“He well knew his mind’s natural tendency to be endlessly on a thousand subjects at once, to flit from this to that and to the next thing to no particular purpose–indeed, he called it his “butterfly mind.”
― Eric Metaxas
What do you focus on? One of a thousand things running around in your mind all screaming for attention or something else?
More than ever before distractions are taking a toll on productivity, getting results that matter. People are trying to keep all the things they want to do in their mind and their mind is the worst place to keep a list of things. The mind wants to give attention to every item and in an effort not to forget it latches on to one thing for a brief period of time and then lets it go to grab on to something else. It is trying to remember what you want to remember and cycling through that list and on occasion you’ll grab one of those items and start working on it only to let it go to grab onto something else. It’s not a very good use of your time and it doesn’t allow you to finish what you started.
You might be able to hold onto a few things in your mind, perhaps seven items before things start careening out of control. Be on time to the meeting, make a phone call, write the report, make sure you prepared for the meeting, fix the problem that suddenly came up and …, everything wants your attention.
To get the best results requires focus and limiting (setting boundaries) that work for you. So, let’s look at 5 ways to increase focus and get better results.
1. Prepare and Plan
3. Stick to the schedule
Prepare and Plan – At the beginning of the day sort out what really needs to be done. Write them down. If the list is really long then figure out what can be done today. What are the top six things that need to be addressed? Figure out how long each item will take to complete. Be realistic, most people tend to be very optimistic on what they can accomplish.
Prioritize – Figure out what is most important to do. Do the hardest thing when you have the most energy. For some people the morning is their best time and for others it might be the afternoon. Figure out when you will have the most energy and do the hardest work then. Do the easy things when your willpower and drive is lower.
Stick to the schedule – you created the plan and now distractions are coming in from others and they want your attention and time. In order to be highly productive focus on the results you need for today. What can you say “No” to? What can you defer? How can you manage distractions so they don’t reduce your effectiveness? Create the discipline to focus on what you need to do and set fixed boundaries around your time. At the end of the day getting the right results matter.
Energize – take time to restore your energy. 90 minutes of full-out effort is about the maximum one can focus and concentrate on one thing for most people. In that time the brain will consume a lot of energy and you’ll need to recharge. To recharge get up and move – take in some deep breaths and do something to get the blood flowing. Take a walk for 10 minutes, run up a flight of stairs, do something that will get your blood moving. Then refuel with water and the right kinds of foods (nuts, fruits, vegetables).
Reflect – At the end of the day take a few minutes to evaluate what you accomplished. Write down the things you did complete and check to see if those things were estimated well and if the task was easy or hard to complete. Note the number of distractions and where they came from (customers, managers, co-workers, others). What was draining your time? What things were taking you away from being productive? How many of those things kept you from getting the right results? Use these lessons to plan better for the next day.
High achievers build into their lives the habits that generate the best results. With practice you can become a high achiever.