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