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The Boomer Bulletin - 2012
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7 Tips to Stay Focused

Posted By Sandra Wiley, Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Updated: Thursday, June 7, 2012

I believe most of us have days where we just cannot quite make ourselves stay "in the zone”.  We find ourselves staring at the computer and all of a sudden "wake up” and realize that we have done nothing for several minutes.  Or, we have a to do list that is quite long and at the end of the day nothing is crossed off so tomorrow looks bleak before it even starts.  How do you eliminate these time wasting synopsis’s from happening to you?  It seems that if we could learn – and implement – a few new capabilities we would most assuredly get more done in our day.   

The reality for most of us is that we have some time wasting habits that if we identify them, focus on them and then change them we could most certainly improve our quality of life – first at the office and ultimately in our entire life.  

Let’s explore 7 simple habits for improving your focus in the firm:

Manage Time Better at Work

How would you grade yourself when asked about your time management habits?  I do not mean only the to-do list and action steps. Those are must haves. You can have them and yet still not stay focused at work. One of the main reasons is because you get distracted by white noise.  White noise consists of all of the ongoing communications that clutter your time including emails, Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter and web surfing. To make it worse are temptations of web links sent by friends which may or may not be related to work. What about instant messaging and those old fashioned voice mails and calls? How do you expect to stay focused when there are so many distractions?

Shut these down and see how your focus immediately gets better. We all realize that these are vital business communications, so allocate a time of the day to indulge in these.  Take the challenge for one day – shut down all incoming correspondence including phone, Outlook and Internet during the day and only check it at 10:00 am, 1:00 pm and 4:00 pm. Allow yourself only a 15 minute window to respond and then shut it all down again.  I think you will be amazed at the amount of work you will accomplish.

Get the Small Tasks Out of the Way

Small little tasks that you think you can put off and come back to later? Time has an uncanny way of catching up. There will always be fire to put out. Big or small, these will steal time away from you being able to complete the small tasks.  For example, if someone pops in an email to ask for an answer which you have immediately, just reply it and get it out of the way.

Try adding the estimated time that you think a task will take to your personal task list. Then, when you find that you have 5 or 10 minutes between scheduled phone calls or large projects that you are working on, look through your task list for those small things that you can do quickly.  Crossing off the little things will give you confidence and help you focus on the larger projects that need your attention.

Take Short Breaks

Most of us have a misconception that the best way to focus is to jump in and say, "OK, I will sit, focus and accomplish this project, no matter how long it takes."   Your reality is that you need breaks. So take short – not long – breaks throughout the day.  Research shows that these mini-time outs actually help with our ability to focus more clearly.

Try taking a 5 to 10 minute stretch break every 90 minutes.  Stand up, stretch, take a quick walk around the building.  The idea is to wake yourself up and get the blood pumping to your brain so your laser focus will engage again.

Start Early

There are many who say that you are either a morning person or a late night person, however I am convinced that this is a choice you make, and making the choice to get an early start is a good one to aid in the area of focus.  I recommend this, when you start your day early you clear out a lot of things before everyone starts to come in and disturbances starts. It’s a good time to clear emails, check your task list for the day, make coffee and read the online newspaper.  

One caution on this focus tip, if you make the choice to start your day early, and want some alone time to really focus on the day ahead, make sure you communicate that with others.  If everyone starts early, you could find yourself in team conversations and fall right back into interruption mode rather than a productive start to your day.

Prevent Procrastination

Most of us have that project, client call, performance review or something that we just keep pushing to the following day.  As the Nike advertisement says "Just Do It”.  While this is a bit cliché, the reality is that it works tremendously well. Don’t wait and don’t give yourself any excuses.  You can get very good with excuses after a while and things gets pushed and pushed. How can you stay focused when there are always things that will bother you?  

Try this – start working on a project that you have been allowing yourself to push back.  As you complete the task, you will most assuredly find yourself having a clearer mind, feeling more confident and the focus you have on other projects will get much better.

Stop the Break Room Chats and Cubicle Conversations

 I can just imagine some of the owners, managers and supervisors who are reading this saying "GREAT tip”, but be very careful as you implement.  Handle this situation with care.  You want to increase focus and productivity, but you do not want to decrease motivation, communication and comradery among your team.  We spend more time with our co-workers than we do with our families, and the last thing you want to do is treat your firm like a sweat shop.

As you encourage relationships and discourage too much chatter, make sure you are present by walking through the office occasionally to ensure that you are not just talking a good game, but also "acting your expectations”.  If you see – or if you are - the person that is spending too much time at the water cooler, resist making a new policy for everyone and address the issue one on one with the person directly. 

Attack the Dreaded To-Do List

The best to do list is the one that you will use!  Outlook, excel, project management system, CRM, or the legal pad can all be effective.  Use the system you develop and knock off the things you don’t like to do first.   Don’t over commit,  and  if you realize you are over your head ask for help or delegate to someone who has a passion or technical expertise in that area. 

A habit takes 21 days to establish, and focusing on one habit at a time sets the stage for success.   Focused success is in your future! 


Tags:  focus 

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