As an SME owner, you are no doubt familiar with spending entire workdays jumping from one task to the next. To help you cope, try these seven ways to regain your focus in as little as 60 seconds.
1. Refresh your business goals
You may lose focus if you fixate on negative thoughts about your work – email is overwhelming; there’s not enough time; no end is in sight. If you’re unfocused because of such distracting feelings, take a minute to redirect your mind by reminding yourself what made you get into business in the first place.
You might think of three work-related things you’re grateful for or read a client testimonial to motivate you.
2. List your top priorities
Sometimes, you may have trouble focusing because it’s hard to decide what you ought to do first. In such instances, take a minute to write down your top priorities or tasks for the day. You can always look at that to-do list, and it will get you back on track. It shows you concretely what you need to do.
3. Synchronise breath and body
When you close your eyes for a minute and concentrate on the sound and feeling of your breath, you re-energise the body with oxygen. Take a minute to coordinate your breath with a word or movement. For example, you can mentally say the word ‘here’ with each inhale and ‘now’ with each exhale.
You can also lift your arms overhead with each inhale and lower them with each exhale. When you match your breath with a word or movement, you are synchronising the frontal lobes of the brain that help you focus, the motor cortex that controls movement, and the speech centres of the brain.
4. Drink a glass of water
It may sound simple, but if you’re having difficulty staying on task, pause and drink a glass of water. While your impulse might be to grab a cup of coffee, too much caffeine can leave you frazzled. Try water instead. Not only will getting up to pour yourself a glass force you to change your thought process, it also will keep you hydrated, which makes you more alert.
5. Download an awareness chime
Some smartphone apps can help you refocus by sounding an awareness chime at random times throughout the day. Some examples include Insight Timer for $2 and ZenChimes, which is free. As an alternative, try snapping your fingers as a mental trigger. Just to have those little auditory pings throughout the day will remind you to get into focus.
6. Clear your desk – and mind
When your desk is cluttered, your mind can be cluttered, too. If you’re feeling unfocused, take a look around your workspace to see if papers are piled up everywhere. If so, place everything on your desk in a box and put it out of sight.
When we see a pile of papers and other things, we immediately go into anxiety. If it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind. At the end of the day, spend half an hour organising what’s in your box so you know what your next priority will be.
7. Use distinctive objects
While it’s important to keep your workspace free of distracting clutter, it can be useful to place an object on your desk that triggers you to refocus. It could be something as simple as a flower, a candle or even a can of beans. By associating the object with the need to stay on task, you will be reminded to get back to work each time you look at it.
Improve your time management
Don’t be stuck doing what you’ve always done. You know there are better solutions than those you have already implemented for getting things done better, faster and smarter, but you’re just not finding the time, or the inclination, to make a change.
Organisational guru and GetOrganised founder, Tracey Foulkes offers these five simple tips you can start on today.
- Wake up earlier. Instead of rolling over and hitting ‘snooze’ use this ‘quiet’ time to take care of a critical high value task, reading in your area of expertise, doing something towards reaching your goals and/or exercising.
- Do the most important things first. Critical and high focus tasks are often left for later in the day when you are tired and less productive. To enhance team productivity, get your group on board to tackle the most important, highest value task on their list first thing in the day before diving into email or attending meetings.
- Don’t check email first thing in the morning. Email has that uncanny ability to suck you in and chew you up for the day. Schedule three or four half-hour pockets of time throughout your day to read, respond, schedule, file or delete your mail.
- Say “No” more often. Easier for some than others but saying yes when you should say no really saps time and energy.
- Spend the last five minutes of your work day prioritising. Choosing today what needs to be done tomorrow takes away the guesswork and lets you dive in to productivity from the get go.