Life can be overwhelming. There are many things to do, a lot of items clamoring for our attention. How do you get through all of it, and maintain your sanity and get something accomplished? You need to stop buying into the idea that you can be a multi-tasking maven. Distraction leads to scattered attention and frazzled nerves and the feeling that though taking action never quite finishing a task. The reason is that multi-tasking is mostly a myth. Our minds work better when focused on a single activity. Therefore, it is essential to break projects down into actionable steps and block out the time to focus on accomplishing the next task before moving on to another item or goal.
If life is lived one day at a time, we should go about our tasks in the same way. Here are some things to remember about focusing on one thing at a time.
• Single-task instead of multi-tasking. When asked by people if we can handle the project we are working on we usually reply by stating, “I am a multi-tasker.” Really what we do is go from thing to another and never honestly give singular focus to any one activity. The blizzard of action provides us with the feeling of progress when we are spinning our wheels. Learn to focus on one thing at a time, and you will get more done. When finished, move on to the next task.
• Start small. The key is breaking all of our goals, projects, and plans down into actionable items. You need to identify them and then commit to working on each action or step until you have completed the entire project. Initially, most people do not break things down into small enough actions. To really focus, you need to take the action necessary, something that is completed in a certain amount of time. For me, I break the steps down and then assign them a time frame. Anywhere from 15, 20, 30 to 50 minutes is the time I can usually focus on a single activity.
• Work in time-blocks. To focus, you must dedicate time and work on this one action step, or project for the allotted time. Remove other distractions and gather the materials you need to give your full attention to the task and only work on that item until you finish it, or the allotted time has ended.
• Batch similar activities. This is my form of multi-tasking. I answer emails and file items in Evernote at the same time. They are similar and as soon as I am finished with one, I can go to the other. They do not involve a lot of creative energy. These are things that are easier for me to do later in the day when my energy and creativity is waning. Put similar activities that need attention together, and you can get them done during the same block of time.
• Block distractions. Put your phone on airplane mode. Turn the notifications off on your email Inbox. Shut the door. You cannot concentrate and focus if you do not allow distractions to interrupt you. I even put my phone in my top desk drawer while working through my activities. I can get more done when I concentrate and know that I have a limited amount of time to accomplish the task. It gives me a sense of urgency.
• Automate as many items as you can. I link certain things together. All emails that I need to keep I automatically have then sent to Evernote, and they are saved automatically in the proper notebook and with the appropriate tag. Take an inventory of all actions you take in a week or a month. Set a time and see if you can find an app or a way to automate some actions you must take. It is incredible all the tools available to us today.
• Write things down! After having just mentioned technology allow me to go “old-school” for a moment. The shortest pencil will always beat the best memory. I carry a small notebook with me and if someone tells me something I must remember I write it in down and later in the day transfer it to where I need to place it and then I have cleared my mind. Do not make a promise without writing it down and seeing that it gets on your calendar or your contact list or even your task list.
Try it this week you will discover that you can accomplish much more with just a little focus.