I hear it all too often. People talk about not being able to focus on what is most important. I laugh because too often they have created the environment that is preventing them from concentrating on the task at hand. Here's a partial list of ways we (yes I do it too) sabotage our opportunity to get the "best" things done:
- Leaving the mobile phone connected to our bodies (a vibration is as much of a distraction as a ring tone)
- Leaving the mobile phone on. I currently have a parent in poor health and need to be as connected as possible, but I still turn off the phone for short periods of time when I need NOT to be interrupted (I know the opportunities presented by delegation).
- Poor physical habits. Where do we start? Caffeine, carbs, lack of physical exercise and poor sleeping habits are all elements that can enhance or diminish our ability to focus.
- Visual distractions. One of my weaknesses is that I will leave something on my desk that needs my attention. While I am working on something else my eyes glance at it and I am immediately distracted from the task at hand.
- E mail notifications. Every time you hear the "ding" or see the message box it makes you wonder, "Is that the notification that I've won the lottery?" Again, all concentration is lost.
The next time you need to really focus, try these three steps:
- Plan ahead. Start hours ahead (or even a day or two if it will be a major work event of several hours) and think about how to prepare yourself physically and mentally for the task you want to focus on.
- Communicate. Tell everyone who regularly communicates with you about your plans so they can be your " gate keepers" and minimize interruptions from other people.
- Get out of your current environment. Find a place that has no distractions that is away from your regular workspace. Make it one that is also not visually distracting (working from home doesn't help some people because they think about laundry, house cleaning or other tasks to be done).
In most cases it's not that you can't focus, it's just that you haven't created the right environment that allows you to focus.