Fifteen phone messages need to be returned, 55 emails need to answered, the laser printer needs ink, a proposal needs to be written for a sales pitch, an annual report needs to be delivered in a half hour, your son called and forgot his baseball uniform, six employee evaluations sit on your desk - due yesterday, you have to reschedule a lunch meeting for twenty, oh and Hugh Jackman is on the Today Show...and it's only 9:15 a.m.
What do you do first? Does your list of tasks, obligations and deadlines leave you sitting paralyzed at your desk?
I recently re-read two books which continually have a profound impact on my life and career. It's hard to fathom that "Think & Grow Rich", by Napoleon Hill, was first written in 1937 because the principles still hold so true today. In fact, if you ask many of the top leaders currently, they'll tell you they built their formulas for success based on Napoleon Hill's brilliant insights and foresight. His book has become the Kleenex, if you will, or the generic brand, of platforms that teach us to focus on what we truly want in life as well as a clear blueprint to turn big thoughts into big reality.
The second book is "The Power of Focus", by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Les Hewitt, in which they layout a guideline for attaining clear focus on goals and creating new habits that lead to success. They say, "success isn't magic or hocus-pocus, it's simply learning how to focus."
A key attribute for being a strong Leader is to be a Multi-Tasker. An effective multi-tasker can have several projects going on at once, but to be truly effective, one must use what I call "Focal Point Clarity," which means peeling back the clutter around the current task so that it becomes your singular focus of the moment.
A great illustration of Focal Point Clarity was in the film, THE LEGEND OF BAGGER VANCE. Matt Damon played a golfer who had the ability to focus so clearly on the ball going into the cup that literally everything disappeared from his mind's eye except the ball, his club, the flag and the hole. There were no trees, no screaming crowd, no judge and jury, no wind, no mind clutter. Just his focal point - putting the ball in the cup. It's worth watching the YouTube clip if you can find 6 minutes.
Napoleon Hill said, "Hold a picture of yourself long and steadily enough in your mind's eye, and you will be drawn toward it." The same principle can be used for a task on your growing list of to-do's. Here are some tips to help you focus and get to Focal Point Clarity.
- Stop to prioritize - list by due date and how long you think it will take to finish. You may have to do this 2-3 times a day.
- Schedule the time by project into your Outlook or calendar program.
- Clear everything else off your desk except for your task at hand - this is immensely helpful for peeling back the clutter, allowing your Focal Point Clarity to take shape.
- Focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses - when you peel back the layers of the job in front of you, zero in on what makes you brilliant at doing what you do. Let that lead you. It brings some joy into the moment and before you know it, it's complete.
- Keep a running list - when something pops into your head put it on a pop-up list; to be prioritized later.
- Handle email/mail only once - shuffling it around makes your lose your focus. Add it to your calendar if you need to and let people know you'll be responding to email twice a day. That will help you stick to the schedule without being concerned about "ignoring" someone's email.
- Set boundaries - set your own rules for interruption - hold your calls for a time, close your door, let people know when you're available.
- Walk away - what does this have to do with focus? Taking a break allows your conscious mind to breathe while your subconscious mind continues to work. As Napoleon Hill said, "The subconscious mind works day and night."
And, some other good tips to help you focus in general:
- 3 squares & 8 hours - get a good 7-8 hours of sleep followed by 3 meals filled with healthy brain food - proteins, anti-oxidants, grains, vegetables - during the day, particularly breakfast which revs your focus engine.
- Exercise - a steady flow of oxygen in the brain helps us focus, so get moving on a regular basis.
- Take vitamins - B Complex, A, C and E vitamins help keep the brain sharp.
The reason I picked up my well-worn copies of these books is because I can sometimes fall victim to the fast moving train of ideas, obligations and deadlines that flow by all day long! In fact, I like the train analogy because it describes how my brain starts my day.
I'm standing on the train platform, sipping my first cup of java, gazing at the myriad of trains leaving the station for that day, with my mind's voice yelling out the various ports of call, "All aboard! Platform 1 leaving for Writer's Paradise; platform 2 leaving for Client Project Cove; platform 3 leaving for Fabulous Brand New Idea Island; platform 4 leaving for Hugh Ja... you get the idea.
Then, I look down at the note next to my computer which says FOCAL POINT CLARITY, and I look at my PRIORITIZED to-do list that I made before I left work the night before. I board the selected train and begin my day's journey.
As a primarily right-brainer, I've learned that I must put Focus on the top on my daily to-do list, every day, day after day. After day.
If you enjoyed this Thought Changer, please forward or click the SM icons or little green ShareThis button below this post and thank you for sharing!
And, please visit us on our Facebook Page: Facebook.com/ThoughtChanger
Cindy Yantis is the Thought Changer Blog creator & curator. She is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. For more info: CindyYantis.com