I used to struggle with staying focused. Since I first wrote this article in March, 2012, I’ve come up with a number of systems and routines to help me, including the items I mention in this article. Besides the bit mentioning Trello at the end (I used to just use paper lists), I’ve re-published this article in its original form.
One of my biggest struggles is keeping my “eyes on the prize,” and staying focused on the most important tasks I have each day. I like to do a lot of different things, so I find myself coming up with more ideas than I could ever pursue. Fortunately, I’m not alone in this struggle.
Believe it or not, there are a lot of successful business people and entrepreneurs who regularly exhibit symptoms of ADD. Their ADD often keeps them from being able to organize their thoughts and activities and impedes their ability to stay focused on the tasks at hand. - Barry Selman
Focus is a Make or Break Issue
Unfortunately, lack of focus can derail everything you have worked so hard to accomplish, so it’s something that I’ve had to make a conscious effort to improve. Here are some techniques I use to keep myself focused on the things I have to do before moving on to the next big new idea:
1. Unplug from Social Media
I love social media. While I do find that it is a valuable tool for making new connections and marketing, I had to learn to leave it alone for a while every day. Once I’ve completed a major task for the day, I allow myself to plug back in and send out a few posts. You can easily wait a few hours to reply to a mention on Twitter or Facebook, and it’s not going to destroy your brand.
2. Batch Menial Tasks
Checking email, washing dishes, doing laundry, buying groceries, replying to comments on blogs, and a million other little tasks come up on a daily basis that will throw off your focus…if you let them. I set aside some time each day to just focus on these little day-to-day tasks, and ignore them in between. If you spontaneously do them every time you think about it, you’ll always find new ones to drive you off track.
3. Plan for a Free Day
For me, it’s really helpful to know that a “free day” is coming soon. I really like my work, but if I do it every day, seven days per week, I tend to burn out and get more easily distracted. Once per week, I have to take a “free day,” where I just let myself work on a side project, meet up with friends, or write several articles for fun. Once I get my distractions out of the way, I can spend the rest of the week focusing, knowing that another free day is just a short wait away.
4. The Daily List
I saved this one for last because it’s probably my favorite tool for keeping focused. Every week, I compile a list of “big things” that I need to get done. Every day, I choose two to five of them to knock off the list. I finish one to two in the morning before lunch, and the other two to three afterwards. Between completing these tasks, I try to avoid all possible distractions, and just push through it. Originally I kept this list on paper, but for the past two years I’ve been using Trello as a personal Kanban board.
How about you? Do you have your own advice for keeping focused? Let me hear about it.