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Focus on less to do more

Focus on less to do more
focus

    So there you are with your Today list, your to-do list, your project lists, your house list, your calls list and even your list of lists. You know each and ever one of the 49 things you want to accomplish today. There’s only one small problem: come the end of the day you’ve accomplished zip. What went wrong?

    Your focus.

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    Now you may think you know what the word focus means – but do you? Words have very specific meanings and too often people are vague about those meanings – they try to use soft blobby things to shape their thoughts instead of well-machined, razor-sharp chisels.

    My favorite dictionary, Merriam-Webster, offers up several definitions of focus, including: “a center of activity, attraction, or attention b : a point of concentration“. Another online dictionary says focus is “the concentration of attention or energy on something.”

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    It’s very easy when you make the leap to some sort of methodology for getting organized like David Allen’s Getting Things Done to not realize all your efforts for collecting and organizing what you need to do are only the start of the story – you’ve only jumped halfway across the stream.

    The other half of the story is developing, managing, conserving and applying focus to what you do.

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    Here’s four suggestions on how to focus, and how to get better at focusing:

    • Create your to-do lists, then forget them. Not forever, not even for long. But the point of collecting and organizing your to do’s is precisely to get them out of your mind, to free yourself from their tyranny long enough to selectively complete some of them at a time and place of your choosing.
    • Three things at a time. This is the technique I use to concentrate on and complete work. Know and be concerned about the next three things you are going to do, and that’s it. While I have pending 8 current tasks from the 374 in 26 projects (thanks to a program I wrote and sell) I’m only thinking about 1) This post. 2) A guest post to put up at http://mymicroisv.com and 3) a stubborn SqlBulkCopy routine I need to whip into submission for a client this morning. That’s it – I’m ignoring everything else, especially all those wonderful Internet distractions, until I get through my list of 3. Then, but only then, will I decide the next three things that most need doing.
    • Don’t finish things, complete them. There’s a huge difference between finishing (“brought to an end”) a task and completing (“fully carried out”) a task. When you complete a task, you know you’ve done everything you should have to process that task, including defining new things you have to do because you’re done. You know you did it with just the appropriate amount of time, effort and creativity and yes, focus.
    • Know when to multitask and when not to. There are times I’m answering email, chatting on Skype, surfing the web, reading RSS items and listening to music all more or less at the same time. None of these things need more than my partial attention, a bit of focus. But when I write code or words that matter to me, or dare to actually think about something, the email, Skype, browser, RSS reader and iTunes get turned off. It’s not that multitasking is bad; it’s when we try to multitask tasks deserving our full attention and not getting it that we cheat ourselves.

    Bob Walsh sells MasterList Professional, a Windows task management application and writes, codes, podcasts and blogs about different aspects of the digital lifestyle at ToDoOrElse, MyMicroISV and Clear Blogging. His second book, Clear Blogging, is now available at Amazon and elsewhere.

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    Last Updated on November 18, 2020

    15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It)

    15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It)

    It’s okay, you can finally admit it. It’s been two months since you’ve seen the inside of the gym. Getting sick, family crisis, overtime at work and school papers that needed to get finished all kept you for exercising. Now, the question is: how do you start again?
    Once you have an exercise habit, it becomes automatic. You just go to the gym, there is no force involved. But after a month, two months or possibly a year off, it can be hard to get started again. Here are some tips to climb back on that treadmill after you’ve fallen off.

    1. Don’t Break the Habit – The easiest way to keep things going is simply not to stop. Avoid long breaks in exercising or rebuilding the habit will take some effort. This may be advice a little too late for some people. But if you have an exercise habit going, don’t drop it at the first sign of trouble.
    2. Reward Showing Up – Woody Allen once said that, “Half of life is showing up.” I’d argue that 90% of making a habit is just making the effort to get there. You can worry about your weight, amount of laps you run or the amount you can bench press later.
    3. Commit for Thirty Days – Make a commitment to go every day (even just for 20 minutes) for one month. This will solidify the exercise habit. By making a commitment you also take pressure off yourself in the first weeks back of deciding whether to go.
    4. Make it Fun – If you don’t enjoy yourself at the gym, it is going to be hard to keep it a habit. There are thousands of ways you can move your body and exercise, so don’t give up if you’ve decided lifting weights or doing crunches isn’t for you. Many large fitness centers will offer a range of programs that can suit your tastes.
    5. Schedule During Quiet Hours – Don’t put exercise time in a place where it will easily be pushed aside by something more important. Right after work or first thing in the morning are often good places to put it. Lunch-hour workouts might be too easy to skip if work demands start mounting.
    6. Get a Buddy – Grab a friend to join you. Having a social aspect to exercising can boost your commitment to the exercise habit.
    7. X Your Calendar – One person I know has the habit of drawing a red “X” through any day on the calendar he goes to the gym. The benefit of this is it quickly shows how long it has been since you’ve gone to the gym. Keeping a steady amount of X’s on your calendar is an easy way to motivate yourself.
    8. Enjoyment Before Effort – After you finish any work out, ask yourself what parts you enjoyed and what parts you did not. As a rule, the enjoyable aspects of your workout will get done and the rest will be avoided. By focusing on how you can make workouts more enjoyable, you can make sure you want to keep going to the gym.
    9. Create a Ritual – Your workout routine should become so ingrained that it becomes a ritual. This means that the time of day, place or cue automatically starts you towards grabbing your bag and heading out. If your workout times are completely random, it will be harder to benefit from the momentum of a ritual.
    10. Stress Relief – What do you do when your stressed? Chances are it isn’t running. But exercise can be a great way to relieve stress, releasing endorphin which will improve your mood. The next time you feel stressed or tired, try doing an exercise you enjoy. When stress relief is linked to exercise, it is easy to regain the habit even after a leave of absence.
    11. Measure Fitness – Weight isn’t always the best number to track. Increase in muscle can offset decreases in fat so the scale doesn’t change even if your body is. But fitness improvements are a great way to stay motivated. Recording simple numbers such as the number of push-ups, sit-ups or speed you can run can help you see that the exercise is making you stronger and faster.
    12. Habits First, Equipment Later – Fancy equipment doesn’t create a habit for exercise. Despite this, some people still believe that buying a thousand dollar machine will make up for their inactivity. It won’t. Start building the exercise habit first, only afterwards should you worry about having a personal gym.
    13. Isolate Your Weakness – If falling off the exercise wagon is a common occurrence for you, find out why. Do you not enjoy exercising? Is it a lack of time? Is it feeling self-conscious at the gym? Is it a lack of fitness know-how? As soon as you can isolate your weakness, you can make steps to improve the situation.
    14. Start Small – Trying to run fifteen miles your first workout isn’t a good way to build a habit. Work below your capacity for the first few weeks to build the habit. Otherwise you might scare yourself off after a brutal workout.
    15. Go for Yourself, Not to Impress – Going to the gym with the only goal of looking great is like starting a business with only the goal to make money. The effort can’t justify the results. But if you go to the gym to push yourself, gain energy and have a good time, then you can keep going even when results are slow.

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