Today, I experienced a mountain-that-was-no-mole-hill kind of challenge to my commitment to maintaining focus in my business life.
Without focus, I am such a mental butterfly; I am useless. So, I take that commitment very seriously, but then…. here comes that challenge I spoke of.
This is our first winter living on a mountain top, and so far, all we’d had was a few inches of snow here and there. But….I woke up to half a foot of the lovely stuff, and the most amazing views you can imagine, sigh.
I wish I could say I immediately buckled down and knocked out my tasks for the day. Nope. I am oh-so-human, and a total nature freak. So, I did the natural thing for a couple of hours and flitted around “ooooh-ing and awwww-ing, taking pictures, and finding excuses to go outside. That counted as my morning ritual of nurturing my soul though, so I went with it. It was just a little long today, that’s all.
After a while, it was time to adult again, so I put on my sassy pants, grabbed my planner, and settled in to apply what I’ve been writing about…. creating and maintaining focus in business. Kabam! There was the subject of the blog post that was at the top of my list…all ready and waiting. Showing how I rein all that energy in to focus on work would be a grand example of how to apply the principles we are teaching. Life IS great that way!
So - here is a mini-lesson in how to apply what we are going to be teaching about focus in future posts.
I am going to show you how I applied what I know to rise above a big personal challenge to rock my day anyway. I am walking, talking proof that it can be done! I am, by nature, quite the mental butterfly, so I am pretty sure that if I can develop focus, anyone can.
As I said, I am naturally the opposite of focused. Had I not decided to master the art of focus, I’d still not be at my desk. Instead, I am almost done with my task list for the day and feeling quite accomplished. I have had to work to develop focus… but the hard work has given me an excellent ROI.
Here is a peek at some of these habits applied.
When I sat down at my desk to work, I was already hours behind, having over-indulged in my delighting-my-soul habit this morning. Sometimes, it is needed, and well worth it. I’d gone with it. No regrets. I was not intimidated, because I start my days prepared.
How do I prepare? By keeping my body happy and working a specific plan in an environment that I would consider ideal for me.
Since you are reading this, I think it is safe to assume your aim is to be a little better at what you do, in every way, every day. However, nobody performs well if they aren’t their best physically. Life has enough challenges of its own, so it is just not smart business to create new challenges by neglecting the habits that keep you at your physical and mental best.
Don’t ignore common sense and try to do the crazy things I used to; pulling all-nighters, skipping meals, rarely taking time off, pushing the important aside for the tyranny of the urgent. Your body isn’t going to keep taking care of you if you ignore its needs that way.
Treat it well by tending to health issues promptly, eating foods that nourish, getting exercise and plenty of sleep (yes, really!), and taking time to relax your mind. Find what nurtures you and dedicate yourself to doing it regularly. Respond to stresses with a plan to deal with them, rather than letting them derail you.
The first habit that had me prepared to overcome today was simply caring for myself. It is the foundation.
The second thing that had me set up for a successful day was my working environment.
Sure, I have a laptop, work at home, and am my own boss….so I CAN work any place I want to… and can often be found in odd places with a notebook, working outside. However, I also have a dedicated area for focused work. I have it tailored to meet my individual needs in every way I can.
For me, what is important is the pondering view, how my things are arranged around me for quick and easy access, and the vibe of my work area. It needs to “feel” good to me. Therefore, my focus spot has four windows…. with beauty, everywhere I look. I keep some of my most treasured knick knacks nearby, along with inspirational quotes etc. to keep me feeling motivated. Depending on my mood and needs, I listen to music, or the silence of the mountain. Either way, I set up the environment that thrills my soul. If candles are your thing, work to candlelight… if the sound of the ocean makes you more productive, then listen to a white noise maker that has ocean sounds.
The things I use constantly are all nicely organized and at hand, in a place that is intuitive and natural for how I work. I make notes on my right, but tend to read from my left, so notebooks, planner, clipboards etc. are arranged accordingly. My pens, pencils, markers etc. are on the right, references in reach, but out of the way. I set my phone where I can see urgent notifications but keep the sound off.
One quick note about that focus spot…. your comfort counts.
For me, I have several old injuries that make sitting for long periods uncomfortable. So, my focus area is a huge pub height table. I can sit and work, or I can stand, or even dance, do squats etc. as I work. Keeps the old bones from getting creaky and keeps the blood pumping to the brain I want to do its best. The point is, it is a wise investment to have a comfortable position to work in, whether it is standing, sitting, or balancing on a ball. Do what relieves you of the irritation of not feeling so well after sitting for a couple of hours.
So, now I have a happy body in the perfect environment but without a workable plan, not much will get accomplished. How can you do what you should be doing if you are not certain on what that is? It’s shocking how many people sit down each day to work with little idea of where they are going with it. HUGE time suck, folks. Time spent planning well is time super well spent!
