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5 Simple Steps to Reclaim Your Focus

Can you stay focused for more than 8 seconds?

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Jordan Baker, Founder – Focuster

14 June 2015

I ran across an interesting fact the other day: Most of us can only stay focused on any one task for just 8 seconds, or the same amount of time a skilled cowboy can stay on a bucking bronco.

These distractions take up time you didn’t account for, not to mention the time it takes you to get back to being productive. In fact, you cumulatively spend two hours each day just recovering from distractions.

Two hours!

Imagine what you could do with this time! You need to reclaim those hours in order to reach your goals and run a successful business. But how?

The Struggle to Reclaim Lost Time

In an effort to reclaim this lost time, I started researching others’ methods for staying productive and focused. I read David Allen’s Getting Things Done, Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People and First Things First, and tried using Tony Robbins’ RPM (Rapid Planning Method). I also downloaded every time management app I could find.

I learned a lot, but I still felt like I was constantly behind schedule. As I took on new projects, important tasks were disappearing into the void of yesterday’s calendar. I frequently put myself into a panic upon realizing I hadn’t yet completed top priorities from the past week.

I began to feel overwhelmed.

You know the feeling — the immobilizing sensation that sneaks up on you when your calendar is so full of tasks, reminders, and meetings that you find yourself daydreaming about assembling sandwiches at the deli across the street.

You don’t want to assemble sandwiches — you want to build a business, launch a startup, pursue something meaningful. You want to have a real impact.

How to Regain Control of Your Calendar

No matter how enticing, I knew I didn’t really want to assemble sandwiches, and I’m guessing you don’t either.

Instead of giving up and applying to your favorite deli, it’s time to start regularly asking yourself two important questions:

    • Which tasks will help you achieve your goals?
    • What is the most important task you should be focusing on right now?

Asking yourself the first question helps you to set an intention at the start of each day. The second, reminds you to consciously direct and redirect your attention accordingly to make it happen.

You can’t control time but you can control where you put your attention. I call this daily practice focus management.
And guess what? It actually works.

Why You Should Try Focus Management

So, if you’re tired of constantly feeling overwhelmed, distracted, and behind schedule and if you’re ready to feel calm, organized, and prepared to work towards your goals on a daily basis, then it’s time to start managing your focus.

Focus management, unlike time management, is fluid and adaptable. It allows you to level-up your business and your life. It gives you the tools to schedule for spontaneity.

Scheduling for spontaneity sounds contradictory at first but life is unpredictable, and we need to be prepared to navigate a day filled with unexpected events — some inspirational, others trying their hardest to push us to that job assembling sandwiches.

The best part about focus management is it’s a simple tool that can have incredible results. I believe that if we can become just a little less overwhelmed and distracted, we will not only achieve our own goals, but we will have the time and energy to accelerate the change we want to see in the world.

How to Reclaim Your Focus in Five Steps

It’s actually pretty simple to reclaim your focus and prepare for the unexpected. Here are five steps I use everyday to make sure I’m achieving the goals that matter:

1. Capture

Capture all of the things you want to accomplish in a day. (I like to call these things “action items.”) Simple tools work best to minimize distractions. I recommend starting with a blank sheet of paper or an Evernote. Start by capturing the most critical things that come to mind. When you’re done, go back and review previous days’ work to see if you missed anything.

2. Prioritize

Look over your list and reorder your action items so they’re in order of priority. This critical step ensures that even if you only get one or two things done you’ll be making a big impact.

3. Schedule

Schedule these action items (in order of priority) in that day’s calendar in between meetings, talks, lunch, etc. The best way to do this is to create an event and invite yourself and make it as long as you estimate the task will take. Choose a specific color for these action items. Set a reminder in your calendar so you don’t forget.

4. Take Action

Follow your calendar as much as possible and try to at least work on, if not complete, one or two of your action items each day.

5. Review

Before your begin your next day, review yesterday’s actions and move the incomplete ones forward onto the new day. This is a critical step to ensure nothing falls through the cracks.

These are the first steps I took when trying out the practice of focus management. Hopefully, they’ll help improve your focus and help you to start reaching your goals.

How Do You Deal with Distractions?

What methods work for you? Have you tried something like focus management that has helped you to make progress on your top priorities?

I’d love to hear what problems other entrepreneurs have faced in terms of productivity and focus when trying to level-up your business. Leave a note with your stories and any “focus management” topics you’d like me to cover in future blog posts.

Wondering if your favorite tools integrate with Focuster? Drop us a line on Twitter.

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