SQUIRREL!! 8 Techniques to The Art of Focus

I have a confession to make! I use to be the worst offender of becoming unfocused and going off into the next big project and leaving some things unfinished. I call it the “SQUIRREL!” effect. If you ever watch these little critters especially when you are driving your car they can be unpredictable. Even to the point of where you maybe accidentally take one of those innocent looking critters out.

I realized that it was important to set myself up with habits and tools that would allow me to focus. Working within the IT industry I can honestly say that the industry can re-wire you to be very reactionary if you allow it to. As a team lead I have worked on instilling concepts to my engineers that follow a mix of David Allen’s “Get Things Done” (GTD) and Brian Tracey’s “Eat that Frog”. Hopefully you will find some solace in trying to instill some of these things into your life and if you need help let me know..

1. Planning

If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail! – Benjamin Franklin

If you don’t take the time to plan your day and your week you will allow others to plan your time for you. Is that what you really want? Other people dictating your schedule? Now, I do know that everyone has a boss but self management is something you need to grasp to be successful in executing the important things in your job and your life. Hopefully some of the following pointers below will help in assisting in putting you back on track. The first mental pivot is “I must plan or else my life will take me for a ride vs. me taking the ride of my life”.

2. Time Blocking

I need time to FOCUS and setting up planned time windows to accomplish specific tasks has help me tremendously. This technique is called time blocking and it’s where you block chunks of time within a calendar for ONE action or project to be accomplished within your day and week.

There are ways to set yourself up for that perfect week and Michael Hyatt has a great article in building out those blocks (link provide below). It has been proven that humans are not good at multitasking. The brain is design to handle one thing at a time and if you want to do something well you’re going to have to learn to block time and eliminate those distractions i.e. e-mail, social media, phone, and chat software. Planning your time with time blocking can help you visualize your tasks and focus on what really matters.

helpful links:
http://www.forbes.com/sites/travisbradberry/2014/10/08/multitasking-damages-your-brain-and-career-new-studies-suggest/

http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/time-blocking-secret-weapon-better-focus/
http://www.lifehack.org/articles/productivity/scheduling-time-blocks.html
http://michaelhyatt.com/ideal-week.html

3. E-mail is a time sink! Don’t allow it to rule you

STOP! fixating yourself with the e-mail inbox every hour. That is a area that is just a wasted time sync and distracts you from getting the real work accomplished. You know what I’m talking about!! all the SPAM e-mails and then the nagging urge to clean and respond to people that request immediate response while your VERY important tasks collect dust in the waste land of “not getting it done”. This is definitely a area that needs your discipline because it causes UNFOCUS in your life.

Set time blocks where you check your e-mail and process them. Once in the morning, mid-day, and then before you sign off to bring FOCUS back into your life flow. Kyle! people need me to respond ASAP! If someone needs you immediately have them call your cell versus using e-mail for hot issues.

4. Daily Clean Sweep

David Allen is one of my favorite productivity mentors and he states that there is only a limited amount of space in your RAM before ideas and thoughts go back to your mind’s hard drive. So, if you don’t capture this stuff down into a trusted system before it files into your long term memory bank you could end up in one of those situation where you wake up at 2am in the morning in a cold sweet because you forgot to get something for your wife or execute a job function. You know what I’m talking about!

So, capture those items into a system so you can deal with them sooner vs. much to later. Do a “clean sweep” of all the pieces of paper with “to do’s” written all over them. If you haven’t taken the time to read or listen to David Allen’s “Get Things Done” I highly suggest you add this mentor into your life.

5. Weekly Review

This is part of planning where you set yourself 1-2 hours time block depending on how crazy your work week is. This time is solely devoted in reviewing accomplishments, actions need to move forward, clean sweep items or new projects that have come into your inbox for the week. If you master this piece of self-discipline you will be moving your goals and objectives forward every week and feel FOCUS. This is straight out of David Allen’s GTD book.

6. “Begin with the End in Mind”

Sometime we start projects and have no clue on what the end result is suppose to look like. This is where Steven Cuvey’s 7 Habits for Highly Effective People “Begin with the End in Mind” help me to visualize the end result of the finish product. Then asking the questions of what actions items do I have to accomplish to get to this visualized end result?

7. Learn to say “NO”

It’s hard to say no to stuff. But you have to weight the consequences sometimes in saying yes to things that are maybe good but not great. If projects within your life do not make sense and do not fit into your life plan and values then why waste time and energy doing activities in those projects.

8. “Eat that Frog” every day

Brian Tracey’s “Eat that Frog” is a great book in focusing you on high valued items within your day, week, month, and year. Building your priority list on a daily bases helps you FOCUS on the items that should matter most. Getting these accomplished in the beginning of your day and week help you feel that the pressure is off and give you a great sense of accomplishment.

Mark-Twain-Live-Frog-2helpful links:

http://www.fastcompany.com/1592454/work-smart-do-your-worst-task-first-or-eat-live-frog-every-morning

Don’t be that squirrel that goes all the way across the road only to jump back into the road in front of the car! What do you do to FOCUS?