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Set Aside Time to Focus

January 22, 2010
by Scott Levitt ·  

Scott’s Thoughts: Dial Down Distractions
Schedule time for absolute focus…
“Be master of mind rather than mastered by mind.” –Zen saying, unknown source

Which day of the week do you have time set aside for absolute, uninterrupted focus?

I’m talking about time where you turn off the phone, close your door, shut down your email, and take time to devote your full attention to one demanding task or question.

You say you don’t?

You’re not alone. But you may be missing out on a number of breakthrough opportunities by neglecting to set aside time to tackle difficult problems and thinking clearly about reaching your goals.

Modern research has called into doubt the very concept of “multitasking.” (Listen to this revealing article on NPR, “Think You’re Multitasking? Think Again.” ).

Divided attention produces mixed results. While you may feel like you’re productive by being open to the instantaneous demands of phone, email, and coworkers, the odds are you’re just shorting the task you’re trying to complete.

Setting aside dedicated time to focus is about more than reducing ineffective multitasking time. It allows you to engage your brain at a higher level, to rise above the daily firefighting that obscures good, clear brainstorming, analysis, and planning.

Learn to pay yourself first and create a “no distraction zone” each week. Here’s how to make it work:

1. Block off time on your calendar every week. Ideally, you should be able to pick 2 – 3 continuous hours. If you can’t get that much, start with one good hour (and not your lunch hour!).

2. Make it known you’re not available. If required, notify coworkers, clients, and friends in advance that you’ll be off the grid.

3. Treat the time like an absolutely non-negotiable meeting. Don’t sell yourself short by letting obligations creep in. Remind yourself that this isn’t “free time,” it’s time that will yield progress in working towards your goals.

4. Plan in advance how you’re going to spend the time. By assigning a specific task, you’ll accomplish two things: First, you won’t find yourself frittering away the time when it comes. Second, your brain will gradually begin preparing for this uninterrupted time– those moments daydreaming in the car may actually be spent mentally preparing for your zero-distraction zone.

5. Determine what you want to have happen by the end of your focused time. A new marketing plan? A strategy for client relationship building? It’s best if the session produces a tangible result, such as a document, diagram, or action plan.

Odds are, you’ll begin to really look forward to this time, and the amount you’ll be able to accomplish will surprise you.

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