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?
When 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.
It 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.