Lately, I’ve had a hard time staying focused.
I’m in the midst of a business transition. Our service offerings, website, marketing strategies, messaging, branding will further evolve. And I’m deep into the development of my first book, The Modern Seller. These are positive and exciting steps for the long-term, but right now it requires managing lots of change, finding the right mix of strategies, keeping balls in the air with business development, and of course taking care of our current clients. All that requires lots of brain power and executive thinking.
In any given moment, multiple activities are begging for my attention. Even as I’m writing this, in the back of my mind are all the other things I need to do.
Have you ever felt this way? With so much swirling around in your mind that the minute you start on one activity, you’re thinking about five others. Am I working on the most important thing? Do I need to shift my focus elsewhere?
What happens for me is that when I shift my focus too often, I don’t accomplish anything meaningful or get any traction. For example, I might have a day blocked off because I wanted to make forward progress on some key projects. But when my mind wanders between tasks, by the end of the day I’ve spun my wheels and I’m left with a half-dozen or so tasks in different states of completion.
I hate that feeling, so I’ve decided to do something about it. These are some of the productivity tips I’m experimenting with to keep my focus, get things accomplished, and feel productive. For me, feeling productive (not busy… that’s something else entirely), and being productive go hand in hand. One feeds the other.
1. Practice Some Self Compassion
Realizing that it’s totally human to feel this way, I’m trying to give myself some space to acknowledge this is part of struggle of doing important work. Some self-compassion. We all go through periods where we struggle with focus–especially when the tasks that require focus don’t have an immediate payoff.
2. Limit Your List
I’m working on a few projects where the payoff is down the road. My focus items are important but not urgent, so it’s tempting to set them aside and put out a fire or two.
First, I’m working on not trying to cram too many of these big projects into a single day. Instead, I’ll work on maybe two in a given day. I’m finding this is giving me more space to work, and it’s helping me to feel more successful because I’m not looking at the “to do list” of things I didn’t accomplish.
3. Plan the Night Before
In writing my book, I was getting way too used to staring a blank page and trying to “will” something to get created. The result? You guessed it. Two hours would go by, and I wasn’t any further along. On a tip from my book coach, I’ve changed tactics. Now, I’m looking at sections for the next day, sketching my outline and thoughts of what I want to write– and doing it all the night before. I’m finding myself excited to get to it, and I’m more focused with a plan.
4. Block Out Distractions
Also at the suggestion of my book publisher, I invested in a good set of noise cancelling headphones. It’s an excellent way to quiet the world and help keep your head in the game. I turn off email alerts, as well, so I’m not tempted to interrupt my thought and work flow answering messages that can wait.
5. Try a Change of Scenery
I was stuck in a location rut. I have a beautiful home office, but lately it’s been a big distractor. When I’m at home it’s too easy for me to stretch my workdays out longer than they need to be. When I’m on the road (or at least away from my home office in another setting), I have a finite amount of time. As a result, I’m forced to get to it and work faster. This also helps me tackle perfectionism.
Overall, it’s been about balancing today and the future. Finding a contentment in what I’m doing right now – but also planning for the future I want to create. And believing that I’m in the exact right place and in the exact right moment of where I need to be.
Time is one of our most important and non-renewable resources. Are you a leader of your time? Watch my short video on placing a value on time.