You know what they say, the person who’s less knowledgeable will be the best teacher? That’s me. My attention span is about 2 seconds. If an Internet page doesn’t load quick enough, I open another tab. I do about two things at a time and think of another 3. I can’t work more than 10 minutes on something, in a regular office setting. I respond to emails in 5 seconds, and skim through the text.
I can read 100 pages in less than an hour, and get work done faster than most people.
But, you will ask, how much of it is really quality work?
We’re talking here about efficiency – less time. And that’s not where I want to go. What I’m most working on to improve, and the journey I’m taking you with me, is effectiveness – getting the right things done. And if I’m able to avoid interruptions and pursue something with total focus, you can do it too.
The best distraction-less time in my life was last fall and winter. I was able to start a blog, work with 3 clients (at that time), run 2-3 times per week and be performing at my current full time job. Why? Two reasons:
1. I knew WHY I was doing it;
2. I had a coach.
Now, if you don’t want to hire a coach to support you right now, I’m going to give you some tips on how to minimize distractions and be focused, on your own. But I tell you, getting a weekly sum-up of celebration, encouragement and next priorities really does add value.
1. Have a clear objective.
You might be working for tomorrow’s presentation. By what hour do you want to finish it? How many slides? How should the presentation look like so that you can sit back and say “I did it!”?
When I was running 2-3 times a week, I had to compete in the marathon. I knew I would have to run 10 K, and I was tracking my performance every time I stepped off the treadmill. I had a clear objective and a motivator. And that’s what pushed me to move forward.
In the end, I chickened out and went for the smaller, 4 K race, and as I crossed the finish line I realized I could have completed 10 K without any issues. That’s why, this year, I’m definitely running 10, and even considering a half-marathon.
2. Make it a habit.
It helps to define a recurrent “focus” time. In this very productive period of my life, I woke up every morning at 6:00, and either went out running or worked on my blog. After a while, the tiredness wore off, and I was able to immediately “switch in” to my focus time early in the morning.
Once you create those “anchors” that pull you in to the “focus” zone, you will find it much easier to concentrate. It might be coffee, a certain hour, or a certain place. Make sure to consciously activate them, and you will find that concentration works much easier.
3. Give yourself a reward.
But the reward shouldn’t be “Now I’m going to quit the “focus” time and let myself be distracted for the rest of the day/week/year.” The reward can be intrinsic (such as the satisfaction of work well done) or extrinsic – go for a walk, meet some friends, do something outside the work itself.
Although sometimes laughed at, the “carrot-stick” methodology works very well.
Right now, I’m thinking “I’m gonna finish this blog post, then do that presentation for the site, and then I’m going to watch a nice movie.” See, quite simple, right?
4. Insert pleasure elements.
This works very well with the “habit” idea I mentioned earlier. If you like to drink coffee in the morning, and your “focus” time is then, connect the two. Get some really nice coffee, and save it for the “focus” moments. Put some nice quiet music. Make the whole experience enjoyable. You will find it much easier later to get back to your desk and work.
I like to use very nice note pads for work – the feel of the yellowish paper as I open a new notebook is just great. It tells me “I can’t wait to fill this up with brilliant ideas.”
All of the above have only one objective – to get you focused, and to start the “Flow”. You will find that in one hour of work you’ve accomplished more than the whole rest of the day – and most of all, you’ve enjoyed it!