“People often complain about lack of time when the lack of direction is the real problem.”
— Zig Ziglar, American motivational speaker
I love this acronym I found online for the word focus — Follow One Course Until Success. It doesn’t say, work in a scattered manner and don’t fully complete anything. Oh no, it’s about staying on one path, working without distraction and seeing projects through to the end. Now, that’s what gets things done.
We’ve all heard about time management for years and years. There’s a new kid in town called focus management and you’ll probably be hearing that term much more. To examine the difference, let’s start with the definitions of each term from Dictionary.com.
Time management is the analysis of how working hours are spent and the prioritization of tasks in order to maximize personal efficiency in the workplace.
Focus is a central point, as of attraction, attention, or activity.
Time management relates to clocks, calendars, to do lists and reminders. Focus management is about being able to focus on the task at hand and keep distractions at bay. We all know that distractions abound in today’s fast-paced work environment, enveloped in technology. Let’s take a look at just a few of those distractions as a reminder of what we’re up against each day.
The two P’s of social media: Posting and Perusing.
Chasing squirrels and shiny objects that sound interesting or more fun than what we’re currently working on.
Phone and computer notifications, research, email and socializing.
Researchers say the stimulation that we get from constantly checking our devices creates an addiction with a squirt of dopamine. There may be something to see with every click. So, we check our email and texts and they are stimulating. We check our social media likes, hearts and comments and they are stimulating. Without all this stimuli, we can actually start to feel bored.
There was a study by Silverpop that said we have eight seconds to capture someone’s attention online before they move onto the next thing. Just think how quickly we scroll through photos and videos on Instagram and Facebook and we get just a quick peek of photos and videos on Snapchat.
Dr. John Ratey is a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard who started using the term “acquired attention deficit disorder” to describe the condition of people who are used to a constant stream of digital stimulation and feel bored in the absence of it. (From Personal Productivity Secrets by Maura Nevel Thomas). In her book “Personal Productivity Secrets,” Maura Nevel Thomas wrote, “The secret to defending against the constant demands on your attention is learning control — and the most important place for you to exert your control is over your own attention.” Yes, Maura, I agree with you.
Let’s examine some solutions with the following seven strategies to help you gain control of your focus. When you’re in control, you will then manage your time better, too. Time management and focus management go hand-in-hand.
■ Acknowledge that there will always be more information available to you then you have time for. The information on the internet is endless and sometimes we just have to put a cap on how much time we invest in research. For example, if you’re going on vacation, you don’t have to research 50 vacation options, perhaps five choices are sufficient.
■ Be very clear with yourself on your goals. Know exactly what you want and how you’re going to get what you want before you do the work that it takes to reach your goals. Once you are clear, it will help you put your focus in the correct places.
■ Evaluate each activity or request on your time and energy to decide whether or not it helps your goals or hurts your goals and your focus.
■ Say no to activities and requests that take you away from your goals. No more guilt over this one, we all need to get past the guilt.
■ Retrain yourself to be OK with downtime and less stimulation instead of being “on” all the time. Find relaxing activities you enjoy such as listening to music, dancing, soaking in a bubble bath, meditation, coloring or practicing yoga. You can even just sit quietly.
■ Eliminate distractions while you’re working on critical tasks. Critical tasks are activities that help you reach your goals, increase your income, have a deadline or have a financial consequence associated with it.
■ Decrease content in your life by evaluating what you can let go. It may be a group on social media, newsletters, junk mail, magazine subscriptions, newspaper subscriptions or activities. Just simplify.
I believe we need a combination of time management tools like calendars, timers and clocks along with the skills and control that comes with focus management. You have the power to make changes in your life, so I encourage you to combine these strategies to improve your productivity and your well-being.
Monika Kristofferson is a professional organizer and productivity consultant who owns Efficient Organization NW in Lake Stevens. Reach her at 425-220-8905 or firstname.lastname@example.org.