Remember when you were a kid how you could make paper catch fire by focusing the sun's rays with a magnifying glass? You'd look over your shoulder at the sun, get the angle of the rays just right, and move the magnifying glass until you could see a small circle of bright light on the piece of paper in front of you. Gradually, that circle began to turn brown and the paper began to smoulder until its edges began to curl under as the flame took hold.
How did that humble magnifying glass start something as powerful and elemental as a fire? The answer, of course, is concentration. Concentration of the sun's rays into a tiny, intense circle of heat. In a word, FOCUS.
We work the same way. If we truly focus our energy, concentration and creativity, we bring an intensity to the task that we just can't generate if these things are scattered amongst several projects at once.
Now, to simply say to you, "focus your energy and you will achieve greater results" is all very well. It's quite another matter entirely to be able to do it, especially when there are umpteen different priorities constantly tugging away at you, each demanding at least some of your attention and NOW.
To bring focus to your various activities, you need to break the cycle of allowing yourself to be distracted from the task at hand.
-> Identify Priority Tasks
To start with, you should allocate your time proportionately to all of the various tasks you need to do. Notice I said NEED to do. The first step is to decide what truly needs to be done and what doesn't. If you categorize a task as something that needs to be done, ask yourself why it is necessary. Another way of asking the same question is to ask yourself, "what will happen if I don't do this today?". If the ultimate consequence is that nothing will happen, why do it?
If you find yourself reluctantly concluding, well, I don't NEED to do this, I WANT to, then put it into the "need to do" category. Doing things for yourself, for your own enjoyment or satisfaction, should be a priority. Focus is not only about doing the things you should do, it is doing the things you want to do as well. By including in your need to do list things that are for your own personal pleasure and enjoyment, you replenish yourself and this in turn allows you to bring even greater focus, awareness and creativity to your other activities. So, give yourself permission to enjoy yourself.
->Allocate Time to Priority Tasks
Now that you have identified your 'need to do' activities, decide when you are going to do them and estimate how long you think they will take. Then add 40%. One of the immutable laws of the universe is that everything takes longer than you think it will. Save yourself the stress of running to keep up with the clock.
When thinking about when you will do a specific task, work with your body. Are you a morning person, a night-owl, a late-afternoon person or something else entirely? Whichever you are, schedule for that time your most intellectually demanding tasks. If you're a morning person, for example, and one of your 'need to do' activities is to write a sales page for your website, allocate this task to your prime time. Then allocate your less intellectually demanding activities, such as reading and responding to email, to your off-peak time.
Similarly, don't schedule your personal time for your prime time. Again, if you're a morning person, schedule your hour lying out in the sun for mid-afternoon, your 'off-peak' time.
By making strategic use of your time in this way you will be making the most efficient use of your prime time while STILL being able to do the things that YOU enjoy, and on a daily basis!
Compare this approach with a fragmented one. You're a morning person. You need to write a sales page for your web site. You also need to read and respond to email today and you also want to schedule time, just an hour or so, to get some sun.
It's morning but, instead of starting your sales page, you decide to read and respond to your email first, to kind of ease into the day. That's a breeze because reading and responding to email is not an intellectually demanding task and you're at your peak anyway. You finish reading and responding to your mail two hours later.
Now you think about writing your sales page. But you've used your peak concentration time on email and you've lost that sharp edge you always have first thing in the morning. That makes writing sales copy, an already intellectually demanding task, even more difficult. You really don't feel like it right now. So you put it off. You look for something easier to do.
Maybe you could take that hour off now and use the time while you're lying out in the sun to get your head together. But no, you can't relax if you know you have work uncompleted. So you decide to force yourself to make a start on your sales copy. You write your copy but it just doesn't flow. It feels stilted and contrived.
You begin to get frustrated and annoyed with yourself. If only I'd got it over and done with first thing I'd be dealing with my email right now looking forward to lying out in the sun for a while later on, you think. That's what I should be doing! So, you get annoyed with yourself, and become generally irritable. Which, of course, just blocks the creative flow even more. Lunchtime rolls around and you feel like you've wasted half a day.
What a waste of energy, concentration and creativity! What a lack of FOCUS. Just look at the energy you've wasted feeling annoyed and irritable with yourself. Just think what you could have accomplished if you'd put that energy to good use and focused!
Save yourself the angst. Identify priority tasks, strategically allocate times of the day to each task depending on how intellectually demanding they are, and exercise personal DISCIPLINE to do the right thing right and at the right time.
-> Concentrate on One Thing at a Time
When you're doing the right thing at the right time, dedicate yourself to that one thing and nothing else. Don't let your mind wander to what else you could be doing. You don't need to worry about that because "what else" has been allocated its own time and that time will come.
Remember, the whole point of focusing is to make maximum use of your time, energy, concentration and creativity. If you can do this, you will give yourself the gift of more time for yourself and your family. So remember to turn it off too. Give 100% of yourself to the task at hand during the time allocated to that task and then let it go.
Take care of business but always remember, life is for living!
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Elena Fawkner is editor of A Home-Based Business Online ... practical business ideas, opportunities and solutions for the work-from-home entrepreneur. http://www.ahbbo.com