Stay focused with these 8 essential strategies
Time management and productivity are not about one off actions which reap great rewards. There may be occasions where you can take one action and see huge benefits but these are few and far between. Real results are achieved when you perform the right actions over and over again. It is this repetition which gets the results. It’s a bit like chopping wood. Occasionally, you will break through the piece of wood with just one blow but the most effective woodsmen will strike with accuracy (using the right action) and as a result, they will break through the wood with the fewest blows possible. The key to success is to take the right action, consistently. This consistency only comes when you manage to stay focused.
The real purpose of time management and productivity strategies are to ensure that you stay focused on your most important tasks, for as long as possible, each and every day. When you stay focused, you achieve your goals quicker. When you struggle to stay focused, it is like you are endlessly going around each roundabout on the road to success; never making a direct dash for your objective.
8 Essential strategies to keep you focused [infographic]
A great deal of focus revolves around cutting out the distractions, clutter and time thieves so that you can spend more time focusing on the stuff that really matter. When you combine this with the proper planning and organisation; you will have taken great strides to help you stay focused.
The following infographic provides you with 8 strategies to help you stay focused.
Key points from the infographic
The following are the key points from the infographic whih will help you to stay focused:
1. Start with the end in mind
If you were planning a holiday, would you start making the actual plans before you knew where you wanted to go? Of course not. At the very least, you would take the time to determine what you want from the holiday e.g. do you want to enjoy some sunshine or are you looking to partake in some winter sports? What you want from your holiday determines where you choose to go and; where you choose to go will determine how you spend your time planning and organising your holiday.
This is what it means to start with the end in mind. If you want to get focused and stay focused, you need to know what you are trying to achieve. When you know what you are trying to achieve, you can start to eliminate the stuff which adds no value and focus more on the activities which will bring you the results you want.
2. Know what gets you results
When you have the end in mind, you will find it easier to identity the tasks which will help you to achieve your goal. Just as importantly, you will be able to identity what doesn’t work for you; allowing you to clear a great deal of clutter from your life.
To get the best results, you need to stay focused on the activities which bring you the best results. Just as you should invest your money in the investments which offer the best returns, you must invest your time in the activities which offer the best results.
3. Treat time as your most important resource
We are taught to think of time chronologically i.e. one minute follows the next and each minute is equal. Unfortunately, this isn’t true. Not all time is equal. The value of any piece of time is determined by the manner in which you use it. Time is like money; a resource. The true value of money does not lie in what you receive; it lies in what you achieve with it. Time is no different.
Spend your time wisely and you will be truly rewarded. To spend your time wisely, you have to focus on what really matters.
Just like money; time is a precious resource. Invest it wisely to get the best results.
4. Contextualise your tasks
To stay focused and keep making progress, you need to know what you can and cannot do, in any given moment. You will not always have the necessary resources to complete every task in that moment. The tasks you can complete in any given moment are impacted by the following:
- The time you have available
- Your current energy levels
- The resources you have access to
- The people you have access to
If you have a lot of tasks, you can end up wasting a lot of time sorting through which tasks you can and cannot do. What you really want is to be able to choose the most important task from a list containing only tasks which you can actually complete.
To do this, you can organise contextual lists which work with the way you work. Some examples include:
- If you only see your boss once per week, you could have a list just for tasks which require his/her presence
- If you regularly find yourself out of the office with just your phone; you can have a list just for phone calls you need to make.
- If you regularly find yourself with time to kill between meetings, you could have a list of 15 minute tasks
No matter what the situation you find yourself in, having contextualised lists can help you to stay focused and keep making progress.
5. Start a 'Someday Maybe' list
If you are driven and ambitious, you likely get great ideas on a regular basis. The problem is that as great as these ideas are; they are often not actionable at the time you get the idea. These ideas can keep jumping around in your mind and you may regularly find yourself daydreaming about them. This doesn’t help you to stay focused.
Part of the reason that good ideas keep jumping back into your mind is that you are afraid that you will forget them. And, you don’t want to forget a good idea. The solution is to start a ‘someday maybe’ list where you can capture the great ideas that you cannot currently work on. Once you have captured the idea, your mind will feel more comfortable about letting it go.
The key thing here is that you must then schedule regular time to review your ‘someday maybe’ list to see if any of these great ideas can be put into action.
6. Establish routines for the small stuff
No matter what you work at, you will have small tasks which need to be done but can eat up a lot of your time; more time than they deserve. The easy way around this is to make them into routines.
6. Do nothing
In order to stay focused, you must take charge of your day. You cannot let others dictate what you do and when you do it. Even if you are an employee, if you really think about it, you will still have a great deal of freedom about how you manage your day i.e. what you do at any given time.
Unfortunately, most people are not in charge of their day. They answer the phone every time it rings; they respond to each email as soon as they get it. When it comes to deciding which task gets done next, it is a matter of serving whoever shouts the loudest.
If you manage your day in a manner similar to that described above; not only are you giving priority to the wrong things. You will actually spend a great deal of time completing tasks which you shouldn’t be doing at all.
The harsh reality of life is that you will never be able to do all of the things you would like to do. You certainly will never be able to do all of the things which others would like you to do.
So, you need to change your mindset. When a new task comes your way, don’t ask ‘When will I do this?’. Ask ‘Should I be doing this?’ You will find many more tasks which you should not be doing and with those tasks; if you cannot delegate or outsource them; the correct response is to do nothing.
Sometimes, the most productive thing you can do, is to do nothing.
8. Just get started
Large projects can be one of the biggest causes of both distraction and procrastination. You end up thinking about the size of the project and this creates a sense of overwhelm which can cause you to delay your start.
Rather than get overwhelmed by the size of the project; just pick a small task and make a start. Once you have made a start, you will start to build both confidence and momentum. With each small piece of the project you complete, you will be more committed to seeing it through. To stay focused, you need to stop thinking about the whole project and just focus on what you can get done in the next short period. Just eat the elephant, one bite at a time.
For more great time management tips, check out Quick Fixes for Your Productivity.
Staying focused is not just about getting more done; it is about getting the right stuff done; on time, every time. When you stay focused, you don’t just know what you should be doing; you are crystal clear about the things you should not be doing. In the end, you don’t actually do more; you do less but in doing so; you do a lot more of the stuff that matters. And, that’s what brings the best results in life.