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Tips to Help Focus

- Focusing on Activities -

Focusing involves the ability to concentrate your undivided attention, your mental energy, on the achievement of your planned, and even your unplanned activities. This is accomplished by avoiding, or at least minimizning, distractions or interruptions except those that are truly urgent. Suggestions for focusing based on the experiences of workplace personnel fall into two categories: 1) Setting the Environment and , 2) Avoiding Distractions.

Setting The Environment

Turn off the telephone, radio or other distrubances, when focusing is required
Make sure you have all the tools you need before you start
Unclutter your desk or work space and remove unrealted items
Close your door or create a private place where appropriate or necessary

Avoiding Distractions
Where appropriate, be direct and clear that you do not want to be interrupted
Adopt an attitude of self-responsibility for getting things done
Use an electronic or paper management tool
When everyone is clear about your focusing time they will learn to adapt accordingly

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- Strengthen Your "No Muscle" -

The first person we need to get good at saying no to is ourselves. We are often our own worst enemy. We often break our focus on what are really time wasting activities.

If you'd like to strengthen your "no muscle", a starting point is to take a personal inventory of your self-imposed focus breaker habits. Are you interested? Scan the following list and put a check by the things that you do that break your ability to stay focused.

______ Insufficient planning ______ Your own errors
   
______ Failure to listen carefully ______ Your need to over-control
   
______ Unrealistic time estimates ______ Poorly defined goals
   
______ Misplacing or losing items ______ Failure to anticipate changes
   
______ Responding to trivia ______ Socializing
   
______ Surfing the net ______ Attempting to do too much
   
______ Getting lost in details ______ Preoccupation
   
______ Ineffective delegation ______ Unwillingness to say "no"
   
______ Arguing ______ Lack of self-discipline
   
______ Procrastination ______ Failure to prioritize

How did you do? Did you check a lot of focus breaker activities? If so, don't fret. We have good news for you. All self imposed focus breaker activities are one hundred percent controllable. But first you have to strengthen your "no muscle" to yourself. How? By daily practice.

Here's the process. Pick an item on the list that is troublesome, for example, "attempting too much." Attempting too much destroys our focus because we spread ourselves too thin and stress ourselves. Rewrite the negative habit as a positive habit. For example "I never attempt too much." Put it on your action list every day in your planner. Practice it every day for at least three weeks. Practice not attempting too much just as you would practice any skill you are trying to learn.

Once you've mastered one, pick another on the list and control that one. Don't try to control all of your focus breakers at once. Work on them throughout the year. Watch your productivity increase as your " no muscle" gets stronger and stronger. It's highly rewarding and not all that hard.

Which focus breaker will you start working on today?

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