‘Word of the year’ can help focus on change

Monika Kristofferson

For the last three years, I’ve chosen a “word of the year” to embrace instead of making a list of New Year’s resolutions. At the end of the year, I take my time to mull over words that may fit how I want to live my life the following year. I consider both my personal life and my business life to find just the right one.

According to Statistic Brain, who used data from the University of Scranton, 45 percent of Americans regularly create New Year’s Resolutions, but only 8 percent keep them. Those aren’t the best odds when you’re working toward creating positive changes in your life.

So, I look at my “word of the year” as a simpler way to embrace change that feels manageable and easy to stick with throughout the year.

As you’ve probably guessed, my word this year is focus.

Why focus? For starters, there’s a myriad of ways to have our focus challenged by distractions, interruptions, creative ideas, email, social media, projects and so much more. According to Maura Nevel Thomas in Personal Productivity Secrets, the term “time management” is ‘out’ with a more meaningful shift to the term “attention management.”

After recently reading that in her book, I realized that focus really is a great word for me this year.

It’s fantastic to brainstorm and then choose your word, but you have to be able to keep it in the forefront to remember what your word is and embrace it when life gets busy, as it will.

Here are some of the ways I’ve kept focus in front of myself:

I printed the word with my label maker and placed the label on the printer that sits on my desk.

I used the word focus as the background on my laptop.

I downloaded the word focus as a photo on my phone and used it for the screen background.

I change my laptop and phone photos regularly so I don’t start to tune them out.

I’d have to say, I feel that my third year in, I’m doing a much better job of keeping my word in my conscious, remembering what it is and using it. Here are some of the ways I’ve used it so far:

When I feel myself starting to bounce around from task to task when I’m working, I tell myself, “focus.” And it really helps! Sometimes we simply need to remind our brains to rein it in.

I work from home, which can be a blessing and a challenge.

I’m sure many of you know, when you are home “working,” you are fair game for family to come in and chit-chat for a few minutes.

With teenagers at home, I know my time with them is limited before they are off to college and doing their own thing.

So, I’m really working to focus when they come in to chat by turning my chair toward them and away from my laptop so I can actually listen to what they are saying.

I remind myself to focus when I’m trying to do just one more thing before I get out the door.

No matter what your word is if you have one, you probably have times when your own focus is challenged. Here are a few tips and tricks you can try out to stay focused:

You can say, “Right now I am…” and fill in the blank for what you’re doing to get your mind to stay on the task at hand.

“Right now I am returning phone calls.”

“Right now I am working on payroll.”

“Right now I am reading a chapter in a book.”

When you’re working on critical tasks, aim to work for 96 minutes of uninterrupted time. Why 96 minutes?

That’s 20 percent of an eight-hour work day and you can dramatically increase your productivity if you work with complete focus for 20 percent of your day.

It doesn’t mean you’re off the hook for the rest of the day though, you still have work to do.

But the reality is, you aren’t going to be interruption-free or focused for eight hours straight.

Critical tasks are tasks that could have serious ramifications if they aren’t completed such as negative legal or financial consequences or missed deadlines.

Turn off your phone tones-texts, emails and social media alerts.

Place your phone face-down on the desk so you don’t see it light up when something comes your way.

Shut your door if you have one.

Don’t get sucked into the social media vortex if one of your tasks is to connect or post on social media for your business. Get sucked in later when you’re on your own time and it’s time to relax.

Staying focused can be a challenge for most of us on a regular basis with our task loads, the Internet, smart phones and creative minds.

You’ll probably find you need to remind yourself to focus on a regular basis and that’s OK; just keep at it and it will get easier and easier to get yourself back on track.

Monika Kristofferson is a professional organizer and productivity consultant who owns Efficient Organization NW in Lake Stevens. Reach her at 425-220-8905 or monika@efficientorganizationnw.com.

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