How to Get Into the Focus Zone


By Doug Sandler, “Nice Guys Finish First”

Early on in my career I was always amazed at exactly how little I was able to accomplished in my day. It wasn’t until I learned an easy concept regarding focus that I began to realize there was potentially a solution to my unproductive behavior. It took me years to discover this concept and several more years once I heard about it to actually put a plan into place for myself. Once I put this time tested principle in place, I gained control of my schedule, my day and my life. Prior to my discovery, it wasn’t just my business day that got all screwed up, my personal life seemed to suffer as well, because I was trying to accomplish so many responsibilities, doing none of them well and disappointing others in the process. I was often late for meetings and appointments, often felt scattered when I got there and never seemed to be quite in control of what was going on. If I hadn’t done something, it could have been an even bigger mess.

“If you can relate to what I am saying, you are part of the overworked, overstretched and overstressed populous.”

I truly believed the best way to accomplish many tasks given to me was to multitask and get them all done at once. But, it seemed, the more I multitasked, the worse things got. Still today, when I slip and revert to my old ways, it’s amazing when I witness how horrible multitasking actually is for my productivity. Try responding to an email and simultaneously heading over to Twitter to compose a tweet. Prior to finishing, go to LinkedIn and share a post, but first, try and listen to your last voicemail message. You will get so confused, frustrated and lost in your multitask craziness you will be more likely to get up and get a snack then try to finish any of the tasks you have on your plate.

If you can relate to what I am saying, you are part of the overworked, overstretched and overstressed populous. Before you read further, stop for a moment (it’s ok, I am given you temporary permission to multitask), and write out five to seven critical work activities that you must accomplish each and every day. For example, email, voicemail, text messages, social media, blogging, client calls, sales calls are my top seven activities that I need to accomplish just about everyday. List the tasks on the top section of a piece of paper. Underneath the list write down all of the things that usually distract you from accomplishing the tasks on the top list. For example, you get hungry, you get tired, your boss interrupts you, the phone rings, your kids need to reach you, etc. It’s essential that you recognize both your priorities and the things that distract you from accomplishing your priority list. Get at least 5 of each written down.

“What you will find is that your productivity and efficiency will go through the roof when you focus.”

Here comes the hard part (I will help you take a baby step). Just for tomorrow, write down the time you will spend in each “zone” you have listed on your written at the top of the paper. For example, 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. email, 9:45 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. return phone calls, 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. blog writing. Keep in mind, I am not asking you to change your life, I only want you to do this tomorrow (I truly think that there will be such a huge impact from doing this only one day you will want to continue for good). I also want to you to take advantage of the “gap times” and fill them in with the distractions you have at the bottom of your piece of paper. For example, take 9:30 to 9:45 and get a snack or use the 30 minute break at 10:30 a.m. to find out what was so important to your kids who distracted you earlier. Creating “work zones” and “distraction zones” will keep you focused, productive and very organized. Repeat the exercise for the second half of your day as well.

“Put your priorities in focus and take time for things that matter most to you.”

What you will find is that your productivity and efficiency will go through the roof and you will be much more satisfied with what you are able to accomplish in a day. As a side effect, you will be happier, more positive and more focused on your priority tasks. Give yourself permission to get into the “distraction zone” when you are not in the “work zone.” Now, you have control of your time and your life. The world wants your attention. Instead of letting others distract and control you, take the lead, put your priorities in focus and take time for things that matter most to you. I can promise you the distractions will still be here when you are ready to focus on them.

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