15 November 2011

The Power of Focus: How to gain an extra month per year for the important things.

Distractions.  They're everywhere!

Morning TV,  phones, email, people needing our help, multiple projects ... all pulling and tugging for our attention.  We all suffer a myriad of time-stealing monsters. How we handle them is the difference between getting to the end of day feeling satisfied in our successes or frazzled by our half-finished flops.

Many of us try to do several things at one in the misguided notion that it will save us time.  Here's the thing ... multi-tasking doesn't work!

We pay a mental price for trying to do too many things at once.  Our brains fall into cognitive overload, having to restart and refocus every time we switch back and forth between tasks.

When we try to multi-task, things take longer (up to 50%) and we make far more errors.  As I'm writing this, I'm eating breakfast and having a cuppa, and man, it's taking me ages!

Multi-tasking meltdown can be managed with a few simple strategies:

  • Allocate Focus time for major tasks. Best done during your quieter times (generally first up), a daily Power Hour can help you gain traction on your Elephant Project.   This works far better when you're clear on your major task for the day and can use the hour to focus solely on moving your major project forward.  
  • Eliminate distractions.  One of the biggest daily distractors is the pop-up email alert.   This little sucker can quickly take you off task and have you forget where you were up to. Turn it off and watch your productivity soar. If you work in an open plan office, use headphones to cut out workplace noise.  Even a 'Turbo-Time' sign can be useful for your daily hour of solace, letting people know not to interrupt you.  Use message-bank on your phone and as last resort, lock yourself away in a meeting room to help you stay focussed.
  • Note all temptations and distractions.  Have a notepad handy to jot down the tasks your tempted to switch to.  Stay focussed, knowing your time-tempters will still be there after you've finished your elephant task.  You may find many of the distractions disappear without any action required of you later.  If still actionable, schedule to complete, outside your focus time.

Using a one hour block of focus time per week-day can result in an extra 20 hours each month to work on your critical or important projects, either professional or personal.  In one year, that's 240 hours of dedicated time.  And that equates to 30 8-hour days a year (or ONE MONTH of work time every year) for your critical projects.

What could you achieve if you could dedicate a whole month of focussed time each year to it?