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7 Wise Ways to Find Focus and Get Things Done

7 Wise Ways to Find Focus and Get Things Done
    Focus to Get Things Done

    It has to be one of mankind’s greatest challenges; staying focused in the fast paced, technology driven world we are living in. Information overload, a common phenomenon, work overload another. But staying focused is perhaps the best way for us to get things done and move forward with our lives and our jobs. So how do we keep our eye on the ball when it’s accustomed to bouncing around from court to court?

    Focus on one thing

    “He who chases two rabbits catches none” – Confucius

    Wise words from a wise man, but most of us will relate to chasing maybe a dozen rabbits at the same time and a couple of elephants. But if we are to follow the wise words of Confucius we will get more done and achieve our goals quickly. Working on more than one thing at a time will waste valuable time. When we switch from one task to another, it takes our brain time to readjust and concentrate on the second task and precious time is lost in the changeover. The reality being that multitasking is a productivity nightmare.

    Eliminate known distractions

    Last week I suggested an information detox to help us recognize the amount of information that we consume is unnecessary. A detox also helps us to unwind and relax, an essential part of focus and concentration. If you need to get work done, disconnect from technology. Turn off all notifications and reminders of emails and tweets etc. Take control of all communication and social media and only go to them when you are ready to spend time there. It’s not good to get notifications –  human beings are not strong enough to ignore these teasers.

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    Calm the mind

    One of our biggest distractions is not as you may have thought – Facebook – it is our own thoughts racing through our minds when we are trying to get something done. These cheeky thoughts often tempt us away from the job that needs doing, or they annoyingly and repeatedly inform while we are working on task A that task B, C and D remain unfinished. Don’t listen, take control of your thoughts and redirect them to the job at hand. A great way to still the mind is meditation. It can help to silence the constant chat we all experience from time to time. It can be a great assistance to focus.

    De-clutter

    De-cluttering is another way to eliminate distractions, if your desk, office and head are clear, you are minimising the possibilities for distractions. I always start my week by cleaning my office, anything that was left lying around from the past week needs to be dealt with, you need to know that there is nothing you have forgotten about or left undone. If you get into the habit of doing a weekly de-clutter or in GTD terms a weekly review, you can start the week relaxed, focused and ready for action.

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    Exercise

    We all know exercise creates energy; it is also a powerful way to reduce stress, as endorphins are released by the pituitary gland to block out feelings of pain or stress. Serotonin, another chemical released while exercising, improves our mood and our sense of happiness. Exercise is also responsible for the creation of new neurons in the brain which enable us to process and store information more easily.

    Clarification of Goals

    Being clear about our goals and objectives will help us focus and stay on track. It motivates us to continue and persist when we are lacking the inspiration. If your goals is to de-clutter your home and be more organized, your objective maybe to reduce stress and induce calm. For another person the objective may be because they are putting their house up for sale and need the house looking good and attractive. It’s important to clarify your objectives in order to maintain the motivation and ensure that what you are working on is getting you closer to that goal.

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    Simplify

    The more we simplify our lives and our jobs, the more work we get done. But we don’t just want to get work done, we want to get the important tasks done, the tasks that make a difference to the big picture. Many of us busy ourselves doing tasks that are unnecessary, wasting time on things that aren’t adding value to our lives or our jobs. If you can simplify and eliminate the unnecessary from your life you will have more time to focus on what is important, and it will also become a lot easier to maintain this focus.

    What other methods do you use to stay focused?

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    Ciara Conlon

    Productivity coach, speaker, blogger and author of Chaos to Control, a Practical Guide to Getting Things Done

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    Last Updated on November 3, 2020

    How to Use the Prioritization Matrix When Every Task is #1

    How to Use the Prioritization Matrix When Every Task is #1

    It takes being productive to get things done correctly and on time. So how do you know which tasks are essential and which can wait? The answer is in the Prioritization Matrix, also known as the Eisenhower Matrix.

    The matrix took its name after Dwight David Eisenhower.

    Eisenhower was a general in the US army and the 34th President of the United States from 1953 to 1961. As a five-star general and a Supreme Commander in the US Army, he drafted the strategy for an Allied invasion of Europe.[1]

    Eisenhower had to make tough decisions every time about which tasks to prioritize out of many he needed to focus on daily. So, he came up with the famous Eisenhower Matrix, or the Prioritization Matrix.

    What Is the Prioritization Matrix?

    The Prioritization Matrix is a tool for rating your tasks based on urgency. It helps you know the critical activities and those tasks that you should bypass and can be useful in project management, small businesses, or personal tasks.

    Eisenhower famously said of the matrix:

    “Most tasks that are urgent are not important, and most tasks that are important are not urgent.”

    This quote became the maxim for Eisenhower in managing his time.

    There are four quadrants in the Prioritization Matrix, which help in comparing choices of what to do first and last, allowing you to prioritize projects and create strategic plan[2].

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    Eisenhower Matrix Template

      The quadrants are:

      • Do
      • Schedule
      • Delegate
      • Eliminate

      Do

      Do is the first quadrant in the Prioritization Matrix, and it incorporates important activities. That is, those tasks you need to carry out urgently — crises, deadlines, and issues that need your urgent attention and are highly relevant to your life mission.

      Hw do you know which task falls into this quadrant?

