bring ourselves closer to that environment and move further away from environments that make you unproductive.
A lot of people have made lists on being productive but they forget this important step. Not everyone can be productive the same way or with the same tasks. You have to find what seems to work for you, and use that as a starting point to improve your focusing skills.
Again it is important to physically write this down as well. I want you to list, all the things that interrupted you once you were in your focused mode. Think back to a time when you were completely focused and somehow lost it:
Were you disturbed?
Is it often after a certain amount of time?
Were you hungry?
and so on...
The idea again is to recognize what distracts you once you are in your focused phase, so we can take steps to avoid it again.
OK, some people will insist they have never been focused, but I'm sorry I refuse to believe that. Even for the briefest amount of time we have been focused at one point or another. The aim is to find the circumstances that allowed us to become focused and improve on it until we can do it much easier in the future.
If you still do not think you can complete this exercise, you obviously suffer from a severe lack of motivation and focus. Just carry on with the next steps and come back to this exercise at a later stage when you have realised you have been able to focus.
The very first part of this phase has been written down in your notes from the exercise above. You have to recreate the conditions that made you productive and remove any of the factors that made you unproductive.
That is 50% of the solution to being focused, yet most people are never lucky enough to discover it. Follow it, and I promise you, you will learn a lot about yourself, which will possibly double the effects of the tips I give below.
Remember it is impossible for someone to stay focused all the time. Realise that and accept that. Students are said to have an attention span of roughly 40 minutes and thus most lessons are capped at 1 hour. If that is how we learned to focus during our teens (one hour at a time), then what makes us think we can focus for 3 or 4 hours each day without a lot of practice and changing of our habits? Yes it is possible for a few days, but its not possible over a sustained period of time without practice and dedication. Agree now, that you will keep trying to change your habits. You will celebrate achievement and look back at times when you failed with a positive vision, so you can make adjustments to ensure you don't fail so often in the future.
Again, understand yourself and make sure you are realistic with the goals you set in the following tips.
Prioritise. The key to being productive is to do the most important tasks first. We have 100 tasks to complete each day, but I bet you no more that a handful are critical or really important (unless of course you run a nuclear power plant or are a doctor etc, but I'm focusing on office based work here).
The key is to identify which task are really of high priority. Which tasks can really wait, and which tasks you can delegate to others, or which really will not be of any use at all.
Pick just three tasks to achieve each day, which should take no longer then 90 minutes each to complete. Write down why these task are important and what the advantage is of completing these tasks. This is you 'Productivity focus list' Keeping that on a piece of paper, your 'Productivity focus list' in front of you get to work! Don't think or analyse it to much, just start!
How to overcome roadblocks
1) Distractions whilst you are focusing.
It is inevitable at some stage, even after your efforts to avoid distractions, that you may lose focus. It's ok, the important thing is to learn how to handle it. Have a spare notebook and pen on one side of your desk. This is the 'After I'm Done' book.
Every time you are distracted, simply take the book, and in no more then 10 words write down the distraction and a quick note so you can get back to it afterwards.
When researching articles on the Internet, I often come across interesting sites. I simply look at my 'Productivity focus list' and remind myself of my objective. I then turn to my 'After I'm Done' book and write down the folder in which I have bookmarked the site and in 4 or 5 words why it is interesting. For example if you were researching an article on how to become successful by learning to be Productive and you came across my site, you would read the article that was relevant and then write my blog down in your 'After I'm done' book, with the note 'Useful site to make me successful' and get back to the work you were focusing on.
If for example someone came in to ask you a question (even though you had a 'do not disturb' sign on the door), you have two options:
Ask them if the question can wait. If it can make a note to get back to them in your 'After I'm done' book and remind them to take your 'Do not disturb' sign more seriously in the future. (Be polite but firm)
If is is something you must answer then and there, take a few second to write down, firstly what you are currently doing (e.g., adding up last years figures or reading Venturetothetop.com 's productivity article) and then write down what you would do after you had finished that task. THIS IS IMPORTANT. When you are forced to quickly do something else, make it as easy as you can to get back to your original task.
These tips are very different to the 'Tidy your desk', 'Drink more water', 'Get enough sleep' advice you may get on other sites, but these tips I have taught countless business executives, and if followed you will have all the tools to make yourself ever increasingly productive.
In the next part of this mini series I will teach you how to break down a big task into smaller steps so it does not seem daunting and actually makes it look very easy to achieve. The easier you make a task look, the more likely you are to stick at it and complete it.
I hope these tips help you as much as they have helped me and my clients.
Dee is a Reknown New Business Expert and is known within his field as 'The Productivity King'. For more great advice and articles, and to follow his challenge to go from zero to 1 million within 1 year, visit: http://www.venturetothetop.com/the-challenge/.
More about Prioritizing here.
Article Source: Practical Tips - How to Stay Focused on Work