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7 Ways to Focus on What Really Matters

7 Ways to Focus on What Really Matters
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Do you easily lose sight of the things that really matter in your life?

Do you always feel as if you’re constantly jumping from one thing to another throughout the day without having anything to show for your efforts?

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Here are seven ways to focus on what really matters, right here, right now.

Set three important tasks to complete each and every day.

Your to-do list may be a mile long, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be selective about what you are going to accomplish today. Make a point to set aside three important and/or time-sensitive tasks to complete each and every day. These tasks can be from different or similar areas of your life. For example, you might choose to include one work-related, one personal and one household task for your list, or you might decide to mix up the task types entirely. No matter which tasks you choose, make sure you are focusing on those tasks that should be done sooner rather than later.

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Seek to provide value in all that you do.

There’s a big difference between something that is done well versus something that is done poorly. Quality of work always speaks for itself, whether it is attention paid to detail, error- or mistake-free work, items that are sturdily constructed with top-grade materials or well thought-out and complete ideas and concepts. Instead of dashing through your work just to get it done, think about how you can bring or enhance the value of your own work. Can you put in a little bit more of your time and energy to make your work stand out? There’s no denying a job well done.

Plan for the long-term.

Instead of focusing on life’s little distractions or annoyances, take a step back and shift your focus to the long term. What goals would you like to achieve a month, a year, five years or ten years from now? Write down your goal in specific, measurable details, including the date you want to reach your goal, how you will know when you reach your goal as well as the specific steps you will take to reach it.

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Have a clear vision.

Is your mind muddled with lots of different ideas, projects or to-dos? The easiest way to get distracted is having too much information floating around in your head at one time. Get all of those thoughts out of your head and onto a piece of paper or on a computer screen so you can view them objectively. How many different thoughts or ideas do you have? Which items are the most time-sensitive or require more time to complete? See if you can narrow down all of your thoughts to one single vision you are willing to work towards starting right now.

Create a dedicated vision board, planner or calendar.

If you’re having trouble seeing the big picture you might want to consider setting up a vision board or a separate calendar or schedule to remind yourself of what really matters and is important in your life. You can pull out the board whenever you need a reminder without being distracted by all of your regular to-dos and tasks.

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Schedule regular weekly check-ins.

One of the best ways to stay focused is to consistently review your goals. Make a point to schedule regular check-ins for yourself each week to check up on your progress. Ask yourself whether you kept on track towards your goals or if you were sidetracked during the week. What items can you seek to correct for the following week?

Set aside some time for yourself.

It’s hard to know what to focus on if you’re constantly in motion, running from one thing to another. Try taking some down time just for yourself. Read a good book, watch the tide come in at the beach, go for a walk in the park, or just sit quietly at home. Spending some time alone can help put things in perspective.

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How are you going to stay focused on what really matters to you in your life? Leave a comment below.

Featured photo credit: Focus/toolstop via flickr.com

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Rashelle Isip

Blogger, Consultant, and Author

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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.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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