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10 Habits of Highly Unfocused People

10 Habits of Highly Unfocused People
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In a world with information bombarding us from each and every angle and the daily grind moving at a breakneck pace, it’s hard to stay focused. With so many decisions and so much information to digest at every turn, being unfocused can be a detriment to your personal and professional life. Are you suffering from information overload? Here are 10 habits of highly unfocused people to watch for:

1. They don’t see the forest through the trees.

Many tasks, projects, and independent elements combine to complete projects. Often it seems like you have plenty of time, weeks even, to complete a task. You do what you’re supposed to and dive right in. You work, tirelessly, to complete each task. You make sure every detail is perfect, all the i’s dotted and the t’s crossed. But too many times, diving into the details takes the focus off the overall goal and sends you down a rathole from which you can’t recover. Save the optional bonus points until the end, keeping your focus on the goal of completion.

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2. They don’t plan.

It’s difficult, if not impossible, to stay focused without having a plan to execute. Whether the plan is internal or written down, it’s a vital stage for focused, successful people. Do you struggle making a plan? Start with the basics. Start each day writing down what you need to get done and the steps to get there. Keep that list with you and check off each step as you go. Keep track when you miss your goals and reflect each night on why. When you understand exactly what you need to get done, and hold yourself accountable, you’ll learn what to focus on, which can be half the battle.

3. They lose track of time.

It happens to the best of us. You look at the clock and it’s 5:00, time to leave for the day. But you still have so much to do! Does this sound like a daily occurrence for you? Understanding the time you have available and what you can accomplish in a specific amount of time can be the difference between success and failure. If you struggle keeping track of time, find tools that will help. Understand how long things take and you’ll have a better chance at keeping your internal clock on point.

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4. They are easily distracted.

Distractions are everywhere. Some of them are obvious, but others lurk in every cell phone, conversation, and task. Each time focus moves from one task to another, there’s a lag in time to truly focus. The human brain cannot truly multi-task, so attempting to do too much actually hurts productivity. Are you too easily distracted? The best way to improve is to be aware of the problem. Take note of distractions and understand the toll they take on your productivity. Practice makes perfect.

5. They run late.

Are you always running late? Find the reasons and fix them. Are you being honest about how long it takes to get to places? Too many times we have unrealistic ideas about how far we are from places. Make a conscious effort to time how long it takes to get places and take into account outside factors. Do you lose track of time and always have things to finish up that keep your running behind? Don’t start projects you can’t finish before you leave. Find the cause and come up with a plan.

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6. They struggle to prioritize.

Do you find that you always have too many things that have to be done immediately? It’s important to understand that not everything you do has the same priority. Make sure you set that expectation and you’ll find that your schedule will open up and you’ll get significantly more accomplished.

7. They wait until the last moment.

Procrastination may breed creativity, but it also can be the downfall of even the best-laid plans. Do you miss deadlines because you run out of time? Take your need for the adrenaline and use it to your advantage. Create your own deadlines for specific aspects of the project and attack those. By splitting up a large project into more manageable chunks and creating deadlines around these, even if you do wait till the last moment, you’ll be more prepared to stay on task and schedule.

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8. They are messy or unorganized.

Mess not only clutters up your desk, it can also play havoc on your productivity. Take a hard look at your surroundings and make a conscious effort to keep organized. You’ll have a better chance to stay on track and ensure nothing important gets lost in the mess.

9. They are flaky.

Following though is vital. Skipping out on appointments, canceling at the last minute, and being flaky in general hurts your reputation and can cost you more than you realize. While it’s easy to say “just fulfill your commitments,” there’s another important way to become less flaky. Take the time to fully evaluate and commit to everything you agree to. While for those being stood up see it as a sign of disrespect, it’s often more about planning and commitment. Before taking a meeting, scheduling a dinner, or agreeing to a project, make sure you can and will follow through. You’ll protect your reputation and help stay focused.

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10. They worry about everything.

Do you worry about everything? Learn what’s important and focus on that. Anytime you’re taking the focus on what you’re trying to accomplish, it will hurt productivity. Don’t sweat the small stuff and you’ll have more time to hammer the big stuff.

Featured photo credit: Carousel/Jo Dooher via flickr.com

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Kyle Robbins

Kyle is the founder of Branding Beard. He writes about communication tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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