Focusing on Focus
Some days it’s as if my plate is not only full but excess obligations are beginning to drip off the edges. It can be difficult when you are feeling overwhelmed to remember that it is actually possible to get all the important things done, when they need done, & how they need done. There just has to be a plan.
I’ve heard tell that if you make a list of the 10 things that most need done on a given day, put them in rank order, and erase the last 7 you will have a fighting chance of getting the three most important accomplished in a timely manner with quality results. Chances are you will also realize that many of the other items were not as urgent as you thought. Once you pare down your to-do list to the essentials, it’s just a matter of Focusing on Focus. Accomplishing your three most important YES’s is simply a matter of saying NO to everything else. By embracing these 5 NO’s you will be amazed at how productive and effective you will be.
ay NO to Multitasking – Under no circumstances should you even attempt to multitask. Studies have proven that the very concept of multitasking is a myth. Although we have the ability to switch attention quickly between numerous tasks, it is only possible to truly focus on one at a time. The real downside to multitasking is that every time you “switch” your attention, even if it in the blink of an eye, there is a price to pay. Not only does it take extra time and energy, but the quality of your work will suffer as well. Work on one and only one item at a time. *
Say NO to extra screens – I’m embarrassed to say that as I started to type this second point I realized my phone waSs face up beside me, my second computer screen was displaying my last internet search, and there were three unnecessary tabs staring up at me from the bottom of my document screen. My phone is now off and in a drawer (another room would be better). My second screen is off – not even the desktop is showing and I’ve gone to full screen mode on my laptop so that I can’t see so much as a glimpse of anything except what I’m writing. Screens tend to be more distracting than other objects because they light up, flash, and tempt you into reflectively refreshing. Just having your screen in view occupies a little part of your brain even when you don’t realize it (see rule #1).
Say NO to outside interruptions – Commit to a specific time frame and put up away messages, turn off alerts, switch to airplane mode, mute ringers, and put a sign on your door. Do whatever you have to do to keep the outside world from disrupting your groove. Fifty minutes is about as long as most people can concentrate on any one task before they need a little break. Think long and hard before checking email, making a call, or starting up a conversation with a coworker during breaks. Although getting a drink of water and stretching your legs is a good thing, don’t open yourself to distractions that will make it difficult to refocuses after your break.
Say NO to your superhero fantasy – I don’t know how to break this to you if you didn’t already suspect… but, you’re not a superhero. I’m sure you are a super person & no doubt you are a hero to many, but as a mere mortal you can’t separate how you take care of your body from getting the most from your brain. The brain functions best on a high nutrient, low sugar diet. There is no getting around needing between 7 – 8 hours of sleep a night. And don’t forget that regular exercise gives you the stamina and clarity of thought that you need to remain productive. Resist the temptation to neglect your health when your life gets busy. It is when you need to take care of your body the most.
Say NO to physical extremes – The number of possible distractions in your environment are limitless and they will play havoc on your attempts to stay focused. The key here is to surround yourself with just the right amount of stimulus. I like to call this the Goldilocks Strategy. The room should not be too cold nor too hot - too hot will make you groggy and too cold will make you uncomfortable and tense. Your lighting can’t be too bright nor too dim. Either extreme will stress your eyes. Use a comfortable chair, but don’t forget to shift around from time to time – the best posture is the next posture. A little bit of movement is the key to good circulation. A touch of caffeine has been found to aid in alertness, but too much can bring on the jitters. Don’t allow yourself to be uncomfortably hungry or lethargically full. In all matters of physical comfort, learn from Goldilocks and shoot for “just right.”
The secret to staying focused is to embrace the power of NO. Think of each of these NO’s as little soldiers put into place to protect your big YES’s. There is nothing that can’t be accomplished with a commitment to Focusing on Focus.
*T. Bradberry (Oct, 8, 2014). Multitasking Damages Your Brain And Career, New Studies Suggest. www.forbes.com.