I admit it. I was driving through a fast food restaurant for lunch the other day, not my proudest moment, but it provided some insight. As I was paying for my meal and receiving the paper bag filled with something to stave off my hunger, a moment of clarity came through that drive-thru window with the food. The employee's eyes met mine as he handed me my change and food, all the while taking other customers’ orders at the same time. I also found my attention divided as I was mainly focusing on the agenda of the day – the client experience.


At that moment, I recognized how we are all being driven to distraction.


Of course, this was no isolated incident. Back in the day, this would have been considered rude behavior. Now, it's how this fast-food-chain employee was trained to handle customers.

I like to be super productive; I enjoy filling my day with key tasks, "A" clients and important agendas. I want you to do so, as well. However, if we don't do it the right way, it can all come crashing down. For example, if you can't recall who said what when you make your client notes, or if you are struggling to get the right action items on the right plan agendas.


Why in the world do we keep accelerating ahead when we begin to see what is being left behind?

We fought for the attention of that top client, and now we are trying to answer someone who is whispering a question of little consequence to us while we are talking with that client we won on the phone about how we are doing with their life savings. Moreover, we spend years trying to woo a person into marrying us, but now find little time to spend with them. Truly, we are living in a state of distraction.

Here are 10 ways you can stop being driven to distraction and be truly productive by staying focused on what’s most important:


1. KNOW WHAT'S MOST IMPORTANT

Know what's most important – this seems insanely simple. Still, there are incredibly "successful" people who have difficulty recognizing what is MOST important to them. Sadly, some had lost that thing before they realized it. So, let's get some clarity around this as step one.


2. PUT TIME ON YOUR CALENDAR


Put time on your calendar for those important things. If you have a model week/ideal week/perfect week, don't fill it to the brim with menial tasks. Make sure it relates to activities that are indeed MOST important. Consider them Key Tasks. This is your plan to focus on getting to your desired outcomes.


3. DON'T GIVE IT A SECOND GLANCE

When distraction comes your way, as it inevitably will, recognize it for what it is and don't give it a second glance. Now that you have defined what's most important AND you have a calendar that is clear about what is critical and what is not, don't give unimportant things significant time and attention.


4. BE SELECTIVE AND THOUGHTFUL ABOUT YOUR "YES"

Then, let your yes be yes; don't be half-hearted. People will appreciate this about you.


5. TURN IT OFF

Turn it off and tune in to what needs your attention. Don't let texts, emails, and calls rule the day if they contain messages that are secondary to what you are currently trying to accomplish. If you are reading emails while you are taking an online class, your rate of retention is severely compromised. If your phone dings every time you get an email, text or Facebook post by a friend, turn it off. If you are waiting to hear about the birth of your first grandchild; well, that's another matter.


6. UNDERSTAND THAT THERE IS NO SUCH THINGS AS MULTI-TASKING

It is a neuroscientific fact that “multitasking” is just toggling between cognitive tasks (Think You're Multitasking? Think Again - npr.org). So maybe you are good at shifting your focus from one thing to another, but this sacrifices the power of being fully present.


7. FINISH

Finish one thing before moving on to the next. If you give yourself a few minutes between appointments to write your notes or complete the few tasks you just promised to do, you will probably save time in the end. If you wait an hour, a day or a week, you will have to spend time remembering.


8. ELIMINATE DISTRACTIONS

If you are continuously interrupted while you are working on a project, create a system to circumvent the distraction. Post a sign on your door. If you have no door, put a flag up on your desk. Remove things from the room that distract you.


9. TRAIN YOUR BRAIN

Focus is like a muscle. You can train yourself to focus for more extended periods of time. However, you don't go from concentrating for 10 minutes to 4 hours at a time. Take it in increments. Set yourself up to focus for a specific period, then give yourself a break. Do not allow yourself to go down any rabbit holes during that period.


9. GET ENOUGH PHYSICAL EXERCISE

Physical activity makes your brain work better. Aerobic exercise has a direct correlation to your ability to concentrate well because the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex works harder to resist distractors. A good workout before you hit the office is a great idea!



Hopefully, you made it through all ten of these ideas before you got distracted. If so, let me know. We want to help you achieve all you hope from your practice and your life. Jambalaya Group is focused on you!




Jambalaya Group © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. 

Driven to distraction

10 Ways to Stay Focused on What’s Most Important

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Bernie DeLaRosa, ​CFP®, ChFC® CRPC®, CLU®, APMA®, CASL®, BFA™
Managing Business Consultant


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