t’s hard to focus. Especially when there’s so much you want to do.
Some days I sit down to start working on a post or a design and suddenly a new idea pops into my head that I want to explore. I sat down with the intention of a specific outcome, but did something completely different.
On other days I try to do too many things at once, but we all know multitasking isn’t very effective. The switching costs are too high.
The best way to describe it is that my mind is like a puppy that can’t stop chasing after a ball. It’s just natural for me to follow my curiosity. This may be alright occasionally, but if you want to accomplish your goals, you’re going to need focus.
I struggle with this, but I’ve also discovered ways to make it easier to focus on what’s important. Here are 5 ways to do exactly that.
1. Focus is having a primary task
We are all aware of what we should be working on, but that’s usually not where we focus. Oddly enough, it may be the thing we avoid the most.
A simple trick to keeping focus is having a primary or anchor task defined every day. This is your most important task that has to be completed.
You start with this and nothing else. Once it’s completed, you can move on to other things in your list, but if you don’t give something priority then you’ll probably never make any real progress on anything.
2. Focus is process not outcome
Progress takes time. There’s no true over night success. It takes hard work and patience. The thing is, when we’re not seeing results, we start to lose focus.
Why is my startup not getting any traction? Why is no one reading my blog? Why am I not finding any work?
This is all outcome focused thinking. What we need to do instead is focus on the process. Forget about what the results are because that can be discouraging.
Instead, evaluate your day on taking small steps. Writing one page, satisfying one customer, finding a new lead, and so on. If you judge yourself on the process, not the outcome, it becomes easier to stick to it.
If you fall in love with the process, you will be able to keep at it, day after day.
3. Focus is elimination
At some point we have to accept that focus means elimination. In some part of your life, whether it’s work or friends or family or leisure, you have to make a conscious decision where to spend your time.
While completely eliminating things may be extreme, it again comes down to prioritizing your time and energy on what is most important to you.
If you can’t make these sacrifices, then it may not be as important as you think.
4. Focus is knowing why
When we’re just doing things to do them, it’s easy to get off track by news ideas and opportunities.
On the other hand, if you take the time to know why you are doing them, to understand what the meaning is behind it, things get much easier.
Knowing why makes knowing how much more feasible. If you’re struggling with your work, try to understand it’s purpose. Why are you doing it? It makes things much clearer.
5. Focus is letting ideas go
Ideas are probably my biggest issue. When I get a new idea, it seems so much better than what I’m already working on. While this is hardly ever true, it’s easy to convince yourself otherwise.
When I get new ideas, I’ve had to learn to let them go and I accomplish this by writing them down in my commonplace book. It gives me some solace that I’ve taken at least some action towards the idea and not just let it slip through the cracks.
But if simply writing them down isn’t enough you can take things a step further.
Ideas should either be destroyed, given away, or pursued.Kevin Kelly
First, truly evaluate them. More often than not you’re just drinking your own Kool-Aid and it becomes clear that the idea wasn’t that great to begin with or it’s already been done.
If it passes this step, then you can see if there’s someone else better suited to pursue this idea instead of you. After all, not every idea is meant for you.
These two steps can remove most of your ideas from contention. What’s left you’ll have to deal with and prioritize around, but at least this filtering makes it more manageable.
Focus is essential to success and being able to prioritize what’s most important is often the key.
While my goal here was to help you focus on the options you have in front of you, there are also steps to take that make the act of working more efficient.
In the words of Winston Churchill, “you will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.” Focus to achieve your goals.