Focussing On What Matters

There is this strange phenomenon that I’ve started noticing with my own daily activities and in watching how other people work.  The busier I sometimes get, the more time I waste on stuff that doesn’t seem to matter.

It’s kind of like this strange paradox.

You’d think because you’re busy that you’d be hyper-focused on getting the important stuff done, but surprisingly, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Let’s take last Saturday.  I had pretty much the entire afternoon to work on the business and get a few lingering things done.  Instead, I took the day off, lounged around and watched a fair amount of TV.,  In fact, I wrote a whole email about taking the day off.

I’m super busy at the moment.  I’m travelling for work two days a week, I have a bunch of significant projects running for my job and I am working on Casual Marketer as much as I can.  I got tired just thinking about it and last weekend, the fatigue caught up with me and I just needed to take a “me” day.

That’s all well and good and as I wrote, I’m quite supportive of people taking those days off to rest and recharge.

But that’s not what we’re talking about here.

I’m thinking about the times where I sit down to do some work on Casual Marketer and instead find myself reading about some hockey trade or about the latest coup in some random country.  Those are the times where I realise I’ve lost an hour and get pretty frustrated with myself.

I know I’m not alone.  I was talking to someone this week who was obviously even worse at this than I am.  This guy to me that he sat down to work on a sales page for a new product offering and ended up designing a new logo for his website… He’s not a designer and by his own admission, the logo was rubbish.

No new sales page but he did have an unusable crappy logo.

That’s the kind of thing I’m talking about.  You’re busy, you sit at your desk to do something productive and you allow yourself to get sidetracked with unimportant things.

I’m going to be totally honest, I don’t really have the answers to this problem, but I can share with your what I’m doing to at least try and combat it.

The first thing I did was a couple months ago when I started these daily emails.  I created the rule that I had to write my email before I went to bed at night.  I’m approaching six months and I haven’t missed a day yet.  I decided that sending that email was important, so I put some hard and fast rules with myself in place to make sure it got done.

The other thing I’m starting to do now that has shown better results is chunking my work into bite-sized pieces.  This is nothing new, but it is a new way of working for me.  Rather than sitting down for a six-hour stretch on a Saturday, I break my tasks down into a series of half an hour to hour-long segments with a discernible outcome.  Then I sit down and do that one thing – my goal is to just get that thing done in one sitting.

Once I complete the task, I get up, walk around or do something else for a bit then sit back down and do the next task.

This has been working really well for me in non-writing type things.  I doubt this is any surprise to those of you who are efficient with your time, but for me, it’s kind of a big change in thinking.  Historically my attention span has always been spectacular.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been able to sit down for long stretches of uninterrupted time and work on an individual task with a singular focus.  As I’ve gotten older and spending more time working on my online businesses, that seems to be more difficult for me.

For writing tasks, I’m still able to get in the zone, start writing and smash out the work – doesn’t matter if it’s one hour or four hours straight, if I’m on a roll it just flows.  I think I’m pretty fortunate in that regard because a large part of what I do now is writing and that somewhat comes naturally to me.

Overall though, focusing on getting the stuff that matters done is going to be something that I’m going to work on over the next couple months.  You only really notice how distracted you can get when you’re super busy and my thoughts are that if I can fix it now while I am that busy when I do have a bit more free time available then I should be able to get even more done.

Well, that’s the theory anyway, we’ll see how I go.

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