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4 Steps to Harnessing More Focus In Your Everyday Life

The discipline of focus is mission critical for a successful life. With it, you’ll stay on-course even when distractions come your way. Without it, you’ll slowly drift away from your greatest priority: living-out your life’s purpose.

Surveying the crowd, it appears as though the 1963 classic, It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year, should easily be re-written, “it’s the most chaotic time of the year.”

For one reason or another, the wheels seem to spin off of a lot of people’s lives in December. Call it circumstantial stress, call it over-commitment, or call it a simple case of the holiday season hustle and bustle, I’ve recently talked with people who are already running on fumes so-to-speak and are anxious to crash-land into January with puffy eyes and a laundry list of resolutions.

And I believe the root cause is a lack of focus.

It’s My Life…It’s Now or Never

After four straight weeks of a seemingly unrelenting schedule, I found myself completely drained and ready to wave the proverbial white flag…at least for a moment. The cocktail sitting on my table was a mix of over-commitment, underestimation of available time and energy, a lack of clarity, a lack of a written plan in which to execute my resources, and a casual attitude toward the need for rest. The result? I was a little reclusive, irritable, and completely exhausted.

And I only had myself to blame.

By nature, I’m not an impulsive person or even one who lacks daily discipline. But I knew I had started to drift.

It’s All a Wash

Then a fleeting moment of clarity came as I was doing laundry last Monday evening. And to my point, I believe that harnessing the discipline of focus in life is a lot like doing laundry. If you’re like me and need a reboot this season, take a page out of my own playbook. As a result of implementing the following strategy, I’ve regrouped and feel much more empowered for success.

  1. Collect Ideas, Tasks, and Projects in a “Bushel Basket.” Much like laundry where you collect worn clothing that need to be washed, create a rolling repository where all of your “to-do” lists can live. Evernote is my weapon of choice. Maybe for you, it’s an old-school planner. Whatever you use is fine. The point is that you need to create a central location where all of your impending projects and tasks can be corralled for prioritization and processing. In this step, you’re not “doing the wash;” you’re simply building a pile as needs arise.
  2. Take 30-45 minutes to Sort and Prioritize. Just like your laundry, every few days, you probably take time to sort the clothing into groups. The same tactic works for personal organization. Ask yourself, “Which items on my calendar can be lumped together? Which projects are of similar priority?” By sorting your calendar items, you’ll gain clarity upon the scope of your tasks and size-up the appropriate resources by which you’ll accomplish the tasks at-hand.
  3. Systematize the Wash. Two of the most important questions in this step are: what is most important right now? What can be delayed? Not everything can be accomplished immediately, yet there are obviously certain things that take precedence over others. By assessing the aggregate of your schedule, projects, and tasks, you’ll quickly learn which items can be delayed and which need to be expedited.
  4. Do the Wash. This may seem obvious, but a lot of people prepare, plan, and prepare some more without ever pulling the trigger or putting the foot to the pedal. As a result, they have a neatly organized life that lacks the execution necessary in order to see results.

Now…this may be the most important undercurrent of the entire process: don’t let the “wash” overflow. In practical terms, this relates directly to step four, which is centered on execution. The point is that this four-step process needs to become integral to your week; else, procrastination and haphazard decision-making will interplay and cause a major backup in your overall productivity.

Soul Check

Where did my recent feelings of chaos and a lack of focus originate? I can tell you honestly that I hadn’t taken time to audit my soul (my mind, will, and emotions). In a previous post, I wrote about my personal difficulty with the holiday season. Yet, what I didn’t do early on was take appropriate time to bolster the sore spot if you will. Instead, I blazed through the weeks and ended-up ignoring my own cues. And week after week, I was giving myself more credit than I deserved until finally, I crashed, exhausted enough to realize I needed to carve-out an entire half-day in which I could regain focus for the things (and people) that matter most in my life.

The discipline of focus is mission critical for a successful life. With it, you’ll stay on-course even when distractions come your way. Without it, you’ll slowly drift away from your greatest priority: living-out your life’s purpose.

Ready?