Shiny objects OR The main thing!

Towards the end of each year I begin to consider what I mastered during that year. We now only have a few weeks left of 2017 and so I am taking stock of my key lessons. What did I master? What did I learn? Did I have fun?

I have always been an ideas person. Lots of great ideas. I am often able to transform those into a reality and other times, not. 😊

Sometimes I have suffered from ‘shiny object’ syndrome. This ability to become distracted by the next new shiny toy, idea or project can have a huge impact on one’s productivity and I know that, in the past, it has slowed my ability to bring projects to market.

This year in particular, I had a number of projects which I wanted to complete.  I knew that I had to master this skill of focus more than ever before.  I do consider it a skill and not an attribute or characteristic. Skills require practice, application and perseverance. So I share here some of the steps that I have taken along the way in order to master this skill.

Learning to say NO

  • Often we sacrifice our own desires to support others. This means that our timeframes and desires are impacted. There is a reason that in an aeroplane we are told to put our own oxygen mask on first and then to help others.  We can be of much greater value to others and to the world if our own needs are met first. This may go against the grain of what many of us have been taught; we may have been taught that this was selfish. Learning to say NO is the first step in reclaiming time and energy to complete your own projects. I am not saying that we do not help others, more that we must get better at the impromptu or unplanned urgent demands that others try to place on us.

Setting goals that really matter

  • You many have heard the phrase that ‘it is easier to say NO when there is a bigger YES inside of you’. It is really important to have a direction and focus. Setting goals that matter to you is helpful in staying focussed. When you have a goal in mind that you care about, it becomes so much easier to cut out other distractions.

To do lists

  • I have always been a great list maker. I think it is really important to keep lists of things. This helps remove some of the pressure placed on the brain to constantly remember things. If the list is created in relation to the goals you have made it makes it easier to stay on track.

Daily plan

  • A specific type of list that I found useful was where each morning I would prepare myself for the day by taking an A4 sheet of paper and drawing a line down the centre of it. On the left I would write a list of the things that I plan to do that day which would propel me towards my goal. On the right, I would add items and tasks that arose during the day which needed to be done but were not part of my goal.  I would only action those on the right (unless critical) after I had completed the items on left. This one was a real game changer for me.

Reminders to focus

  • If, after doing all of the above, you still find yourself being distracted you could put a reminder on your phone. It could pop up as an alarm twice a day to remind you to ‘focus’.  When the alarm goes off, you want to be reminded to get back to your main project if you are moving off track.

Keeping the main thing, the main thing

  • I did all those things and I became more focussed. Things began to happen. However another absolute game changer for me was the put a little post it note onto the left hand side of my computer saying “Keep the main thing, the main thing”.  I see it every time I touch the keyboard.  I don’t think in itself it was that pivotal but after all the effort and perseverance at the other items on this list it was the icing on the cake.  I see it many times throughout the day and I am staying on task. In relation to completing projects I achieved more in 6 weeks than I did in the previous 6 months.

I hope that this has given you some food for thought.  Our days are filled with ‘shiny objects’ and we must learn to focus and stay focussed if we are to make our way confidently through the daily noise.

Next year I have some great projects up my sleeve and I know that with my newly developed skill of focus I will deliver these and possibly more, on time.