      Start by analyzing your priorities, and then establish if it falls within the ‘do it now’ criteria. If the task is achievable within a day, or within 24 to 48 hours, it’s urgent.

      Another approach you can adopt in prioritizing tasks in this category is to adopt the “eat the frog” principle by Mark Twain. This principle recommends that you do the most urgent activities as soon as you wake up.

      Here’s a practical example.

      Let’s say you need to draft a content strategy and submit a report to your manager. It’s Saturday, and the deadline for submission is Monday. Can we say the activity is urgent? Definitely!

      Schedule

      The second quadrant of the prioritization matrix is Schedule. The Prioritization Matrix classifies tasks in this category as important but not that urgent.

      They are long-term objectives and tasks with no immediate deadline. Those tasks could include meditation, journaling, studying, family time, and exercising.

      You can plan out activities in this quadrant for some other period. For instance, you should exercise for good health, but you can allocate time to do it.

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      Schedule these activities in such a way that they don’t transfer to the “Do” or “Urgent” quadrant. Ensure you have sufficient time to carry them out.

      Delegate

      The third quadrant of the prioritization matrix is Delegate.

      These tasks are not important to you but are quite urgent for others. This is where teamwork comes into play.

      You can technically perform tasks in this category, but it makes sense to delegate them. Delegating tasks will ensure you have more time to pursue activities in your first two quadrants.

      You should also monitor the tasks you have delegated. It will only amount to a sheer waste of time if you don’t have a tracking system for delegated tasks.

      Eliminate

      The last quadrant highlights your productivity killers. They are tasks that are not important to your goals and not urgent. The only way to boost your productivity is to eliminate them.

      Some examples are constantly checking your phone, watching movies, or playing video games.

      They could also be bad habits that you need to identify and delete from your daily and weekly schedule.

      Successful people have learned how to prioritize and stick to what’s important. They have learned to find a better person for a task or eliminate less significant tasks.

      Let’s consider two inspiring personalities that have designed their prioritization system.

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      Warren Buffet developed a two-list prioritization model to determine which task deserves his best attention. The bottom line is bypassing things that are important and useful but not top of the priorities.

      Mark Ford, a business advisor, marketer, self-made millionaire, and author devised his strategy:

      “Start work on the most crucial priority, take a break, work on the second most important task, take a break, then sort out the less important activities and any tasks he received from other individuals by afternoon.” [3]

      How to Use The Prioritization Matrix

      Using the Prioritization Matrix can be tricky if you’re new at it, but by following a few simple steps, you can learn to utilize it in the best way possible.

      1. List and Rank Your Priorities

      Highlight all the tasks you need to carry out in a day. Then, classify them with weighted criteria based on urgency and importance.

      Identify any activity that requires prompt action. I’m referring to a task that if you don’t complete that day, it could produce a grave consequence. For instance, if you don’t submit your content strategy, other content writers cannot work. It means you need to check for high-priority dependencies.

      2. Define the Value

      The next step is to examine the importance and assess which of them impacts your business or organization the most. As a rule of thumb, you can check which tasks possess higher priority over others. For instance, you need to attend to client’s requirements before you take care of any internal work.

      You can also estimate value by examining how the task impacts the people and customers in the organization. In a nutshell, the more impact a task has on people or the organization, the higher the priority.

      3. Take out the Most Challenging Task

      Procrastination is not a symptom of laziness, but avoidance is. The truth is that you will typically avoid tasks you don’t want to do. The former CEO of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein, once said he would take out the most dreaded task first thing when he got to the office.

      Brian Tracy called these tasks the frogs you need to eat. That will remove the nagging dread, which mounts pressure on you when you postpone necessary tasks[4]. This is where the Prioritization Matrix can help; eat the “Do” frogs immediately.

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      If you need help overcoming procrastination, check out this article.

      4. Know What’s Important to You

      As long as you are in this cosmos, you will always encounter different choices that may be contradictory to your goals. For instance, a fantastic promotion that requires excessive travel will isolate you from important relationships. If you are not priority-conscious, you may accept it, even though your family is your priority.

      Therefore, it makes sense to identify what is important to you and to prepare yourself not to compromise those important things for immediate pleasure or gain.

      Yogi Berra captioned it this way:

      “If you do not know your destination, you might end up somewhere else.”

      5. Establish Regular “No Work” Time

      YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki established a rule not to check her emails between 6 pm and 9 pm. According to a CNN Business report, she was the first woman to request maternity leave when Google just got started. She prioritizes dinner time with her family despite being the CEO of YouTube[5].

      Is it possible to cut out time for our relationships and interests outside of work?

      Of course, and that’s why you need to set out your “no work” time. This approach will enable you to renew your energy levels for the next task. Also, you will be in the best position to introspect as you are not in your usual work zone.

      6. Know When to Stop

      You can achieve everything on your list sometimes. After you have prioritized your workload and assessed your estimates, remove the remaining tasks from your priority list and focus on your most urgent and important tasks.

      Conclusion

      It’s not enough to be successful at work. Ensure you make out time for your family and an important relationship in your life.

      Getting started and finding time may be tricky, but with some practice using the Prioritization Matrix, you’ll find that you are more productive and better able to divide your time between the things that are important to you.

      More Tips on Prioritizing

      Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

      Reference

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