Do you feel scattered because you have so much going on? Do you find it a challenge to finish anything? Do you feel like your energy level is completely depleted and like nothing ever gets done. I’ve been there. It’s a sinking feeling. Everything you have on your list stays there. The growing list bounces around in your head and won’t go away.
What do you do about that?
What has helped me is making a decision that I will take whatever it is I’m working on, whatever it is I’m “focusing” on, to completion. This requires me to block segments of uninterrupted time to make it happen. Recently, I repainted the front room in my house. This was a redo from many years ago. Back then, my brother-in-law helped tremendously and got us almost done with the project. I lost motivation and just put off the project until it was something we accepted as “finished.” What’s funny is, we didn’t completely accept it was done because we would walk by and notice the walls needed another coat of paint or the ceilings needed to be sanded down and painted.
I decided to go for it and focus on that room until it was done. Certain things have held me back in the past. Usually, it’s when I would hit a road block; something that would stall the project or make it seem impossible to finish. Last year we had added hardwood floors to the house. This required the installer to pull all of the base shoe off of the trim. The daunting part that kept me from working on this job was the thought of hand nailing all of that base shoe in with finish nails and a nail punch. Looking around at Home Depot one day while buying stuff for another project, I stumbled upon an incredible sale on an air compressor that came with three different nailers! I made the split decision to go ahead and buy it and it gave me a great kick start to re-beginning the project!
For just about any project I’ve ever done in my adult life, I would do to about 50% completion, in other words, half-assed it. I hated this about myself and I’ve recently decided I was going to break that stigma and push through to completion. This started with the front room project. Without going through too many of the details I got this project to 95% complete! I have a few touch ups, but it is just about done! I’ll touch it up this weekend and move on to the next project. This gives me a huge sense of accomplishment and pushes me to tackle my next big project: the siding on my house!
So, what helped me to stick to this project, this time?
First, I analyzed the project and broke down the steps that I needed to take. I wrote everything out in logical steps as I couldn’t work on the walls or ceiling until the trim and the crown moulding was done. Next, I went through the list and took inventory of what tools I have, what material I have and did the same for what tools and material I needed to buy. I then decided on what the very next step I need to take was. This was installing the base shoe with the new air nailers that I purchased.
The hardest part, but the most crucial part of focusing on a task is taking the first step.
I took measurements all around the house for the base shoe that we needed and went to the Big Orange Box to purchase it. I needed over 100 feet! I roughly measured each section and went to the store to cut the pieces. I had a blast coming home, cutting the pieces and using my new toy to QUICKLY install.
Another thing I did to maintain focus was make sure to DO whatever I could each day that could have been put off until the next day.
One huge factor in maintaining focus is deciding to NOT move onto another project (unless it’s an emergency) until that project is done. When energy is focused on one area, it’s much more powerful. I know there’s an overused saying about light that is concentrated will become a laser. Yes. It’s true.
When I was a kid, our furnace would blow and blow all winter long and the rooms would always seem so cold, regardless. Being the clever child I was, I would grab a blanket and form a small tent over the top of one of the vents which allowed me to concentrate the heat into that one area. 🙂
If we make a decision to focus all of our energy on the ONE THING we are doing right then, it will make a huge impact on what we do.
“I do what I do, and I do it well, and focus and take it one moment at a time.” – Jim Caviezel
At work, one way I get “focused” on what I’m doing is by using music. I am a user experience designer and part of my job is to figure out the best possible experience for the user while keeping the business goals in mind. What I have to do is completely dive into the project and immerse myself into what is existing and make decisions on how to make it a better overall experience. I do this by asking TONS of questions which will be the topic of another post. On the discussion of focus, to really distill down the information, I must FOCUS on all of the data to help reveal the questions that need to be asked of the business.
I will put on a pair of headphones and turn on classical music. I downloaded the 50 Greatest Pieces of Classical Music as performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
I use different music depending on what it is I’m doing. For instance, 90’s alternative music really helped me get through the front room project. When it comes to physical labor where I’m not required to think much, that angry, angsty music really helps!
When it comes to needing to use my brain, the classical music works because there aren’t any words and it somehow helps me focus and come up with more creative ideas.
I will use a stack of post-it notes and write down one question per post-it and stick it on my cube wall, whiteboard or overhead bin. This method has really helped me immerse myself in the data. I call it my “Tony Stark Paper Visualization.” If you’ve ever seen Iron Man, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Tony Stark, when trying to solve a problem, will use holograms and get all the information out in front of him.
So, I crank the classical and dive into the subject. The result was dozens of questions I probably wouldn’t have thought of otherwise if I didn’t make a decision to FOCUS on the task at hand.
In the book, The ONE Thing, Gary Keller talks about how multi-tasking is a myth and how it dissipates energy so much versus focusing on doing one task at a time. I completely agree. Zeroing in on one task and seeing it through will allow you to apply much more power and emphasis, which will typically lead to a better job being performed.
Another thing that will help you focus is to let those around you know that you are focusing on the one task at hand. Let them know you want to see that through before moving on to the next thing. Often, my kids will come up and ask me to do this or that. I used to pull away from whatever I was doing and most of the time, wouldn’t come back. I now explain to them I’m focusing on this current task and I’ll help them or play with them when I’m done. I believe they admire me for it and hopefully it rubs off on them!
“The focus is what is right before you – to give it your best. It sows the seeds of tomorrow.” – Kiran Bedi
Tons of books and resources exist out there in regards to focusing, “getting things done,” not procrastinating, etc. This is my personal view on how I’ve been able to overcome putting things off and focusing on what I need to do. Many of my posts will have a personal spin on them. I want to make it clear that I by no means think I’m perfect. I’ve been finding things that work for me by continually trying to optimize my life and I am now sharing them with you.
To recap, here are some things you can do to help with focus:
- Write out the steps you need to take on whatever project or task you are working on.
- Take inventory of what you already have and what you need to get to help with your project.
- Break down what seems overbearing into smaller, manageable chunks.
- Figure out a way to make a seemingly insurmountable task easier. (Nail gun vs. Hammer, nails and nail punch.) 🙂
- Decide on the ONE THING you will do next to start the momentum to help you stay focused.
- Utilize appropriate music to help you stay in a zone and “focused” on what you’re doing.
- Accomplish today what you would have, in the past, put off until tomorrow.
- Let people around you know you are focusing and whatever they need will have to wait.
Now, go get FOCUSED!