Why? Because I have seen what a lack of focus does. For myself and in teams I worked with. From my experience the situation we find ourselves in in life, more often than not, matches one of the following scenarios. And neither of them ends well without focus.
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The first one is a rather luxurious one – at least for me: Too many opportunities
When I started the Better Workplace I had tons of ideas (still have actually) and was buzzing with stuff I could put together to help my students to create this better workplace for themselves. Endless opportunities, and one cooler than the other!
I jumped right into some of those ideas and started working on them. Then I added some more. And even more.
Suddenly I realized that I seemed to work on hundreds of things at the same time (yes, happens to me too) resulting into lots of fun….but very little progress. Frustrating.
The second scenario is far more stressful and draining: Being overwhelmed by the quantity of work and by far too busy. So you’re putting your head down, get on with it until you realize after quite some time – sometimes years – that you have not really achieved anything that matters.
This is in fact what Tim Ferriss in his new book “Tools of Titans”, calls managing your life instead of making it. And realizing that is quite sobering. At least for me it was.
I am painfully familiar with this situation and experienced it when I was spreading myself far too thinly while trying to please too many people. Which rather fulfilled their agendas than mine (funnily enough they progressed then and I just helped them and was still managing a status quo).
But how do you find out WHAT to focus on? That is supremely important, before talking about how to become focused.
You can find that out while asking yourself a simple question. Go through all those cool and great things and projects you are doing right now and ask yourself the question: To which of those things can I say “Hell yeah! That is amazing, can’t wait to start or continue that!”
How many things did you find? Well, those are the ones to stick to, to focus on, that is your mission! (If you have not found any, take a hard look at your life and re-consider your direction. Seriously. Everyone deserves to have fun and joy in their life!)
Saying "hell yeah!" to some things means on the other side having to say no to many others. That takes courage, but will reward you eventually.
I’ll come to that later.
And then there is this why you actually want to focus on that particular thing (or things).
When it comes to my business, sometimes I find it hard to focus. There are so many things that I could do, could put courses together for, could talk about. So I had to decide and focus with the result that I stick to the framework I developed for Personal Leadership as this - for me – is the foundation for a happy and fulfilled life which I want other people to have, too.
So how can you focus now – even if you know WHAT you want to do.
We’ve all taken on too much (in fact I don’t know anybody who would argue with that, do you?). As a result, we are busy, too busy most of the time.
You might hate what I am saying now, but I would encourage you to do that anyway: The way out is to say NO. Or turn it around: Saying yes to less tasks or commitments is the solution.
If you are afraid to disappoint people by doing so, let me tell you, that they might end up much more disappointed when you can't deliver what you have promised in the end. So rather say no immediately, when you know you are too busy already.
One of the people I value very much in the space of personal development even goes that far to recommend to say no EVERY time when something comes towards you. And then take your time to think about if and WHY you want to do it. Or not. Tell people that you will consider and see if it aligns with your mission or not.
Saying yes to too many things is a kind of self sabotage. Learning (after you know what you really want to focus on) to stop this self destruction and to only take on what is helping you getting to your goals is admittedly an act of discipline, but you will gain so much from it!
After all it means having to decline some cool things. And you will probably lose some popularity. On the other side you will gain respect when saying no. Guaranteed.
To allow for that switch off e-mail and other notifications, even the phone, put the “do not disturb” sign outside your office door (maybe not literally, but just closing it helps a great deal).
Don’t have your own office? Book yourself a conference room, work from home for a day. I even know people who love to work in public places – I y don’t, as the busyness around me distracts me too much, but I guess we are all different.
Don’t forget to be nice to yourself: Plan some breaks and re-energize. I personally like to work for approx. 50 minutes, then I have a break (drinking water, getting up, doing some breathing exercises).
Important: Plan those blocked times into your calendar. Otherwise they don’t happen…and stick to them. This is an appointment with yourself. Want to have integrity? Then don’t just keep promises and commitments towards others but towards yourself as well.
Task switching (how it is called by scientists) is costly and fatigues your brain immensely, you don’t have to believe me – it’s backed up by science through many studies. Multitasking slows you down and your number of mistakes increases. Work on less and you will achieve more.
Try it out – find your mission, say hell yes to the things you really care about, block time to work on your mission, decrease your distractions and most importantly say NO to everything else!
You’ll be amazed by what you can suddenly achieve. I promise.
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