You just got into the office. You sit down and get ready to tackle a number of critical items that you MUST get done by the end of the day. You’ve got 10 hours to work with, so no biggie…you’ll get them done. Two performance reviews, an RFP response from a potential vendor you must look over, that report that needs to go to your leadership team on ROI, and don’t forget the dreaded meeting with your boss…the infamous one-on-one.
You sit back at your desk and look out the window, it’s 8:00 am. Your mind races to all the things that could go wrong. A bad meeting with your boss, a run-in with HR over those darn reviews, or a call from Finance that your numbers won’t be ready until Wednesday, delaying yet again your report on ROI. You look up and it’s 9:30! What happened. Where did 90 minutes go? Panic sets in. You’ve got 10 things to do and you haven’t even started one! You’re already beginning to slip into a funk and drift…it’s almost like you’re losing consciousness. Actually, you’ve lost your focus.
Becoming focused and staying focused is one of the most difficult things we are faced with each and every day. It’s not something you only do once. To accomplish, achieve, or succeed in anything you do requires focus.
Here are some best practices to help you find your focus and maintain it:
- Make a list. At the end of each day, make a list of your top priorities that need to be completed the next day. Place them in order of importance from a completion standpoint and go further by assigning a completion time. Example: #1 Joe’s Review to be completed by 10:30 am. Having a list, and knowing the timeframe of each deliverable will help you focus on each critical item to complete. Print out your list or, as I do, write each item on a white board if you have one in your office. Having these deliverables staring you in the face all day is a constant reminder of your priorities for that day.
- Office hours. Steal a common behavior from your doctor. Build blocked-time into each day. Blocked-time is time during your day that nothing gets scheduled. It’s protected. Having this protected time allows you to create your own cushion or safety net should you encounter unexpected demands during your day. Having some flexible hours or even minutes will help you stay focused.
- Sleep. No, not on the job! Sleep at night when you’re supposed to. One of the biggest reasons for loss of focus is sleep deprivation. Focus, like concentration requires huge amounts of energy. When you have no fuel in your tank you won’t be able to maintain your focus to accomplish the tasks that are in your priority bucket. Everyone requires a different amount of sleep so I won’t bother to advise on how many hours you need but suffice it to say you should determine how big your “fuel tank” is and how much it will take to fill it.
- Eat right. Try to stay away from too much caffeine or sugar. They may provide for a great rush but they’re not sustainable and soon you’ll find yourself heading downward. Fruits, vegetables, or the occasional energy bar may be good snacks to keep you going. Stay away from heavy carbs as they will tend to make you lethargic and slow your thinking. The goal is to be alert.
- Walk. Sitting in your office all day is one of the worst things you can do when trying to stay focused. The human brain needs stimulation to recharge its batteries…not to mention fresh air helps too. At least once ever 90 minutes get up and walk around. Move. Breath. Do some neck stretches. This motion and activity will help renew your energy and provide improved perspective as you head back to dealing with your list.
Doing these 5 things each and every day will help you master control of your own personal focus. This control will give you a better ROF – Return on Focus – as you will be accomplishing what you need to, when you need to, with the highest quality possible.
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