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3 habits that will improve your focus

Last week, in New Zealand, Monday was  a public holiday.

There’s always a sense of excitement before a 3-day weekend as we anticipate a sleep in, a lazy brunch or time spent in the garden/playing sport/relaxing with family. Then we return to work and frantically try to cram 5 days of work into a 4- day week. That’s when we hear colleagues fretting about not having enough time.

The truth is : time is never the issue. It’s how we choose to use our time that is the issue. Our choices are based on what we think is important, what we value and how we see ourselves.

Have you noticed that prior to a holiday you gain extra focus and energy, you use your time efficiently and you just get things done? It’s perhaps a way of feeling that you are able to leave work  with a sense of satisfaction and clarity. And have you wondered why you don’t have the same level of focus, energy and efficiency when you are not staring down the barrel of a holiday or a day off?

Without the hard stop created by a holiday, it’s easy to get distracted by non-essentials. You work longer hours but you don’t use your time efficiently so you don’t achieve much. Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fit the time available for its completion. If there is no holiday to create a deadline,  there is infinite space for your work to expand into so that’s exactly what it does.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could find a way to ramp up our focus to pre-holiday levels without going on holiday? Our energy level swould increase; our sense of completion would improve; and that nagging doubt about something not being under control would disappear.

All it takes is some new habits.

1. Set up some ‘fake’ holidays.

Plan one day a week/fortnight/month to do something that you enjoy (e.g. playing golf/going to the beach/having a ‘pamper’ day) or use the time to catch up on all the things that don’t get done during a busy week and then prey on your mind (usually at 3 a.m.).

2. Be more disciplined in the way you read and respond to email.

We all know it’s much more efficient to set some time (say 15-30 mins max) at the start, middle and end of the day to deal with email.  When you’re at your most productive just before a holiday, emails are dealt with quickly and efficiently so they don’t distract from more important things.  Adopt a similar approach on a regular basis so that you control your email and it doesn’t control you.

3. Set yourself a timeframe to complete key pieces of work and stick to it.

When I have a deadline I can deliver what’s needed, to a good standard, on time.  When there is no deadline I inevitably take longer and spend too long tweaking things just because I have time to do so (Parkinson’s Law  again).  So if you don’t have a deadline, set one for yourself  and work to that. It might not result in perfect work, but as we know (and I tell my clients all the time), more often that not 80% is good enough.


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