How to Get Your Focus Back and Get More Done

Written by Christine Kane

How to Get Your Focus Back and Get More Done by Christine KaneHave you ever been at home all day when nothing’s in the fridge?

You open the door. You poke your head in. You hum a little tune and look around. You sigh. You grab a handful of pine nuts. You go back to your desk.

About an hour later, you’re hungry.

So you go back to the fridge and look again. Nothing new has appeared. You pull out some black olives, put them on a saucer, and go back to your desk.

You think, “I should go out and get something to eat.” But you don’t. A part of you is convinced that a solution will appear. Maybe Paula Deen will arrive at your door with a plate of chicken and mashed potatoes.

Amazingly, this doesn’t happen.

Eventually you’re back at the fridge. You look in. Then, you close the door. You reach into the cabinet and grab some raisins…

What happens in this scenario is that you eat all day, but you never feel satisfied. By 5pm, you’re strung out, unfulfilled, and you wonder why.

Here’s why:

You ate. But you never actually fed yourself.

We do this exact same thing with our FOCUS. We dabble in random things. But we never really commit to anything.

I call it Attention Splatter.  It’s when you mindlessly and half-heartedly splatter your attention and focus on non-activities. But you never fully engage.

Remember this: Your attention ultimately feeds you. It feeds your heart and your mind. This is why it’s so important to notice what you give your attention to. This is also why splattered attention leaves you unfulfilled. You never actually feed yourself.

The most common Attention Splatter culprits are:

- Email

- Cell phones

- Clutter

- Facebook

- Television

- Endless Google searches

If you are prone to Attention Splatter, here are seven ways to reclaim your focus and get more done.

1 – Have no more than three priorities for the day.

There’s only so many things you can get done in a day and still enjoy the day. Get into the habit of spending five minutes each night deciding what one thing you want to get done the next day. Ask yourself, “If I only accomplish one thing tomorrow, which one thing would make me most happy?”

2 – Know the task before you sit down at the computer.

This is a must.  When you don’t do this, you can get lost in the millions of non-items that any computer has to offer.

Assign tasks. (i.e. “Clean out email folders”) Assign times. (”From 1pm to 2pm”) Stop as soon as the end time arrives.

3 – Stop the leaky activities.

Make a list of “leaky” activities, and stop the leak by scheduling these activities. (As opposed to letting them take over your day.)

For instance, instead of letting email leak all over your day – all day every day – schedule email as an activity at a certain time each day. Every activity should have a home – a space for its completion. Otherwise, you set yourself up for a full day of splatter.

4 – Leverage your small slices of time.

It’s easy to look up at the clock and see that you have, say, 45 minutes before an appointment and think, “Well, I don’t have time to do anything substantial. So, I guess I’ll just go on line.”

Turn your thinking around! Learn to fit constructive things in to small slices of time. It’s amazing what you can complete in a short focused slice of time!

5 – Use your intention.

Before you begin any activity, set an intention for that activity. Intend your desired outcome and how you want to feel during the activity.  This is the ultimate act of creativity.

6 – Get rid of anything that doesn’t feed you.

Incoming emails, group emails, magazine subscriptions, news aggregate feeds, TiVo, memberships, unread books…

The list of incoming stuff goes on and on.

Get your life in order. Get rid of anything that doesn’t feed you. If you subscribe to it, ask yourself why. Start letting go of stuff. Doing this one thing has helped me create a home and office environment that is healthy and sacred. Be ruthless about keeping the incoming stuff to a minimum.

7 – Don’t half-ass your down-time.

When you take a nap, take a nap. When you take a Saturday off, really take it off.  Don’t spend the day obsessing about the things you should be doing. Turn off the computer. Get out of your office. Go away.

Fully disengaging from your work so you can have fun is imperative. Plus, this will allow you to return with renewed energy and attention!

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Here’s what I’m curious about:

Which one of these seven speaks to you the most?  How can you begin applying it TODAY?

