We distract ourselves. Others interrupt us. Losing focus is a part of the daily business grind. But there are ways we can get back into the zone.
This past week I’ve been developing a business plan, conducting research and creating a brand identity for a retail gift store. The problem? I created this store out of thin air!
This is how I become sidetracked – I “google” something, get interested and suddenly I’m down a rabbit hole of brainstorming and idea generating.
I love the concept I created and it may very well come to fruition but the fact is I currently have a company I could be focusing on when existing client work is complete. That company is my own.
Does this happen to you? Do you find yourself suddenly obsessed with inventory counts when really you should be reviewing last month’s sales? Or worried about the cleanliness of baseboards when sales calls are begging to be made.
When we become sidetracked the only one we hurt, is, yep, that face in the mirror. So how do we avoid losing focus? Try one of these (hey, I AM blogging right now so they do work).
Give the interruption an appointment. It is okay to say “Thanks for your call/visit. I am not able speak with you right now but can we talk/meet at 3pm instead?” You just postponed a distraction.
Plan for distractions and interruptions. If you work in an interruption-rich culture or much of your actual job is putting out “fires”, avoiding interruptions will provide difficult. So plan them into your schedule by blocking time, usually in the morning or at shift changes for interruptions. During this time, float through the office or work on lighter tasks like checking emails, blogs, etc.
Conversely, create do-not-disturb, office hours. Get strict about your time and make it known to friends, family and work colleagues when you cannot be disturbed. Use an actual “do not disturb” sign on your door, physically close your door, hunch down, hide and get to work. Sometimes in the zany, often loud, ad agency, I escaped to another location when writing an important brief. Feel guilty? You can place a sign-up sheet for people that stop by and share when you’ll re-surface for air.
Have a post-it note brainstorm. When tasks seem huge or overly abundant, I take a blank wall, a pad of post-its and pen in hand. I start jotting down actions – one to every post-it. What will be the next action, and the next, and the next. Seeing it all before me keeps me focused. And when an action gets accomplished, that post-it gets pulled down. Making my progress tangible.