Finding focus in a busy day is harder than ever these days. Distraction and interruptions are expected, and mostly accepted, for work-from-home professionals these days. I can’t count the number of young ones, pets, and delivery men who have made their way into my workday over the past year. None of these things were part of a daily routine pre-COVID, but as we’ve transitioned into a work-from-home society, especially for sales people, a lot of these distractions are likely here to stay.
Even just the amount of time we spend at our desks these days is different. A lot of us used to travel a lot more than we do these days. And even though traveling can make us busy, there was downtime on a plane or at night in a hotel room where we were alone and able to focus on tasks without any distractions. That 100% pure undistracted alone time is hard to come by these days.
The Time to Find Focus is Now
So what do we do? A lot of the time, we put it off. It’s easy to say, I’ll get more done tomorrow, but especially right now, it’s hard to know if tomorrow will be even better. One of the important things I’ve learned in my career is to live in the moment. Never anticipate what is coming tomorrow, or missed opportunities from yesterday. It’s important in order to be successful to seize the day. Get it done today. Don’t let important tasks hang over your head. The time to focus and get it done is now, whether you are having trouble finding focus or not.
Here are 5 tips that help me find focus for my work and priorities amidst the noise in a busy day:
- Rise Early. I like to get up at 4:00 am, do a quick workout to bring up my serotonin levels, eat, take a shower and prepare for the day. This gives me a chance to check in on the markets, do my reading for the day, spend some time meditating, walking or getting my head right for the day. It gives me time to really plan for the day, and decide what I am excited about today and this week. It really helps to center myself in this way and set a positive attitude before diving into the workday.
- Declutter. Each week, I need to declutter my surroundings. Everything has a place. For instance, in the midst of tax season, all of the tax mail goes into a particular file. I typically stand over the trash with the mail and throw anything I will not act on. I also make sure I have a clean trash can every day and a clean work desk. If I do not clean it, then a pile will start to grow, leading to clutter – both mentally and physically.
- Create a Playlist. Music can help you maintain focus or inspire you. Make sure you select songs designed to complement the task you are working on and not distract you. I use music to help me focus unobtrusively and to optimize my thinking. I also build in 15 minutes between meetings at a minimum to help me prepare my mind for each one. I keep a speaker in my office so I can set the right mindset with a motivational playlist. In advance of important meetings, I will even turn up the music to bring my energy up, get my blood pumping, and start thinking optimistically.
- Evaluate Your Priorities. It’s easy to get down on yourself and feel that you are having trouble finding focus to get through a long list of tasks, but maybe you are concentrating on busy work that isn’t actually making you more productive. Instead of making a to-do list, consider deciding what your priorities are. For instance, what goals do you have for work, family, friends, recreation, health, and other priorities?
Early in my career, I was given a goal of 120 dials a day. I was only making 40 calls a day. So that’s a problem right? Except I was spending more time connecting with customers and having more success than my peers. My goal was to get to know my customers, not just touch-and-go. Sometimes how you prioritize your most important goals is the problem with getting work done and being successful. Try to “time box” all that matters on your calendar, making an appointment for the things that matter.
- Reflect on Your Day Through Journaling. Taking a pen to paper provides room to look back and review the day and plan for the following day. I set aside time about an hour before bedtime to think about the day’s wins or reflect on something I learned. This helps to clear my mind, ensure a good night’s sleep, and prepare me for tomorrow. Then, when I’m up early the next morning, I can identify the top three things I am excited about doing that day. Journaling these ideas helps bring focus to the bookends of the day.
It will take a bit of planning to incorporate these tips, but taking the time to be mindful and setting a plan for your day and week, will be invaluable when it comes to finding focus, feeling productive, and finding satisfaction in a job well done. So the next time the dog barks, the doorbell rings, or one of your housemates ends up taking center stage in your video meeting, take a deep breath and know you now have a plan to carry you through the distractions.