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{26 comments ... read them below or add one}

Focusing on the Flames
January 17, 2013 at 4:46 pm

{26 comments ... read them below or add one}

Erica Holthausen January 16, 2013 at 9:56 am

Oh, this is such a great reminder! I’ve used a 3 x 5 card to write down my three priorities for the day for several months and it really does help to keep focus and get things done. It also helps to eliminate the anxiety that comes from looking at my big-huge-way-too-much master to do list. That little card used to be enough to keep me focused, but I’ve gotten used to it, so I don’t always pay attention. Getting intentional has helped me reinvigorate my focus practice. I make time for online activities and no longer keep Facebook, Twitter and Email running in the background. I also instituted my own S.O.S. this year: Switch Off Sunday. My computer is turned off Saturday night and doesn’t come back on until Monday morning. It was incredibly hard at first, but now I’ve come to enjoy my tech-free Sundays!

[Reply]

Christine Kane Reply:

Very cool stuff Erica! (I use index cards as a focus tool – but I use them to jot down ideas as they pop into my head and try to distract me from the focus task at hand!)

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Kim January 16, 2013 at 10:06 am

This post couldn’t have dropped in my twitter on a better day! I’m real good at having 10 things to finish for a given day, and sometimes never fully accomplish any of them. Then I wonder what happened all day! Definitely going to work on carving out the most important & dedicate time & work on focus! Now if only my toddler would get on board LOL
thanks for sharing!!
-Kim @ Two Ten

[Reply]

Christine Kane Reply:

Kim – Toddlers can be great teachers of focus! (Some lessons come in paradox, dontchya know!)

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Devon Clement January 16, 2013 at 10:12 am

So true!! I suffer from this BAD!

My problem comes when I don’t really know HOW to do something, or it’s “too hard”… I lose myself in email and Facebook to avoid it. Any suggestions for this??

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Christine Kane Reply:

Devon – - You and every other entrepreneur in the world! :) As for your question: It’s really about going back to the lessons in Uplevel Your Productivity. Set a timer for 55 minutes and focus on the activity you don’t know how to do. A time goal is better than a “get it done” goal when something is an unknown. Make sense?

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Alexandre L'Eveille January 16, 2013 at 10:42 am

I like #5. I’m pretty good at put up a list of things to do. But setting the intension who keep me on track. I’m good at having a goal to focus on. I work pretty much like my dogs–I’ll do whatever it takes to get the treat, er, goal.

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Christine Kane Reply:

Alexandre — Dogs are our best coaches! :)

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Dana D'Orsi January 16, 2013 at 10:52 am

My word for the year is “focus” so this article was extremely timely for me! I’m also a part of your UYL program and loving it!!!! I’ve been finding that it makes such a difference when I approach my activities with intention — so #5 really speaks to me.

[Reply]

Christine Kane Reply:

Dana – So happy to read this! (My word is focus too. As your business grows, the number of things that can distract you is endless!)

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Maria January 16, 2013 at 11:49 am

Thanks for the reminders, Christine!

Second time in a short while I hear about the 3 priorities (only!!), hm…

What about client appointments, do they count as priorities? I mean, of course they’re a priority, but should they be one of the 3 for the day?

Love & light from France

: ) Maria

[Reply]

Christine Kane Reply:

Maria – I use priorities as a way to get the “important but not urgent” stuff done. If my day is filled with client calls, then yes, that becomes a priority. But if I know I want to write 60 minutes on my book, then that has to be a priority too. Otherwise, I’ll let myself just get distracted by Pinterest or Facebook! Make sense?

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Carol January 16, 2013 at 1:08 pm

“Don’t half-ass your downtime.” Speaks hugely to me right now. Letting down alllllllllll the way. All the way.

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PL Miller January 16, 2013 at 1:20 pm

These are all really helpful. Since I’m doing the UYL program right now, I’m really starting to focus on #5 and set intentions before starting the projects I do. It’s great to have a better sense of control over how my work is going rather than just starting in and “seeing how things go”!

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Dori Staehle January 16, 2013 at 1:35 pm

“Attention Splatter”! Lol! Love it! Yep, #3 “leaky activities” has been my downfall. I mute my phone but…it still buzzes when I get Facebook, email updates, and text messages. I obviously need to disable the updates option….or just hide my phone for awhile. ;)

So, I’m learning to ignore my phone and I block off time to do certain things. I’m also a big fan of writing down 3 things to do each day. Knocked all 3 off this morning in no time. Now, I can switch gears for my appointments.

