I may have mentioned (once or twice ?) that I have a brand photo shoot coming up – great location, fabulous women to model, awesome photographer and new stock… well, the new stock is ‘in progress’!!!! So, it’s head down making, stitching and styling props for me this week!
But, I didn’t want to let you lovely people go a whole two weeks without a blog, so I called on the brilliant Michelle Reeves to help me out of my content black hole. As always, she was super supportive and sent me some tips on how to focus on the task at hand and deal with distracting time sucks – oh the irony!!!!
If anyone out there is also struggling to meet a deadline (real or imagined) or struggling with ‘shiny object syndrome’… grab a cuppa and settle down for a great and productive read ?
I don’t know about you, but I find it’s increasingly more difficult to focus. The average human has an eight-second attention span. Less than that of a goldfish, according to a 2015 study from Microsoft. There are so many distractions available! From social media to people popping in to say ‘hi’, phone calls, emails and home, family and business all competing for our attention – it makes me wonder how any of us concentrate at all!
So, can we ditch distraction and power up our focus muscles? Of course we can! Here are my top five tips:
We’re often so used to distractions, we don’t even notice them anymore. Your smartphone is distracting you with alerts several dozen times a day and that might not seem like too much of a problem but it takes an average of about 25 minutes (23 minutes and 15 seconds, to be exact) to return to your original task after an interruption, according to Gloria Mark, who studies digital distraction at the University of California, Irvine. That’s a lot of wasted productivity! So the first step to taking control of distractions is becoming aware of them. Start paying attention and create a running list of things that distract and disrupt your day.
For every distraction, you’re paying a price. Usually, that price is paid in time and it may be more time than you think it takes. Once you are aware of a distraction, you have to make a decision. Is it worth keeping or not? Having your email program open at all times means you get distracted every time the “new mail” alert pops up. Is it worth the distraction, or can you live with only checking your emails twice a day? Go through your list of distractions and decide if it’s something you have to have, or if you can eliminate the distraction and live without it. You may be able to live with checking email only twice a day, but decide to keep text message alerts on because it’s important your partner or your child’s school can reach you in a case of an emergency.
For me, that means using the OneTab app (https://www.one-tab.com/) to remove all the tabs except the one I’m working on and an app on my phone called Quality Time (http://www.qualitytimeapp.com/) which only lets me use certain apps for a set period of time. If all else fails I turn my phone off (or if I get really desperate leave it in another room). You could also enlist the help of an accountability buddy – let them know you’re starting work on something and can they check in with you in say 60 minutes to make sure you got it done. (Here’s my tips for choosing a good accountability buddy. https://michellereevescoaching.com/accountability-partner-strengths/ )
Most of us will tend to work better and be more focused if we do it in spurts or sprints rather than trying to work at the same level all day. We can use that to figure out the optimal times for us. Some people can work for a full hour while others will do better with 15-minute intervals.
Try setting yourself a timer for a few different times to figure out the best time limit for you and then make that your sprint time. Then set a timer again for that amount of time and get to work on a task. When the timer goes off stop and get a cuppa or stretch your legs before you settle back down for another sprint.
Third, try some music. Too much background noise can be distracting, but some studies show that having music playing helps you focus on your own thoughts – just make sure you like the tunes.
I know meditation isn’t for everyone but research shows it’s a great way to build our focus muscles. And you don’t have to do it for hours – 10 mins a day is enough to prime your attention. My fave meditation app is Headspace but I’ve heard great things about Calm too.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed it’s even harder to focus! Join Michelle’s 5-day mini-course to learn the secrets of overcoming overwhelm and get back on top fast.
Find out more and sign up at www.michellereevescoaching.com/overwhelm
Michelle Reeves (michellereevescoaching.com) is a certified life and mindset coach, author and speaker. She adores helping women in business to overcome self-doubt and overwhelm, rediscover their purpose and passion so that they can play bigger in their lives and businesses and fast track their ideal life. Michelle also runs the free Facebook community The Ideal Life Club (michellereevescoaching.com/ideallifeclub) for women who want to grow themselves AND their businesses.