“What do I mean by concentration?
I mean focusing totally on the business at hand and
commanding your body to do exactly what you want it to do.”
- Arnold Palmer
The word for this week is FOCUS. It is the magic key to carrying through on those IDEAS we talked about in our previous article.
We all know people who have a case of “shiny object syndrome” – in fact, we all have shiny object syndrome at times. Maybe you’ve started out checking your email with the intent of completing an important project your manager has just sent you…and ended up an hour later looking at decorating ideas on Pinterest. As the boss walks back in to see how it’s going, you’re suddenly shocked back to reality and wonder how in the world you got to where you were. You’re certainly not alone. The world is full of rabbit trails – more now than ever.
If you’ve ever been out walking in the woods, you’ve probably seen rabbits. They move fast. They are all over the place. They are reactive. And, unfortunately, they’re also pretty low on the food chain.
Contrast a rabbit with a lion, king of the jungle, and you see vast differences in how they move. Lions are calculated. They are stealth. And they are FOCUSED.
While it is fun to chase the shiny objects, the fact is, it is also a very bad practice on a regular basis. If you find yourself feeling disorganized, distracted, unproductive, reactive, and stressed, it may be time for a little FOCUS.
Here are some quick ways to get yourself back to center:
Figure out where you got off course.
When you realize you have veered off course, STOP. Go back to the point where you wandered off the trail. But before you start over (which is what we normally do), write down the steps you need to take. THEN start over. Writing down the steps and having them in front of you forces you to focus on two things: creating a plan and carrying it out. As you complete each step, cross it off your list. When your mind starts to wander, simply go back to the last step, and move forward.
Organize your immediate workspace.
Through the course of a workday, you and others will make deposits to your workspace…projects, mail, files, items for you to look at, reading materials. You name it, “stuff” just tends to grow in a workspace. If you’re starting to lose focus, STOP and remove everything from your desk except for what you are working on. Don’t make the mistake many do and start to sort through the piles. Simply put them in a box, focus on the important project at hand, and THEN sort through the box. And, by the way, you have to actually remove the box from your line of sight, or it will serve as a constant distraction.
Cut to the chase.
Here’s the hard truth: You can be the busiest person in the office and yet the least productive. This trap is easy to fall into. The way to start springing that trap is to begin each day with a focus list of the three most important things that must be done that day. As the work piles on, distractions come, and demands escalate, STOP and circle back to the list. Ask yourself if what you’re doing is related to your “most important” list. There are times when you have to shift priorities during the day, but those times should not be happening every day. If they are, talk with your manager to set up some filters. If you are the manager, you will be faced with similar distractions. You need to be comfortable with the word, “No.” Great leaders say “no” much more often than they say “yes”.
Unplug the distractions.
We all like to think we can multi-task, simultaneously juggling work, Facebook conversations, checking email, responding to texts, all while attending a meeting – or, worse yet, driving. The fact is, in most cases, we cannot. It’s been proven that people are more effective when they work in focused segments. If you’re being distracted by pop-up notifications, instant messages, bells, and bleeps, STOP, and turn them off.
If you review the paragraphs above, you’ll notice that there is one word common to all: STOP! When you hit those times where the ideas, work, and distractions have your day spinning out of control, just STOP. If your desk is buried, STOP and clear it off. If your schedule is overbooked, STOP and cut to the most important. If the phone is ringing and emails are pinging, STOP and turn them off. If you’ve gotten off track and are completely lost, STOP and work your way back.
Good leaders know when to take action – and they know even better when it’s time to STOP.