Thanks again, Christine! You rock!!

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Kimberly Sherry January 16, 2013 at 2:02 pm

An ongoing process of re-focusing, re-committing, and re-aligning. Alignment is my word for the year. All great points but #2, #3, and #6 resonate the most. To add to number 2 is one of your great tips I didn’t see you mention. But when we sit down with intention we should use a timer. I have doe this a few times in the past but am intending to use more consistently. It’s so easy to do with an iPhone…no excuse. It’s just a bad habit not to. Thanks for all your great wisdom!!

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Angee January 16, 2013 at 2:46 pm

Christine, this article was right on! I laughed out loud at #4 because I do that all the time and then find myself on Facebook and the next thing I know that time passes so quickly and I didn’t accomplish anything. I also love #7 because I obsess constantly at what I should be doing and I never really get to enjoy my downtime. Thanks for the great article.

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Julia January 17, 2013 at 2:38 am

Wow! My word for the year is FOCUS, so this really spoke to me. Its also great for me to see that I have already done one major step on your list and unsubscribed from everything that clogs my email and my thoughts and wastes my time. Kept yours of course and one for Spiritual Emotional Motivation, but the rest GONE!
Thanks for constantly reminding me of whats important and giving me practical ways to get my focus back.

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Kitty January 17, 2013 at 5:10 pm

I definitely need to get rid of some things that don’t feed me. Including some relationships. Ouch! That one is the hardest.

Thanks for your timely insights Christine!

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Jeanne B January 17, 2013 at 6:40 pm

#5, set an intention for the task. THAT speaks to me. I suspect that I have a far better chance of actually DOING the task (as opposed to looking at the dirty tub every time I’m in the bathroom and thinking “I should clean that, but OMG, ick…”) if I set an intention and focus on that long, luxurious bubble bath I’ll be soaking in later that night once the tub-cleaning task is finished, and how soothing and relaxing it feels (and smells).

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Shari Larkin January 20, 2013 at 1:44 pm

What a great article. I must say I am guilty of more than one of these time suckers and am grateful for the tips to make that change. My word is action this year and I can’t think of a better way to start. Thank you Christine

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Carolyn January 26, 2013 at 5:39 am

So … All of them ! Most pressing for me is taking
Time Off!! My lil guy is 3 1/2 and my last full day away from work was
His 2nd birthday – we threw a BBQ for 50+

I’m know I’d be more organized and productive !
Gotta say no sometimes -even to $$
;)

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Jaina March 1, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Very interesting and inspiring article! I think, I will print out your “seven ways to reclaim your focus” and pin them at the wall in front of my desk – these are such great tips!

Speaking of me, the biggest problem is that I never know what to do (work) when I am siting down at my computer. That way I am wasting hours by looking and surfing around – that makes me sad! My goal for the next weeks is to make a accurate schedule when I am going to complete each task.

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anne March 7, 2013 at 6:58 pm

clutter, is my biggestproblem. I walk through my studio and I see all these bitsxof fabric, zippers, ribbon…. and it so hard to stay FOCUSED and to say to myself: ok, I’m going to spend 30 minutes clearing up so I have an empty workspace and then I am going to make a bag,
What helps me greatly is my kitchen timer, I carry it in my apron pocket (i make aprons, so I wear them as well :-) ) I agree with what you say about being able to do a lot in a little bit of time, I make it a race against the timer to see how much laundry I can fold in just 5 minutes, or if I cantidy up the whole kitchen in just 15 minutes.
thank youcfor your blog, it helps me!

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Shawnee Kilgore March 27, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Uggggggg, KNOWING WHAT MY TASK IS WHEN I SIT DOWN AT THE COMPUTER! It’s absolutely amazing to me how quickly I forget why I’m there. All it takes is that one little distraction and the next thing I know I’ve wasted half an hour and I leave the computer without ever doing the thing I sat down to do. I’ve started making myself go straight to the task at hand before checking ANYTHING ELSE so that I know it’s done!

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