Ever been under a time crunch or have a pressing deadline yet find yourself processing e-mail, checking social media or making small talk instead of doing what matters most? I don’t know about you, but I find myself doing more of that than I want. What’s worse is when I recognize it and then spend another 15 minutes or more doing it. Can you identify?
While getting off course and losing focus is costly to anyone, it can be a death knell for those privileged to serve in a ROWE (Results Only Work Environment) and students.
I think the insidious and subtle nature of losing focus and getting off course is what makes it so common….and difficult to overcome. For example, I recently was working on a deadline to get a module of an on-line course completed. As part of the process, I had to access my e-mail for some information that had been sent to me. The next thing I know, 17 minutes had passed and I found myself replying to yet another message that had nothing to do with the task at hand; in addition to the several like it that came before. What’s up with that?!
We don’t need data to let us know losing focus and getting off task is a common problem; that much is common sense. The bigger issue is knowing what gets us off task. Once we do, we can avoid losing focus in the first place as well as get back and stay on task when we do get off course. So how do you practically do that?
First, accept that staying focused is a daily discipline to be cultivated. The natural tendency is to get off course – it’s normal.
Next, identify which of the following three sources are keeping you from getting done what matters most:
- External Difficulties- These could arise from circumstances, people, things or events. If you’re able to prevent or avoid these, then do so. For those you can’t or those arising unexpectedly, use the same GTD principle used for processing your in-box:
- Do it/deal with it immediately
- Delete it (let it go completely)
- Delegate or Defer (have someone else handle it or schedule a time to deal with it later).
- Internal Conflicts- These come in all shapes and sizes. The good news is that many relate to the common distortions, deletions and generalizations we tell ourselves. Educating yourself on what these are and how to combat them with the truth will give you an immediate advantage when the tape starts playing in your head.
- Distractions- This has become the culprit to most likely get us of course. In days gone by, secluding yourself in a quiet room would be fairly effective in minimizing these…..that is no longer the case. If anything, seclusion with no accountability can make matters worse. In our knowledge information and knowledge curation age, technology is ubiquitous and distractions are intermingled within our work. It’s no longer a matter of keeping distractions at bay, it’s about handling and eliminating them without losing yourself in them. My course building/e-mail experience I described above is a great example of what can and often does happen.
- First, “Where is this coming from?” This helps you determine which of the 3 sources of distraction you’re dealing with.
- Second, “What’s the best next step to get back on course?” This moves you to take action immediately before the Law of Diminishing Intent sets in.
The foundational element related to all this is to be intentional! If not, then you can expect to keep drifting.
So, to sum it up:
- Accept that staying focused is a daily discipline to be cultivated
- Identify which of the 3 sources is getting you off course
- Ask yourself 2 powerful questions to back on course again
What gets you off course most often and how is it costing you? What are you currently doing to get back on course and stay focused. Please leave a comment, I’d love to know.