We are facing an attention deficit crisis within our businesses today. Professionals are feeling overtired, overwhelmed and overstressed. Everyone is trying to accomplish a productive day of work while facing a barrage of never-ending interruptions and distractions.
Before our time together in Las Vegas, I wanted to take a moment to share with you some tips for boosting your productivity by leveraging your focus. Let’s start with 5 common issues the Virtuoso team of professionals have shared as being their biggest challenge to focused attention.
#1. Overwhelming noise competes for your attention.
We are living in the age of over information. We struggle to get the attention of clients because they are inundated with requests for their time and attention, as are you. As leaders, we get wrapped up in working on other people’s priorities and not always our own. We try to clear our inbox as soon as messages arrive, attend meetings at everyone’s request, focusing on development and multitasking on webinars. The overwhelm from constant noise and demands for our time hurts our ability to focus on the right things that truly matter.
We must learn to prioritize the demands on our attention. When we try to work on projects of importance, we need to be intentional with silencing the other distractions that compete for our attention. For instance, use technology to help you avoid it.
The Freedom App: Allows you to block websites that are tempting to hop on but suck valuable time away from the day. If you find yourself going down rabbit holes wasting too much time on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon and more, use this app to force better habits on yourself.
#2. A never-ending to-do list is frustrating.
When did we start living in the world of ‘crazy busy?’ Everyone we talk to is ‘crazy busy’ and barely keeping their heads above water. Why? Have our lives really ramped up to an unachievable pace of errands, tasks and chores each day? Answer is: NO. Professionals have fooled ourselves into believing everything is of the utmost importance and needs to be done right away. That’s just not the case.
We can tackle this challenge by changing the way we define priorities. Start each day jotting down three non-negotiable priorities on a post-it note. Place it on your computer as a reminder that my day is not complete until these non-negotiables are accomplished. Intentionally set aside time on your calendar first thing in the morning and honor it as if it were a meeting with a client. During that time, turn off your devices and silence alerts to give your concentrated focus to these non-negotiables. Once they are complete, I achieve a sense of accomplishment and feeling of satisfaction that boosts my productivity for the rest of the day. This also provides enough time in the rest of the day to handle any pressing issues that do truly require time and attention. As a result, you’ll end each day feeling like you’ve tackled what mattered most.
#3. There isn’t enough time in the day.
Many of us are guilty of allowing issues that pop up last minute dictate the flow and time within our day. Meetings require much time, as do phone calls, appointments, emails and more. While none of us can evade these responsibilities, we can get smarter with the way we manage our attention toward them.
I’m an advocate of time-blocking. Time-blocking is where you set aside chunks of time on your calendar to allow for specific activities. For instance, set aside time first thing in the morning to address your three non-negotiable priorities for the day. You can use this same principle to block off time for making phone calls, working on special projects and checking emails. As a result, you’ll be able to accomplish more of one task type than hop around from task to task. You will be able to complete more phone calls, respond to more emails and accomplish more on your special projects than if you were going back and forth or trying to split your focus.
#4. Clients rarely have the same sense of urgency.
When you’re working in a service industry, often the clients on a different timetable than you. Either they want what they want immediately, or they’ll take their time getting back to you when it becomes a priority for them.
One way to tackle this challenge is to talk time. Throughout your phone conversations with clients, recap how long you’ve talked and what’s been committed by when. Establish deadlines and reiterate them throughout the conversation. For instance, say to a customer, “In the 18 minutes we’ve been together, here’s some things we’ve talked about…” When discussing deadlines and needs you must complete their requests, say things such as “It sounds like you would require some proposal information by Thursday, if I get that to you by 4:00 East Coast time, will that work for you?”
This helps because they start registering an expectation. If they say, “No, no, no, my family’s meeting Wednesday night, I need everything for a family meeting on Wednesday,” then you now know what their sense of urgency is.
#5. Procrastination is crippling my productivity.
Procrastination is a self-inflicted paint point we bring upon ourselves for a variety of reasons. Either we don’t feel the project is important enough; or, we dread the mindpower it will take. As a result, we allow other priorities to come before whatever is on our plate.
Thing is, we are ALL guilty of it. It’s human nature to procrastinate. If we feel the habit is far too easy to fall back on, then we must start changing our patterns and self-expectations.
One trick is to go back to your trusty calendar and let it do the heavy lifting. If there are three pressing projects needing your time, block off time on your calendar to do them. Here are some rules of thumb to follow when it comes to determining how:
- Projects that require creative thinking and brain power need to be scheduled during your most productive work time of day. If your a professional who does your best thinking in the morning, mindfully schedule projects in need of your attention first thing.
- If it’s a project requiring a significant amount of time, tackle it in 15-minute increments. These types of projects tempt us to procrastinate because of the sheer volume of time and attention they demand. We put them off for a time we think we can accomplish it in one sitting. What winds up happening is we get super stressed and overwhelmed trying to finish it in the last minute. Try working in 15-minute increments. Set aside 15 minutes a day to work toward the project. Little by little, you’ll start to get through the project without feeling like you’ve invested a lifetime into it.
- Those items you put off merely because you dread them and the toughest to tackle. It’s not that they take a ton of brain power or time, they’re just not fun. These are projects that require accountability. Schedule a non-negotiable date on your calendar to work on the project – make it your own personal deadline. If you feel that’s too tempting to bail on, get an accountability buddy to help force you to finish. Knowing you have someone committed to your accountability is a great way to motivate you to do it.
I can’t wait see you in Las Vegas and make the most of our time together. If you’d like more ideas in the meantime, visit my blog at www.neenjames.com/blog and subscribe to my bi-weekly ezine. Connect with me on social media on YouTube, Facebook or Twitter with @NeenJames.
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