There are many factors that lead to scattered thoughts, some internal and some external.
Some people possess wonderful talents that allow them to see and explore the potential in every thought, idea, and opinion in front of them. There are still others who simply get lost in the land of ideas.
And for small business owners it’s easy to lose focus within the various demands of running all aspects of your business. Often this reveals itself as multitasking.
Multitasking takes its toll on all of us, no matter how well we execute. It constantly shifts our thoughts between tasks. Worse, it often keeps us from contributing our best work.
If you’ve found your focus has suffered for any reason, the best thing you can do is use a planner! Physical or virtual, it doesn’t matter.
I know what you’re thinking, “That’s not how I do things!” I understand. I have a love/hate relationship with planners. I resent that I’m a bound by a schedule. But when I didn’t have a planner, I found that I often underutilized my time. I got sidetracked by calls and emails. But mostly I got caught up in the moment and didn’t write things down. I’ve had to admit lately that I’m more focused when I do write things down and cross them off.
Not using a planner properly is a habit. But it’s one you can break. Here are the three most important things you need to do to break the habit of planner non-use and enter into a more focused work day.
1. Every day, before you start working, look at your planner. And don’t just scan it and move along. Look at the day you’re in. Look at the last couple of days and make sure you got everything done. If you need to, schedule “Planner Time.”
If it helps you, use a physical planner and transcribe the information to a phone or web-based calendar system. Or vice-versa.
All of this will keep you aware of what needs to be done and when. And if you just force yourself to do it each morning, you’ll soon find a new habit has been formed.
2. The second thing to do is to actually schedule time to think. For at least one or two 15-minute sessions each week you should set aside time to study, read, or research whatever it is that distracts you from the tasks at hand. This planned time will help satisfy your natural curiosity, and keep you feeling informed.
For me, this works best as an evening or weekend activity. But some may enjoy it more as a transitional task from ending your work day to your personal time.
My personal suggestion on what to ponder for your first think session: evaluate how you spend your time on a daily basis.
3. Plan when you will make time to review your emails, your phone calls, and your meetings. You can even go so far as to (gasp) turn off your phone! When I am at my desk, I only use my phone as a phone.
Remember my suggested think session above? Review whether you constantly interrupt your tasks with checking your phone for texts or updates. If you field every notification that comes in, evaluate how often it is an immediate and essential task.
With all of that input, it’s no wonder you’re multitasking and putting out so many fires at once.
I don’t know if you can bottle focus, but planners can certainly help you retain it. They’re not full-proof. Planners are for planning, not doing. That’s still up to you.