Before the pandemic I used to spend a great deal of time travelling around the country by car or train. When I travel to London, I book a first-class seat to make sure I have the peace I need to work effectively for those couple of hours I have.
It may seem a bit extravagant to travel first class, but it is most certainly worth the extra cost as the amount of great work I achieve is amazing. If you book your train during off peak hours the price of a first-class ticket is amazingly inexpensive.
Instead of seeing the journey as something I have to suffer, I really look forward to the journey where I have time and space to focus on things that are important. I find that I am very creative during this journey, so I often leave some of the most strategic planning for this time.
On the journey back I start by reading a newspaper for about 15 minutes then I pull out my laptop out and start work again. As the tea and snacks are brought to me I am engrossed in a few e-mails or other productive work until I arrive back in Nottingham.
The difference with this focused attitude is not only that I complete a lot of great work, but the time flies by and I’m at my destination before I know it.
“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four-hour days.” Zig Ziglar
It can be hard to focus and concentrate, but it is a skill that can be learned. There are strategies that can help to build the motivation and persistence you need to achieve your long-term objectives
Identify Specific Long-Term Goals
Get an absolutely clear vision of what you want – what excites you? What draws you? Find your passion in life and align your long-term goals with this. If you are following your dreams, it will be much easier to devote all your energies towards achieving your goals; you will naturally be drawn towards focusing on them.
Set specific long-term goals for the important areas of your life, such as career, finances, family and education.
Create a Plan of Action
Once you have identified your goals, write them down as a physical commitment to yourself. Depending on their complexity you may need to do some research to identify the required steps to achieve these goals. The first plan may not be perfect, but it will be good enough to get started and you can adapt it as you go along. The stronger your focus grows, the more strategies, action steps and ideas will flow into your mind.
Word your goals in a way that communicates why they are important to you and put them in a place where you will see them regularly. Write them on index cards that you can keep in a wallet or purse, or print them on a sheet of paper and stick it on a wall where you will see it frequently. Set a reminder to spend a few minutes looking at your goals every day to maintain your focus.
Identify Your Most Important Tasks
Focus on the most important habits, thought patterns and action steps that provide the quickest way to your goal. To do this, you need to identify the most important steps and tasks to focus on and ruthlessly ignore anything that is not aligned with your goal.
This is known as ‘The Eisenhower Principle’, as the U.S. President was said to live his life by it. Using a tool such as the Urgent / Important Matrix, we can determine which tasks we need to do and which can be delegated or scrapped. This frees up our time to focus on activities that contribute to our long-term goals.
“What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D Eisenhower
Eisenhower recognised that great time management means being effective as well as efficient. In other words, we must spend our time on things that are important and not just the ones that are urgent. To do this and to reduce the stress of having too many tight deadlines, we need to understand this distinction:
Important activities have an outcome that leads to us achieving our goals, either professional or personal.
Urgent activities demand immediate attention and are usually associated with achieving other people’s goals. They demand our attention and are often the ones we concentrate on because the consequences of not dealing with them are immediate.
It is vital that we know which activities are important and which are urgent, so that we can overcome the natural tendency to focus on unimportant urgent activities. This can clear enough time to do what is essential for our success. This is the way to move from ‘firefighting’ into a position where we can grow our businesses and our careers.
This is the ability to control our emotions and impulses and is said to be a very important factor in achieving our long-term goals. To develop it we need to work on our self-discipline, which will keep us working hard towards our goals even when not ‘in the mood’ to do it.
Another important factor in self-regulation is self-efficacy, which is the belief in your ability to reach your goals and involves working on your self-confidence.
Your long-term goals might not be achieved for years or even decades, so it is important to recognise and celebrate the small steps along the way. Each day, take a few minutes to look at your progress towards your goal and congratulate yourself for what you have achieved, even if there are no hugely meaningful results. It is helpful to think about what you have learned, rather than about what you have achieved, when reviewing your progress.
For bigger milestones, make a point of rewarding yourself with something significant, such as a meal with your partner or a day out. Recognising your achievements will make it easier to maintain your long-term focus.
We are all different and what is a distraction to one person may be natural for another. For example, reading with a TV on in the background. It is important to identify your own triggers of distraction and eliminate them in order to help you focus when you need to.
Laser-like focus takes practice and the more you do it, the stronger it will become.
Thoughts for the week
- Laser like focus helps you achieve far more in each hour.
- As you achieve more your energy and positivity rise.
- This week think about your goals and dreams.
- Can you use the advice in this blog to help you achieve these?
Well, that’s it for this week have a wonderful weekend and stay focused.