Focus is such a straightforward thing when you think about it. I mean, how hard can it possibly be to decide what you’re going to do, get started, stay on track and get everything done? On paper it’s a doddle isn’t it?
And yet all too often we start with the best of intentions but then get drawn away, distracted or diverted so that focus becomes something we crave but can never quite seem to master. And then we usually beat ourselves up about being unable to stay focused!
So here are 3 of the biggest reasons that people lose focus and some tips to help you keep hold of your clarity.
1. Making Everything A Priority
I believe it was Jack Canfield who said “if you’re trying to focus on more than 3 things at a time you’re not actually focusing on anything”.
This is something I see in soooo many businesses. There are always a million things to do and every single one of them needs doing right now! Everything is urgent. Everything is a priority.
But when everything is treated as a priority what it inevitably means is that nothing is being given real priority. So challenge yourself this year to regularly identify your number 1 priority. Allocate specific time to that project and stick with it until it’s done. Don’t allow yourself to make a start on anything else until it’s finished.
If you prioritise clearly and complete one thing at a time you’ll find that over a few months you’ve achieved far more than you would have done if you’d carried on trying to achieve 75 things at once.
Just focus on one thing at a time.
2. Allowing Yourself To Be Too Easily Distracted
Distractions are one of the single biggest obstacles to business progress. Understanding what your own regular distractions are and developing strategies to resist them could well be the biggest boost you can give your business this year.
There may be a number of triggers for your own distractions so here are a few of the most common ones I see:
Never saying no: do you regularly drop what you’re doing because somebody else needs your help? A customer, a supplier, a networking connection, even friends or family? If you do, remember that developing your business is in everybody’s best interests, not just yours. The healthier your business is the more people you can help. It’s not a selfish thing. It’s actually a selfless thing to do!
Not valuing your time: when you’re in a 2 hour meeting and you don’t respond to calls or emails the world doesn’t end does it? So when you’re already in the middle of something else it’s also possible to delay responding to calls or emails, or to say you’ll come back to somebody in a couple of hours. You’ll get your task completed and the customer will still get their job done in a reasonable time. Everybody wins that way! Don’t treat your own time as less important or less valuable than anyone else’s.
Chasing squirrels! Often one of the best traits of successful people is that they’re regularly full of new ideas, and they’re also action takers. Which means they’re very easy to distract! If this sounds like you then you probably have the ability to become very successful. But unless you have somebody else to complete everything for you, you need to resist those squirrels or you’ll be constantly chasing the new shiny things and never getting anything working the way it should. Go back to my first point and ask yourself regularly – ‘is this the most important thing I should be doing right now?’
3. Keeping everything in your head
The human brain is not designed to remember massive lists of all the things we have to do. When you leave your ‘to do lost’ inside your head it creates stress, overwhelm, and a feeling of being out of control. It inevitably also makes it impossible to prioritise correctly, or to identify what should be ignored as a squirrel versus what is urgent. It means things get forgotten or half completed.
So find a way to get all of your actions out of your head. Put them down on paper or find a system that works for you. I’m dabbling with Asana at the moment and so far I’m really impressed. If you want to stay focused, you have to get things in order and schedule them in, and that means getting everything out of your own head!
So no you have some strategies to help you stay focused. Remember to resist the pesky squirrels, be clear about what’s genuinely the most important priority, value your own time as much as you respect other people’s and you’ll be well on the way to staying much more focused.