We all hope to start the new year by improving ourselves – eating right, staying healthy, being more productive. But before any of these resolutions can become reality, we need to regain focus in our daily lives, both at home and most especially in the workplace. Without focus, achieving any goal seems virtually impossible and mounting frustrations eventually make those goals seem permanently out of reach.
It’s not necessarily our fault that we all feel driven to distractions sometimes. Constant interruptions from customers and employees are a fact of life for entrepreneurs and small business owners, not to mention an unceasing flurry of phone calls and email messages. Life is filled with distractions; the question is, how can you surmount this challenge and stay focused on what’s truly important?
Here are tips for regaining focus in 2014:
Wean yourself off multitasking. Be honest—just how effective are you when you try to do two, three, even four things at once? According to David Rock, co-founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute, multitasking lessens focus and stifles productivity.
“It reduces our intelligence, literally dropping our IQ,” Rock says. “We make mistakes, miss subtle cues, fly off the handle when we shouldn’t, or spell things wrong.” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that too much of this unproductive behavior can result in actual costs in personal performance, poor decision-making and missing out on opportunities for growth.
Begin to regain focus by concentrating on one task – and one task only – at a time.
Set specific goals. The bigger the goal, the more difficult it is to attain. Setting specific goals enables you to focus on one thing at a time. It’s also easier to set reasonable benchmarks towards achieving that goal, which helps build momentum and boosts confidence that in fact, the specific goal is within your reach. During whatever lull the holidays offer, take some time to conduct a personal evaluation and see what types of goals you can set to get the ball rolling.
Strive to become a morning person. Some entrepreneurs come by this trait naturally; they’re up and moving even before dawn. Others find their most creative moments come in the late-night hours. But studies increasingly show that “morning people” are more productive and better problem-solvers than their night-owl counterparts.
Try a reverse approach. It’s commonly believed that you should start on humdrum tasks and work your way up to the most challenging objective of the day. David Rock contends this approach decreases the ability to focus. “An hour into doing your work, you’ve got a lot less capacity (than at the beginning),” he says. “Every decision we make tires the brain.”
Go after those tasks that demand focus and creativity first (either in your home office or before others arrive in the workplace), moving from there to more mundane work like checking emails and attending meetings.
Take better care of yourself. Everyone knows it’s true, but as the new year approaches, it’s worth a reminder. Eating foods high in antioxidants (like tomatoes, blueberries, broccoli, spinach and cabbage) sharpens brain power. Getting enough sleep and incorporating exercise into your daily life are also important rituals to follow. Our minds don’t work independently of our bodies, however much we wish they did.
Don’t expect to attain laser-beam focus right away. Try taking little steps every day—unplug from email and social media for ten minutes in the morning and concentrate on completing one task, then slowly add larger chunks of distraction-free time and become more attuned to personal focus and productivity. Give it a try, starting on January 1, 2014.
We invite you to start the new year by joining other entrepreneurs, CEOs, and senior-level executives in a confidential group setting where you’ll be challenged and rewarded like never before in your professional life. Learn more about becoming a Catapult Group member today.