Your New Year's Resolution: Focus

Happy new year, everyone.  I hope you were able to ring in 2019 with family and loved ones, and that you’re looking forward to a great — or in some cases, simply better — new year.  

For many of us, 2018 was an interesting year.  I’m an optimist at heart, so let’s look ahead with rose-colored glasses and a positive outlook.  To that end, I want to share a single resolution with you that might be one for you to adopt.  This year let’s all resolve to be more focused.

For me, focus means less multitasking and more being present with what I am doing right now.  

That being said, focus has to be flexible.  In today’s world it’s virtually impossible to avoid multitasking.  In my case, focus means I want to reduce the volume of things I have going at any given time.  

I am an executive and a father and a husband.  On any day, my brain has multiple paths of thought running in unison.  My to-do list is long and cluttered, and I never can devote 100% of my attention to any one single thing.  



At best, I can focus on no more than two things at any given time — but acknowledging that is itself a step in the right direction.  

In 2019 we all should find ways to compartmentalize a little and keep track of what we have to get done while prioritizing one or two things at any given moment.  

We live in a world dominated by technology and that technology seems to distract you at all hours of the day, taking your attention away from where you are and pushing it towards other things.  2019 feels like a great year to turn it around and put technology back to work for you instead of having it drive your day.  To that end, here are a couple of tricks I recommend.

Shut down notifications. I highly recommend you evaluate the notifications on your phone and turn off the ones that don’t align with your real priorities.  Notifications from family are great, or friends, or whomever you consider to be important.  Notifications from social media are not that important.

Block parts of your calendar. For me, calendar management is a full-time job.  I miss the days of having an assistant to help, but in lieu of that, I recommend you simply block portions of your day for work and thought and be fastidious about not scheduling over them.  
It’s easy to block this time, but it’s a test to maintain it. Anyone you engage with should be aware that certain times are simply off-limits.  It’s not a condemnation of them, it’s a prioritization of your own value to the organization.  

Being distracted and not paying attention injures your ability to be effective.  It actually makes you dumber, and nobody wants to work with you when you can’t add value.  They certainly don’t want to work with the dumb version of you.

Keep a parking lot. I recently got into working with Trello because I love the way it allows me to keep a running list of things that need to be done and include notes and links that are relevant.  

I use this “parking lot” methodology to make me confident I am not missing anything.  It’s about being sure nothing falls through the cracks rather than convincing myself I have to answer all questions immediately.  This is the core of prioritization and with that, comes focus.

What are some of the tools and tricks you use to maintain focus and be more attentive to the moment?  I think the readers of this column would all love to know!

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