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Checklist for Focus & Avoiding Distractions

I attended a really good event recently where a couple of speakers were talking about time management and distractions and how to focus on the important tasks.

There was a lot of statistics and data on how much time we waste in our lives that got me to thinking about how I manage my focus and energy.

So here goes with my checklist for focusing effort and using time wisely…

Scheduling Your Time

  1. Plan what you want to get done in any period of time (day, week month) and schedule it in your diary and stick to that. Prioritise the important and urgent and get it done. (You can use many systems to help you do this and http://www.eisenhower.me/ is just one example or you can learn to do it yourself. In any case prioritise and stick to the schedule.

“What Gets Scheduled Gets Done”

Be Mindful

  1. Susan Grandfield of SG Development Solutions, presenting at the event I attended, is a huge proponent of mindful practice and urges us to be mindful enough to stop ourselves occasionally to ask what am I doing and why? Two of the most important questions to ensure that you are doing meaningful tasks and not slipping in to distraction and ineffective activities.

Email Management

  1. Turn off all email notifications Turn off all of those perky email bings, beeeps and bloops that would otherwise constantly distract you during the day.


  1. Schedule time to look at email: Schedule perhaps 2 x 20 minute slots in your day at the beginning and near the end of your day to see what is really worth responding reading or responding to.


  1. Use a separate email address for registrations for downloads. This stops you getting all the promotional email and sales emails into your primary inbox.


  1. Get an email filter system. I use a system called SaneBox that strips out newsletters etc to a separate folder and leaves only he email addressed solely to me or that I allow in to my inbox. I also use me to do a similar job in my Gmail account and manage subscriptions to bundle newsletters and updates into one digest email and helps me to manage my subscriptions easily.

Social Media

  1. Again turn off all of those annoying notifications. We’ve become like Pavlov’s dogs responding to the beeps and buzzes of the latest cute kitten pics posted. Ok some of it is useful and the light hearted stuff lightens the day but we can take control.


  1. Schedule time to look at Social Media. If like me you use social media in your business then it is important to make time to look at the feeds but again take control on when you are going to do it. People who are really focused can do this in about two, twenty minute sessions a day. I must admit to allowing myself that plus a bit of playtime at lunchtime.

People Distractions

  1. Urgent Requests for Information or your time: Brendon Burchard has a great way of responding to urgent requests with a template email that basically says too late buddy. If you are asking him to do something right now then that would affect things he has planned for some time and he simply cannot do it. Now, some of us might not feel empowered enough to do that but you may be able to reply stating your current priorities and asking (often it’s your boss right) what he/she would like you to drop.


  1. Open Door Policy; do your staff really need access to you like this? Do you really need to be able to pop in and ask for permission for every little task change or procedure?


  1. Meetings: Do you really need to be there? Is your input valuable/required or even relevant?


  1. Gossip and chat; Watercooler or coffee machine chat is actually a great way to find out information on the informal “grapevine” in work but often its mindless chatter on who was best in the Voice. Is this really a good use of your time? (oh and side note – avoid pity parties at these)


  1. Schedule down time; Down time is really important to allow your brain and mind a rest. I block out time to play with my kids and have family time very day. You cannot book an appointment on my client scheduling time between 5pm and 8pm (when my kids go to bed) with me. That time is sacred.


  1. Make time for fun; Ensure you get out to events and get-togethers with your loved ones and friends to stimulate and recover your energy. Stephen Covey in his book the 7 habits of Highly effective people relates how his father was never in of an evening as he was always out among people doing something. Now, if you’re an introvert or ambivert like me you might want to switch that up a little with solo time to read somewhere quiet or just simple meditate.

Bonus Tip – Using Dead Time

  1. Commuting time; Read or listen to podcasts. Anything that will stimulate your brain and mind to help you in your life. Or the odd trashy novel if you really need the break but either way use the time. You can even meditate standing up on the tube in London at rush hour; I’ve done it.

I’m sure you have other ways of focusing and  avoiding distractions and I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.

à bientôt




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