A life devoted to trifles not only takes away the inclination, but the capacity, for higher pursuits.
We all understand the importance of knowing what you want and setting goals to help you achieve your objectives.
Learning how to focus is a powerful strategy that makes accomplishing objectives easier and more enjoyable. Avoid and eliminate all the distractions that stall and derail you.
Time wasters always seem to pop up when we begin to undertake a new challenge or struggle to make progress on existing projects. When I sit down to write, it’s easy to find “fun” time wasters. The TV is just a click away. The computer offers all kinds of options to do anything but what I really intended to do when I logged on. I can play hearts, solitaire, read my email, surf the Internet or check out the stock markets.
I have devised some rules that help me keep focused on the task at hand:
1. When I decide to undertake a new project, I develop a plan that describes what I want to accomplish, why and the process that will help me achieve my goal. I keep that plan handy and refer to it frequently. This makes me refocus on my goals by reinforcing and reminding myself of all the benefits. It’s fun to achieve; it’s not fun to dawdle, procrastinate and waste time.
My plan is a working document; nothing is etched in stone. If I discover a way to improve the original plan, I modify it accordingly.
2. Everyday I ask myself a couple of questions to tighten my focus on what needs to be done:
What is the single most important thing I must do to keep myself on the path to realize my goal or objective?
What is the one thing I can do today to advance towards my goal or objective?
3. I always am looking to refine and enhance my procedures and systems. Good procedures allow us to handle the necessary mundane things without wasting energy that could be channeled into the more creative and exciting aspects of our work. Much of what we do is repetitive and routine. Woody Allen once said that 90% of success is just showing up. I think a large part of success is just doing the routine things that need to be done. Success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. Establishing successful routines is a significant factor in becoming a competent and achieving person.
There is a strong correlation between establishing good systems and attaining success in achieving goals. If your are disorganized, you will waste time and energy. Here are some tips that you might wish to consider:
A. Elimination of clutter – Clutter is a symptom of being unorganized.
For a writer, collecting information is half the battle. Labeling and filing it for later reference and use is equally important. Scraps of paper containing scribbled notes strewn all over the house constitutes a bad case of clutter for a writer.
I can really empathize with squirrels that have buried nuts for the winter, but when winter comes they haven’t a clue where they are buried. Clutter dampens your spirits and creates frustration rather than creative joyous energy. Nothing drains my energy more than searching for a misplaced object or wasting time looking for misfiled information.
B. Create a workspace that’s enjoyable and conducive to creativity.
I like to have easy access to supplies, materials, reference books, computer files and my coffee cup. I also value comfortable furniture (a quality computer chair), an ergonomic computer set up (a large monitor at the proper eye level, a trackball mouse to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome).
Good lighting is essential. You want a setting that is not only pleasing to the eye, but also good for the spirits. Your workspace should have an ambiance that naturally draws you to it.
C. Minimize distractions.
Learn to anticipate and sidestep distractions. At the end of the workday, ask yourself these questions concerning distractions and uninvited intrusions into your daily work routine:
What were my major distractions today?
How long did it take me to recover? (Often a 5-minute distraction will require a large amount of time to resolve and you are no longer in synch with the original task before the interruption.) If you have to ask yourself, “Now where was I?” your train of thought has been broken.
Were the distractions and interruptions avoidable?
What might I have done differently today?
D. Commit to regularly scheduled daily action.
To me, this is the secret of all progress. When I’m willing to commit to daily action, I know it is just a matter of time before I achieve my goal, and that’s a wonderful feeling.
Focused people are highly efficient people.