The Essential F Word in Business — Focus

Do you strug­gle to get all your work done each day? You have dai­ly goals but fail reach them con­sis­tent­ly on a dai­ly basis. Dis­trac­tions abound and at the end of the day, you won­der — what DID I real­ly do all day?

Focus imageWhen I worked in the cor­po­rate world, I cer­tain­ly thought I could get more stuff done by mul­ti-task­ing. This was the pre­ferred way to real­ly get things accom­plished, accord­ing to many of my co-work­ers who prid­ed them­selves on being multi-taskers. 

I have had to re-think that as a busi­ness own­er. Mul­ti-task­ing does not work. Much research has been done on mul­ti-task­ing and the con­clu­sion? We humans can­not focus well and mul­ti-task at the same time effec­tive­ly. How­ev­er, we do switch our atten­tion from task to task very quick­ly. (But that is not real­ly multi-tasking.) 

If you’re inter­est­ed in the why of this, Daniel Weiss­man, a pro­fes­sor of cog­ni­tion and per­cep­tion at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Michi­gan, explains why we can only focus on one thing at a time in this arti­cle

Here are three ideas that may be help­ful in your abil­i­ty to FOCUS on a dai­ly basis. 

1 — The power of three

At the begin­ning of the day, you prob­a­bly have sev­er­al items on your To Do list from the day before. I chal­lenge you to PRIORITIZE them and put only 3, I repeat, only 3 items that you feel are the most impor­tant to get done that day at the top of the list. 

Rea­son: the brain finds it easy to grasp threes. There is a sci­ence behind “the pow­er of three”. You can look up lots of details about the “pow­er of three” and the “why it works” facts on the inter­net. The basic idea is that our brains like choic­es but not too many choic­es. Hav­ing only 3 pri­or­i­ties for one day will help you move for­ward on that To Do list and feel more suc­cess­ful at the end of the day. With focus, you CAN accom­plish the 3 most impor­tant tasks of the day. At the end of the day, you’ll feel accom­plished and if you are a list per­son like me, get a nice bit of sat­is­fac­tion when you cross off those tasks from the list and move forward. 

2 — Talk to yourself – use motivating and positive self-talk

You can say to your­self things like – 

OK, where do I want to start? 

What do I need to do next? 

I can stay with it – I am a fin­ish­er. I can do this. 

I’ve com­plet­ed tasks that are more dif­fi­cult than this before.

You can become your own best friend, coach and motivator. 

Most of us are in con­stant men­tal chat­ter, any­way. Our actions are inspired by our thoughts, so if we change the way we think by talk­ing pos­i­tive­ly to our­selves, we are giv­ing our­selves men­tal kudos. Our focus will improve because of our thought process. By using moti­vat­ing and pos­i­tive self-talk, we give our­selves the pow­er to set in motion the actions that will bring us even more focus to com­plete our tasks. 

3 — Stay in the Present

Most of us tend to look ahead, look around the cor­ners, antic­i­pat­ing the next task. As busi­ness own­ers we learn to think like this. How­ev­er, it’s a bad habit that mess­es up our focus. So while you are doing what needs doing, trust in your­self that you have made a good deci­sion on what to work on next, and then work on it, and only it, until it’s done. 

Here’s my bonus focus tip:

(oops, I just broke the rule on the pow­er of three, but this is a sure-fire win­ner tip — trust me!) 

Set a timer.

Here’s mine. 

Digital timerIt sits on my desk at all times. It’s part of my busi­ness tool kit. I call it my focus timer. Since I’ve been set­ting a timer to get my work done, 30 min­utes at a time, I am so much more focused on the task at hand. 

Dur­ing that 30 min­utes, I don’t check my email, steal glances at my long list of To Do’s and sigh over it, or even think ahead about what’s next. For me, I know I can focus for at least 30 min­utes and keep dis­trac­tions at a min­i­mum. For you, it may be only 15 min­utes or maybe you can focus for a much longer block of time. Find your stride. You will be amazed at how much you can accom­plish in a day by work­ing in focused blocks of time. 

I’d love to know your thoughts on these sim­ple tips in the com­ments sec­tion below. Feel free to share oth­er tips that you’ve used to help YOU focus.

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