Refocus in Four Steps

July 28, 2010 by
Filed under: Spinewave Bulletin 

These four steps are adapted from Success Magazine and are quite easy, but I will also add how I manage my own focus.

The average person loses focus every six to ten seconds. When you find yourself drifting, recognise it and make a conscious effort to set yourself back on course. Here are four ways to refocus yourself:

  1. Start writing a to-do list. Just the cathartic act of writing down what you need to do will help you get back on track.
  2. Dive into your email. If you’re a deadline-driven person and find yourself without something pressing to do that minute, checking your backlog of unaddressed emails will help refocus that sense of urgency.
  3. Get up and walk around. Fresh air, a drink of water or a little conversation will help reset your mind for your next wave of productivity.
  4. Do something easy, that you know you’ll do well. That sense of accomplishment will help propel you into harder tasks on your to-do list.

There’s nothing worse than feeling overwhelmed to the point where you feel paralysed, do nothing, or go do something completely off task instead.

Time management is not as important as energy management. If I have more energy during focused blocks of time, I tend to get more done and the quality of that work is higher. This is principally why my practice hours are set the way they are. Like an athlete who gets “in the zone” for a two hour game, this is how I block my performance times. When I’m in practice, interfacing with people, I’m not thinking about anything else to do with the business. In fact, I don’t get any “work” done – all the stuff that drives the business. What happens during practice hours is the “show”, and all the preparation and rehearsing occurs during the other hours of the week: Meetings, research, case preparation, web work, study, phone calls, speeches, powerpoints, marketing, planning, envisioning, et cetera.

I have “ideal” times for business meetings during the week. If the other person can’t make those times and the meeting is not urgent, I slot it in the following week instead of cramming the meeting into times allotted for other things, like personal time. I used to work all day, every day and do as much as I could all the time to sate this absurd need for accomplishment of tasks to make me feel like I was moving ahead faster than I really was – or needed to be.

I feel business is like a small plant that grows at its own natural pace, set to the right conditions parallel with your own growth, which you have to create, and shouting and yelling at the plant to grow faster is not going to change anything. Thus instead of standing aimlessly shouting at the plant, I take time out to replenish my energy reserves by doing non-work related things such as aikido, watching a movie or phoning a friend.

I never have more than 10 to 15 emails in my inbox. Like a piece of paper, I only handle it once: reply to it if necessary, then delete or move to an assigned folder if it needs to be referred to down the track like an argument with a partner who seems to remember everything you said from the 90s. I use the Thunderbird email client so am able to highlight emails red if it’s important and need to keep it in my consciousness.

Thinking about it now, I guess I have three levels of to-do list organisation:

    1. The Big Picture business plan for the year, which is all the broad stroke ideas I think would be nice to achieve by a certain date, usually by the end of the calendar year, but don’t beat myself up (anymore) if I don’t nail it. I usually pen that out around November/December the year prior. For 2010 I broke it down into 5 categories instead of the traditional business plans which take forever and a day to write and you never look at them again: Me, People, Finance, Market, and Leverage.

 

    1. My Ideas Page. It’s sometimes difficult to put timelines on things so this is a floating list of medium-to-biggish ideas that I’d like to get done or achieve with no real definitive point when it needs to be complete. I write it as a checklist with squares next to each item that I tick once complete. The ideas could be for the month or for the quarter, and the list keeps floating forward through my diary. If an idea pops into my head like, call sowinso from this company to discuss a proposal on xyz, I write it on my Ideas Page because it doesn’t need to be done this week (and stress me out) but it’s a good idea I would like to address in a couple weeks and don’t want to forget about it. The irony with this process is that usually, because it’s written down, in a couple weeks or months the perfect timing arises for that opportunity and then it fits into level 3 easily…

 

  1. The stock standard daily/weekly To Do list. I think diaries are paramount for energy management because if it’s written down, it’s not in your brain taking up space and draining subconscious energy. This is often why for people with insomnia I recommend keeping a notepad next to their bed so they can write down the thoughts that are going round and round and can usually rest better after that. I like to write down the following week’s to-do list on the Friday before or over the weekend (instead of sitting down and working on it straight away on the weekend!) and spread the load out over the week. Never really more than 3 to 5 tasks per day. I used to write an entire list on Monday with the rest of the week being blank and wonder why I got burnt out so often! If a task isn’t done that day, I simply write it down again the following day. And I keep doing that until it gets done. This way I really starting annoying myself, can no longer procrastinate and get it done.

Emotional headspace and focus of consciousness is really a different topic in and of itself. Without that in check all of the above becomes a bit redundant because you’re no longer present at all and interest in day to day activities starts dissipating. This is more in the realm of burnout or depression, which really needs to be addressed in a different way. Focus, energy and emotional headspace all needs to be in order to achieve the mechanics of one’s daily lists since the energetics always underlies the mechanics.

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