As I try to write this post I am actually feeling very distracted; which is ironic, but true. I've been up for hours, and though I've had an hour of meditation, and learning, I have been having trouble just getting started on my TOP 3 most important tasks of the day. I think this is because what I had planned to do today was rescheduled due to sick kids, it is raining heavily, it's Monday, and, honestly, I wasn't really prepared mentally to write. Basically, I keep finding myself getting caught up with distractions like a little laundry here, a few things to pick up there, and I am obsessed with checking social media since I uploaded some pictures from our weekend. Yes, I had re-evaluated my TOP 3 list, and, yes, I had a new plan for the day, but I was still avoiding it. Sound familiar? What do you do if you still feel like you are spinning around in circles? The culprit is usually distraction; the kryptonite of finding focus. Some distractions are unavoidable like a family member who is unexpectedly ill, or the need to sleep, or eat. Tasks DO pile up and responsibilities do not just go away. Other distractions are totally avoidable like social media, certain phone calls, TV, or someone wanting your attention, rather than needing it. So, what do we do when we have unavoidable distractions come into our lives like a kid home sick? What do we do when we have even more avoidable distractions that keep popping into the forefront of our brains?
How To Find Focus With Unavoidable Distraction
First, pause and re-evaluate what ultimately matters most at that moment, and second, re-prioritize your TOP 3 based on that awareness. Often this is a temporary shift in goals, but things happen; and so we adjust.
In February of 2015, one of my sons became very ill. Day after day, week after week, he got worse, and worse until, by April, he had lost a lot of weight, and strength, and even color. He was diagnosed with Crohns Disease and, thankfully, after diagnosis, was quickly in remission, and on his way back to health. I was 6 months into the start up of my business, and I was seeing success with it's growth. However, when my son got sick, and needed help, it changed my motivations, and ultimately, my personal goals for myself and, our family. Since it made clear sense for my husband to keep working I needed to take care of my son. Working with clients was put on hold. I had to cancel with our babysitters, and instead do everything I could do to get him well. At the time I didn't know if, or when, I would be back to work, or if I would loose momentum, and clients in the process. However, it was unavoidable, and it was my top priority.
Maybe you don't have anything tragic happening in your life that is unavoidable. Maybe you have an inbox sitting on your desk, or in your email that is nagging at you to procrastinate when what is most important is preparing for an upcoming meeting. Maybe there are toys scattered all over your family room, and company coming that night, but there is only a half an hour before naps, and its a beautiful day to go out and play. Stuff adds up and things happen, but sometimes we need to go back and re-evaluate what ultimately matters most in light of new circumstances. Then we can re-prioritize our TOP 3 based on that awareness.
More often than we like, we have our game plan, but notice ourselves procrastinating in unhealthy ways. If you catch yourself doing this then, you need to practice single tasking. Choose your first activity, and do only that one thing without distraction. Start with 5-15 minutes a day. Silence your phone, shut social media windows, close your office door, whatever you find you need to do. I deleted all the widgets on my phone for a month once just to make it harder for me to check social media mindlessly throughout my day. Even if you remove physical distractions your mind may try and sabotage your focus by wandering off. Notice each time it happens and be patient with yourself. Practice letting go of your thoughts whether they be worries, ambitions or stress and focus on what you are doing in that very moment. If necessary write them down as they come to mind if that helps to let them go. Instead of avoiding what you already know and have decided to be most important in that moment, avoid your distractions, and focus on the one thing that is in front of you till completion. Practice healthy procrastination and remember to put your time and effort into the 20% that yields the 80% not the other way around. In doing this, you will relieve stress and find that you are able to tackle the 80% that isn't as important, delegate it to someone else, or even let it go.
In this information age a lot of our distraction comes from social media. That's why I decided to devote an entire part of the "Finding Focus" series to that particular issue. Until then, practice single tasking for 5-15 minutes a day on the 20% that yields the 80% most value in your life, and the lives of those around you. Balancing simplicity in your life is about finding focus and that isn't always as easy as it seems. However, just as it is with anything we practice, 5-15 minutes a day of single tasking will increase both your focus and lower your stress level. I found that I felt like I got more accomplished by focusing on less. Awareness, Prioritize, Avoid Distraction...you are well on your way.