“You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.”—Winston Churchill, British statesman.
One of the characteristics of high achievers is their intensity of focus. (←Click to Tweet) High achievers know how to bury themselves in their work to such an extent that nothing can easily pull them away. It’s like they’re in a productivity trance. Fortunately, you CAN learn to be more focused, even if you believe you’re one of the worst multi-taskers on the planet. Here are four effective ways to tighten up your concentration and intensify your focus.
1. Keep a distraction list open. An active mind works on many levels, some of them subconscious. Your brain may suddenly come up with an idea or reminder that threatens to derail you from your task while you chase the shiny object. It might be a great idea, and you don’t want to use your mental energy just trying to remember it later. Don’t bother. Instead, flip to your “distraction list” and capture the idea before you forget it. Then immediately go back to what you were doing. When you’re finished with your task, you can decide whether to do it, file it, or add it to your to-do list with the correct start date. You can use a text file, a yellow legal pad, Tasks in Outlook, or an app (such as Evernote, Todoist, or Wunderlist) as your distraction list. My father used to say, “when you think it, ink it.” Ink it, and you don’t have to think about it while you’re focused—and it won’t come back to bug you again.
Side Note: One of the ways distractions manifest themselves is in the form of “multitasking”. In this short video, I discuss the truth about just how unproductive multitasking is!
2. Listen to music. Non-verbal music or ambient noise (like the sound of a waterfall or a thunderstorm) may sooth you into a focus trance, if only by drowning out distractions. Listening to Black Sabbath or the Beastie Boys probably won’t help, but Bach and Beethoven may.
3. Meditate for a moment, or at least close your eyes and count your breaths for one minute. If you’re distracted, focusing deeply on yourself and your breathing can help you settle down, much like counting to ten can settle you when you feel irritated or angry. Since it’s super-easy, it’s worth a try.
4. Set aside time for worry, and then let it go. Some natural worriers can get past their need to angst over things by giving themselves a brief period each day when it’s all they do. Fifteen minutes should be enough. If you’re really beset by worries, write them down in a journal and make plans to tackle the ones you can actually change. If it’s something out of your bailiwick or ability to change, though, like a serious family medical crisis or weather woes, do what you can and let the rest go. This will almost always result in some peace of mind, letting you move forward with renewed focus.
Raising the Bar You’ve Already Set
While the four strategies I’ve outlined here aren’t always the first to come to mind, they do work for many of us, and they’re easy to integrate into most lifestyles. Some may think they’re a little touchy-feely, but the mind is a funny thing, and the effects of emotions are real at the mental, physical, and spiritual levels.
And hey, if these ideas don’t work for you, you could always eat a piece of dark chocolate or paint your walls yellow.
© 2017 Laura Stack.
About Laura Stack, your next keynote speaker:
Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on productivity and performance. Funny, engaging, and full of real life strategies that work, Laura will change mindsets and attitudes so your people can maximize productivity, strengthen performance, and get the job done right. Her presentations at corporate events, sales kick-off meetings, and association conferences help audiences improve output, increase speed in execution, and save time in the office. Stack has authored seven books, including her newest work, Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time (Jan. 2016). To have Laura Stack speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401 or visit www.TheProductivityPro.com.
Here’s what others are saying:
“Laura Stack’s session with a group of our seasoned operations managers was eye-opening. We all learned new ways to be more productive with the tools we already have. I’ve never seen each of our seasoned, experienced operations managers so engaged in a session. Many of our senior and mid-level leaders were wowed by what they learned and have already begun using the new techniques with their teams.”
—Mary Pawlowski, Learning Design, Piedmont Natural Gas
“What I enjoyed most about your presentation was that it was not only engaging but also practical in application. I’ve read everything from Covey’s system to “Getting Things Done,” and you presented time management in a way that is the easiest I’ve seen to digest and apply. Thank you for helping our system today!”
—John-Reed McDonald, SVP, Field Operations, Pridestaff
“Laura is an incredible speaker who takes practical information to improve productivity and efficiency and makes it interesting and fun! She has a great sense of humor and completely engaged our corporate and sales team. Laura motivated everyone to take steps to make their lives more productive and efficient.
—Molly Johnson, Vice President Domestic Sales, Episciences, Inc.
“Ms. Laura Stack’s program received the highest scores in the 13-year history of the Institute for Management Studies (IMS) in Cleveland! From the 83 participants, the workshop received a perfect 7.0 for “Effectiveness of the Speaker” and 6.8 for “Value of the Content.” Managers especially valued learning about task management, how to minimize interruptions, organizing with Outlook, prioritizing, effectively saying ‘no,’ how to set boundaries, and recognizing self-imposed challenges to time management.”
—Don Gorning, Chair, Institute for Management Studies Cleveland