One of my annual trips is to the opticians because, on their own, my eyes aren’t able to focus. If you have never been, it is an exercise in achieving focus. Each year the optician chooses appropriate lenses so that I can achieve focus.
There is a myriad of things that compete for our time: colleagues ask for your help on something they are working on, ‘it will only take five minutes of your time’, they say. A few of those happening over the course of the day and you realise that you’ve completely run out of time to finish your own work!
Focus will help you stay on track and lead to a greater sense of satisfaction that you have achieved what you needed to by the end of your working day. Having focus in your work is really important to your productivity. The question is: what do you focus on? As those who lead, it’s easy for the tasks of the day to become overwhelming. It is key to your productivity that every day you have a plan.
“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.”
Having a sense of direction or, knowing what your daily, weekly, monthly and annual goals are, brings your work into focus. As Zig says, we all have exactly the same time available to us, 24 hours a day. The key to being productive is to be clear on what you need to do this week, today, this hour.
Key Tips for Focus
Each of us have different roles and functions that we fulfil. Within them certain tasks will need to be done because other people are relying on you to do your piece of work so they can get on with their own work.
Whether a leader or team member here are a few key tips in bringing focus to your work:
- Plan – diaries are not there to be filled up with other people’s appointments. Plan your day, work out what you need to do, and write it down so that you are clear about the task. Put things in your diary, when you will do reports, proposals, your personal development. Some things will be beyond your control but you would be surprised how much time is wasted because we haven’t planned it in.
- Energy – there are certain times of the day when I am at my most creative and focused. When you look at what you need to do what stands out to you that will require your best concentration? It is key to work out not only how long the task is going to take but also when during the day will you be able to bring your best to it. Make sure you take regular breaks, this helps maintain your energy.
- Goals – when different priorities are competing for your time then a sure-fire way of not achieving your tasks is to not be clear on your goals or objectives. Be clear about your goals. Start with your annual goals which when broken down will inform your monthly, weekly, and daily goals. The bonus of setting goals is you will know when you have achieved them.
- Avoid Distractions – set specific times when you will deal with emails. Looking at emails as they come in interrupts your concentration and makes it difficult to maintain focus. Stay away from social media and answering unsolicited calls.
- Do Not Disturb – make sure people know when they can disturb you. As a leader it is important to not give the impression that you are available all the time. Have a system that lets people know when you are not to be disturbed. Around that make sure you are available.
- One thing at a time – it is easy to overestimate our capabilities. There is good evidence to suggest that to produce our best work we can only focus on one thing at a time and do it well. Make space to do that.
There are many other tips but these will give you a start. Let me know other tips you have that have worked for you.
As leaders the way you do things acts as an example to others. If you model unhealthy work practices, they will be reproduced in your team.
“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.” Alexander Graham Bell