Ever since my teaching years and throughout my coaching career, I have realized that I am particularly good at focusing to complete a task and at getting many things done when they are supposed to be done. I have had many friends and acquaintances often make comments to me about my ability to focus well and accomplish many tasks efficiently.
Over the past sixteen years of coaching my clients, I have often seen how they struggle to focus. They feel overwhelmed in their attempts to accomplish their tasks and goals. For full disclosure, I have certainly felt overwhelmed many times, due to decisions I made to take on more than was reasonably possible to achieve within the deadlines I had. However, overall I have been able to focus well and have been successful at helping my clients learn to focus better and achieve their goals.
I want to share with you some of the kind of thinking and practices that have helped me focus well and contribute to having greater success at getting things done.
- Clarity about your true desire – Sometimes we think we want to do something and we really don’t. We allow someone else’s words dictate what we “should” do. In order to take the proper action to get something done, we must be motivated because we truly want to do it. Otherwise, we will delay or simply not do the task. Check in with yourself to discover if you really want to do what you are telling yourself to do.
- If you decide that your task is important to do, you may have fear about not being able to do it well, you may believe it is too unpleasant to do because it may be more difficult than you feel you would be comfortable doing, or you may believe it might take too long. Despite this, is this a task you really want to do?
- If you decide that this task is important for you to do, make sure you choose the right time to do it.
- Evaluate, as best you can, how long you will need to complete the task.
- Check your calendar and see if you have the time available to complete the task prior to when it is due to be completed.
- If you don’t have all that time available at once, chunk it down for your task… An hour here, a half-hour there, etc. Schedule your now mini-tasks on your calendar.
- Control your self-talk and build in planned breaks – our world is so full of distractions that it is easy to get confused about what you want to do, especially if we compare ourselves with others, read the slew of email offers to improve or try something, or develop a mind-set that some other existence would be better than ours at the moment. The undisputable truth is that we are responsible for our thoughts. We have the capacity to control what we think.
- I am a firm believer in controlled self-pity parties, taking a break, meditating, short walks, etc. – Anything to escape from pressure, fear, or other emotions that take us over.
- Plan these times just like you plan any personal or business appointment! If you are really pressed for time, make them very short appointments.
- After these times are planned, tell yourself that once you give yourself the enjoyable, relieving time you needed, you will feel good and will be 100% ready to work on your task.
- When this break time is over, remind yourself that you have the ability and the capacity to do a great job with your task.
- Find a way to keep yourself from being distracted, and in your mind, give extreme importance to completing your task.
- Write it down – no matter how trivial, make sure you write down anything you want to get done. Everyone has a preference for to how to capture random thoughts and tasks to do. Some use phone apps, programs, and even paper. I use a notebook on my desk and a Franklin Planner. I put the date and page number at the top of my notebook, and anything that pops into my head, or I need to jot down from a text or phone call, I write in this notebook. Whether it is something I have to delegate or do myself, I transfer to my Franklin planner which I have been using for what seems like an eternity. Every morning and throughout the day, I write down my tasks and prioritize them. Then, whatever was of less consequence than my urgent and important to-do’s, get re-written on the next day’s list. Whatever system you use, write it down!
- Prioritize – I touched on this above. There are some things that have more bells, and whistles than others. Those grab our attention and we allow ourselves to get drawn to them. That’s really okay. However, if you ask yourself – again use self-talk and control – what is the best result for you at that moment, you will get the best answer: Take a break now or wait until your planned work time is over to attend to the fancier attention grabber? Set your tasks according to your priority. What is genuinely more important to you? Then, follow that plan (except for the breaks mentioned above.)
- Remove the self-imposed pressure and just do it – It is so easy to get caught up in our own drama. We revert to our own negative pictures. Doing this is sometimes almost unconscious.
- You have to catch yourself doing that. That means you have to practice staying self-aware. If you find you are not getting done what you want done, just stop and ask yourself about the messages you are repeating in your mind.
- We create our own pressure. We can do things extremely well without adding drama and pressure. In addition to just checking my thoughts, I use two little tricks.
- I recall a time when I felt similar pressure and, in my mind’s eye, I look at what happened. Almost all of the time, I did what I had planned to do and the result was great. So, I let the pressure go, knowing I can do the same thing now.
- I see myself in the eyes of a loved one or good friend. Often these people tend to tell you how great you are. Just see how talented and terrific you are as if you are looking from their eyes. Doing this will regenerate your confidence and boost you up so that you no longer feel stuck and can do a great job.
- Use and Ask for Help – Here’s what seems like a secret, yet is so obvious. People love helping others. When you ask someone for help, they want to give it to you.
- So take advantage of this and whenever you want something done and need help – ask for it. Just ask a friend or colleague to either do it or assist you with it. You will be amazed at how readily others will step in and help you.
- You know what you are good at and what you like to do. If the reason you are holding back on getting some things done is that they are simply things you don’t like to do, take advantage of your resources; contract with someone to do it for you. Doing that allows you to be so much more productive, which means more time to do other more profitable work.
In addition to the points above, remember that usually the purpose of the task you are doing is one that helps you or someone else. Focus on that! Make sure that you take joy in what you must do. Once you have made the decision to do a task, no matter how big or small, instill a feeling of love and joy. When you hold those magnificent feelings within you, it will feel almost as if you are being magically guided and what you have to do will seem so much easier to do.
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