Learning how to focus better can bring astonishing benefits to life. To achieve goals, it’s imperative to gain control over your habits.
I’ve been on a serious Netflix binge lately and it’s really messing with my productivity. These Netflix television series are so darned addictive that I have a hard time turning them off. They make them addictive by writing these incredible characters and then sucking you into their fictitious lives one dramatic moment after another.
In moderation, watching television dramas can be helpful to my writer’s brain. I learn about what makes someone lovable or annoying and what keeps someone glued to the story line. But, watch too much, and all that knowledge goes to waste because I have no time left to apply it!
Either the writers of these television dramas need to take it down a notch or I need to practice more discipline and say no to that remote control more often. Such a dilemma. I’m sure nobody can relate (wink).
In all seriousness, all of this addictive spectator activity I’ve immersed myself in lately has taught me something. It’s opened up my mind to the important fact that I do have control over myself and if I don’t exercise that control, someone else will. I don’t know about you, but I’m not a huge fan of someone else taking over the steering wheel and driving me to a place far off from my intended destination.
Here’s the thing, if you, like me, want to get ahead and stay productive, you must determine which activities are holding you back and which are helping you move forward. Then, and only then will you be able to set yourself in motion and make some progress.
How I learned to focus better
Here’s what I did. I made a plan. I always make a plan when I’m feeling out of control. I sat down, reassessed my priorities, and analyzed what I needed to do to make them my primary focus.
Quickly, I calculated that I would need to step away from the television during the hours when I am at my creative best. But, being realistic and knowing the value of analyzing the works of others, I also set aside one hour a day to indulge in one show a night. That is my reward for sticking to my priorities.
So how do you figure out what your priorities are?
Decide three things are most important to you. That’s it. Keep the list short and sweet.
- Personal and professional development
From this list, decide what activities you must do to stay focused on them. These will become your High Value Activities (HVA).
- Walking with my family and eating dinner together
- Exercise, meditate, and prep nutritious meals
- Perform work duties at the office, learn as much as I can, and work on my book writing business (i.e. write, blog, podcast, promotions, etc).
Then, you must prioritize those activities and attend to them the most. This means, before I watch television, I need to have taken action on at least one thing from my HVA list. More is better, of course, but I measure my success in overcoming my television-binge-watching addiction by weighing in on if I accomplished at least one HVA for the day.
Let’s look at an example
You have to figure out what activities will move you closer and which ones suck the life out of your dreams.
So, say you’re a web designer with dreams to open your own design studio, then your highest value activities should remain focused around activities that bring you increase in your knowledge, client base, and bottom line. Those activities should get precedent over anything else on your daily list. You want to focus on improving your skills in this area, always searching for new opportunities as you prepare by doing the work that will generate the level of awareness you need to succeed.
Or say you want to write novels, then writing a novel should be on the top of your activities list. When I set out to write The Dance, I got so side-tracked with my to-do list that I left little time to get the story fleshed out. Thankfully, I smartened up and got cracking! Too often people avoid the very thing they should be doing by adding extraneous things onto their plate, like mindless activity, things that can delegated instead, or indulging in bad habits.
Highest Value Activities
If it helps, think of your activities as investment vehicles. The investment is your time, energy and attention. The yield is the outcome of this investment. Be sure you are spending your time wisely on those activities that will generate the tools, knowledge, and revenue you need to sustain and increase momentum towards your dream.
A Few Tips on How to Focus Better
Audit your to-do list
Scan your list and determine which activities are most important to your goals. Ask yourself, how will this help improve my success at achieving XYZ? Those answers should help you determine which gets moved to the top and to the bottom of your list.
Select one HVA
In your daily routine, you will have many items that aren’t HVAs, but are nonetheless important and necessary to get done. Things like cleaning the bathroom, sending your mom a quick email to let her know you love her, walking your dog, etc. Although these items aren’t adding revenue to your bottom line, they are still vital to your life. That being said, when analyzing your list for HVAs, select one that you will do for each day. Don’t go a day without doing at least one HVA. You may not get to all of them, but you can at least do one.
You may find that you are bogged down with tasks that have to be done, but don’t add any value to your ventures. Are there things you can delegate on your list to clear up space for your HVAs? When you clear your schedule, you open yourself up to clarity and the freedom to discover more value in your daily actions.