Imagine how hard it would be to focus if you had a bunch of balls floating around your head, all fighting for your attention. But most people describe their typical day just this way: constant movement trying to keep all the balls in the air. This results in reduced efficiency, higher stress and a lower quality of work. So what’s the solution? Focus: If you grab one of those balls and schedule time to work on it, that is one less ball floating around. Then grab the next ball and schedule time for it. One by one, each ball gets a place on your schedule. Over time, this leads to a reduction in the chaos, which increases your ability to focus on the important tasks at hand.
I struggled with this for a long time, finding myself unable to focus because I had so many things fighting for my attention. Realizing that this lack of focus wasn’t sustainable, I went searching for a solution. I found it in a book called Deep Work, by Cal Newport, which contained many ideas for becoming more focused and productive. I decided to try one of his suggestions and start scheduling my time.
But it wouldn’t do any good to schedule my time if I didn’t know what to work on. So I reviewed the goals I had set for myself and decided that I needed to structure my time so I could achieve them. I tend to set goals in various areas of my life to help promote balance. For me, those areas are personal development, financial health, business growth, professional development, relationship, family and spiritual life. I can’t work on all of those areas every day, but I can ensure that I am working toward those goals throughout the year.
Once I was clear on what I wanted to achieve, I started putting those activities into my schedule. At the beginning of each month, I would review my goals in each area of my life, then identify those steps that I needed to take to move toward achieving those goals. At the end of the month, I would review how I did against the steps, then plan for the following month.
However, I found this monthly review wasn’t enough to ensure I stayed on track. So I incorporated a weekly review.
For me, a week is a much more manageable timeframe than a month. By the end of the week, I typically know my schedule for the upcoming week, so I can establish what I want to accomplish and then schedule blocks of time to work on those goals, taking into account deadlines, obligations and special events. In addition to scheduling my time, I also reflect each week on what went well, what I learned and what I could celebrate from the previous week. As I mentioned in an earlier post on managing time, scheduling my time keeps me focused on the right things at the right time.
If I could recommend one thing that could improve your productivity and increase your focus, I’d recommend the weekly planning tool. If you want a copy of the template that I use, please send me an email and I’ll happily share it.