Maximize Focus - Reduce Distractions
We are certain to get distracted from time to time, but it is how we deal with those distractions that impacts our ability to remain focused on activities which accelerate our success. Some of those nasty little distractions are the "urgencies" that come our way, and the fact that we allow ourselves the false belief that just because it is something that has to be done today, it becomes an important priority. However, this perception does not have to become our reality. We still get to “choose” priorities worthy of our focus.
I recall a time management training seminar I was required to attend many years ago, a seminar many of us felt would do nothing more than leave us scrambling to catch up on the hours we were losing by being in attendance. Little did I know it would be time well spent, learning a lesson that would forever change my life!
The instructor drew a rectangle on the white board and divided it into four quadrants – one of which was urgent, and another – important. I learned that most of us spend far too much time expending our efforts on things we see as urgent, failing to realize that, “Urgent matters are rarely important, and important matters are rarely urgent.” Although urgencies are a part of life and there will always be plenty that demand our attention, the trick is to learn how to handle them without being distracted from the priorities that are relevant to our goals.
It is possible to respond to distractions and demands without being completely pulled away from your plans and priorities simply by accepting they will occur, and knowing in advance how you plan to deal with them. There are also a number of good habits you can build into your work system that help you retain the kind of focus that accelerates your success.
Asking important questions when an urgent demand is made on your valuable time …
1. In looking at my schedule, is there something listed that is more “important” than this urgency?
2. Is there someone to whom I can delegate the urgent matter so that I may stay focused on important things?
3. How pertinent is the urgency to my goals?
Having a plan of action …
You can also reduce the urgent distractions by being committed to your own plan of action! Although you may decide to engage in resolving the urgency, you will be able to quickly return to your daily task list, or you will have a “game plan” in place that does not require your breaking focus.
For example: I used to think that my “plan” was to respond to my clients’ needs immediately. This only works well if you have a small client base. As my clientele grew, this plan was no longer humanly possible and I experienced less than stellar results. I merely found myself taking on more commitments than I could handle - in addition to my being frantic and frustrated, my clients were becoming disillusioned with my reduced service level. I couldn’t “plan” because I
spent all my time “reacting” to the urgent demands of others.
All it took was one person abusing my responsiveness to teach me a very valuable lesson: “Your lack of planning does not constitute my need for urgency!” Although that may sound a bit harsh, you must acknowledge that either you control your life or someone else will. It is rare that you must say, “No,” only that you communicate “Not right now.” If you allow others to control your day, you become nothing more than a slave to time-wasting, priority-distracting urgencies that deplete your energy and move you in the opposite direction of the success you otherwise had planned.
Establishing your focus time…
Another trick you can use is working 45-minute hours, uninterrupted by phone calls or emails. Although you still accept that urgencies occur, you don't create your own by not paying attention to the important tasks you planned for the day. Refusing to distract yourself for those 45 minutes will not bring harm to another. The remaining 15 minutes are spent in responding to phone calls and emails – and allows you the privilege of being highly-responsive to your clients and peers.
Take time to assess how you handle the urgent matters that distract you from your planned focus. Discover what you are doing right, what may not best serve you, and what you need to do different. Then, decide one thing that you will implement today that will produce greater, more positive results.
Until the muses return, remember to engage in positive, life-altering activities that will provide you with long-term, sustainable benefits.