If you are confused about how to do that, don’t fret, planning and productivity is the topic of one of the Sassy Guides we are working on, so help is on the way. But in the meantime, here are some tips I applied to get you started.
The first thing to think about when creating your daily task list is whether or not the task is focused and specific enough to actually DO. That sounds simple, but too many frustrated people are out there creating huge daily to-do lists of things they cannot do in one sitting.
Until your long and short term goals are broken down to daily ACTIONABLE steps, you are not ready to work because you are not finished planning.
The first thing to ask yourself as you’re creating your daily task list is if your task is focused and specific. A task that is too vague to be doable in a specified time slot is not a task at all, but unfinished planning. For example:
Task: write a blog post.
Hmmmmm. How will you do that not even knowing which audience you are writing for? What is the topic, purpose, deadline, length? With a task like that, you have no choice but to do a planning session before you can write that blog post.
If you wanted to visit a friend in another state, would you just take off driving going whatever direction feels right? Not if you expect to ever get there! That is what trying to do a task like “write a blog post” is like. It isn’t a task to do, but the goal of the tasks you have not yet defined.
Let’s try it again…. this is off of my planner…
Task: write 1k-2k word post for sassy lasses on focus in biz Due date: 3/17/17. Re: to show need and wet the whistle for more.
Ok, time to “hmmmm” again. Let’s look at this task. Can I sit down and do it without having to do something else first? Yep… just warm up the fingers. Who am I writing to? Entrepreneurs and business owners. Why am I writing to them? To demonstrate need and have them looking forward to more. What word length am I aiming for? 1-2K words, and I’d better have it finished on Friday.
Because I know, generally, how quickly I can write, I even know how much time to set aside for completing that task. I’d set aside two hours, from thinking through it, outlining, writing, to turning it in. That gives me an hour of pondering, outlining, and doing some notes (hint…I do it the exact same way I would prepare to speak since I never speak verbatim from something memorized). Another hour gets it into print, since my writing style is so conversational, it is easy at that point. I just “talk” in print. Text done, I do ONE quick run thru, fixing the obvious areas of nonsense, and send it in. Then, task completed, I gleefully check it off. That’s my SOP.
Other things to notice about my task – IT WAS ATTAINABLE!
That is such a biggie for so many of us. Face it, being a driven perfectionist personality is a common trait among entrepreneurs. We are always stretching ourselves and way too often, set goals that are just crazy, if you take the rose-colored glasses off. Aim for your ideal, but keep it real.
Sure, in my dreams, I can whip out a brilliant 10K words a day…and yep, it is a goal of mine, but is it reality right now? Not even close.
Rose colored specs off, my reality is, I am right smack dab in the middle of finding my routines, SOP, fine tuning my habits etc. so I can focus on being more prolific. After years of an ever-changing environment, I am finally at a place where my work habits can remain the same until I perfect them. So, I am in the process of applying what I am writing about. Gee, I guess that means ya’ll will also get to watch as I apply my own advice and get ‘er up to speed, huh? That will be fun!
The point is, if I make my tasks impossible to achieve, and I try my best all day long but fail to get there…. how am I coming away from my day feeling? Yeah…yucky and down on myself. Am I going to be all fired up tomorrow morning, happy to be about my work? Not likely with yesterday’s failure staring at me from my planner.
I look at the reality that I am going to lose 25% of my time to interruptions (yes, even when I spend 8 hours a day physically alone). Then I consider how quickly I have been writing for the last couple of weeks, how easily the subject flows from me etc. Then, after giving it some thought, I set aside two hours because I used to speak on such things in another lifetime so it is a no-brainer topic for me.
Alrighty then…. I had actionable tasks in my planner, did my self-care, and was hit with a real challenge when all I wanted to do was enjoy the beauty of the snowfall. Knowing I had a very busy week still ahead, that being free mentally is key to being able to write, and that I’d likely not see another big snowfall until next winter, I did the smart thing, for me. I blocked out my morning for self-indulgence….and because I was prepared to focus later when I needed to…. off I went to delight in the glories of mountain life.
Now, here I am, finishing up writing this…and it was completely painless. It flowed out with ease, no hunting for words, no blankly staring into space or daydreaming (and feeling guilty for staring into space!).
How did I pull that off? FOCUS.
That is the power of focus. I have the habits and methods that work best for me in place in my daily routines. I have been that person who works furiously all day every day and had little to show for it. Those hours wasted spinning my wheels are hours lost to me now. They are hours I could have spent doing the things that bring me joy…. had I known then what I know now about how to buckle down and get stuff done.
What areas create the biggest challenge to focus in your life? Do you have a plan for overcoming them? Stay tuned - there is much more to come in future post on how to harness the power of laser focus!