19 Tips to Bring Focus

Is it distracting out here or what?

Thank goodness the election’s over, right? Sheesh. But still, we’ve got the economy yet to hit bottom, banks still needing money (I guess to keep lobbying…), more banks needing money and now more countries needing money. Some of our mortgages are so under water they’re surfacing in China. And they’re sinking China judging by China’s own need for bailing out their economy.   We’ve got a couple of wars going on. And Christmas is coming around the corner, though I haven’t seen any ads yet. (That’s something to be thankful for as we approach Thanksgiving.)

And then there’s college football, pro football is interesting now. NBA just started and college basketball starts in a couple of weeks.

And I’ve lost track of Britney, Lindsay, Paris, those skinny twins…

And then there’s this social media thing with blogs, twitter, YouTube, Utterli, Blip.fm, microblogs, podcasts, tumblr, squidoo, online social communities. There’s ning and rss feeds and news alerts. There’s viddler, oovoo, hulo…something, there’s plurk and twhirl and friendfeed, facebook and myspace, emails…(And I’m too distracted to link to any of them. You’ll have to…google all of them. That’s more distraction for you. You’re welcome.)

Oh. And did you say you’re running a business with meetings and reports and challenges. Did we say challenges? What are you doing to keep your employees informed? Your customers informed? And how are you keeping cash-flows flowing…THAT way…and where’s the new product coming out. What’s happening with that employee? Did you miss that meeting? Of course you did, you’re reading this post. Innovation, anyone? No? Ok. Well, did you notice your marketing budget, plan, thingy isn’t working and your CMO keeps talking in vaguer and vaguer terms and he hasn’t kept a meeting with you, in the past 3 months, which coincidentally is a shorter period than the period of declining results from his marketing efforts.

No? You’re too distracted.

Now, that I’ve described in less than 500 words a day in your life and your life is similar to mine and millions of others….let me share some tips with you that I’ve found (if followed…) help me stay focused. Focus, please.

1. Plan Ahead – daily. I plan each day the night before. It’s a simple plan. 3-5 things I want to get done that next day. 1-2 lines each. I usually handwrite it in a notebook.

2. Plan Ahead – weekly. I plan each week, too. I update it every 3-4 days. I review the results each week to make sure nothing’s dropped and to plan for the next week.

3. Go to bed early. Seriously. It’s a marathon we’re running here, people. A rested mind and body are a clear and energetic and positive and consistent pair of tools to work with. All other tools effectiveness depends on these two working together. They work better, and better together, when rested.

4. Eat lunch. Seriously. It’s the peak period for digestive power. It settles the morning’s frenzy. You think calmer on a full belly. Patience is higher there, too. You also sleep better with a big lunch and a light dinner. See previous point.

5. Go home on time. Too many problems arise from a tired mind. Go home, kiss the spouse, play with the kids. Be happy. Relax. There’s when the solutions start popping up. Problems tend to vanish when they’re not fed with our attention. In their place, come solutions.

6. Exercise. For goodness sakes, exercise. A. Do it because it’s healthy. B. Do it because you want to see your kids grow up. C. Do it because the brain works better in coordination with the body and some adrenaline. I’m talking 30-45 minutes on a regular basis giving the effort you can. Some days I run hills. Other days, I walk those same hills. I call it a run either way. I take what the body gives.

6. Read email once a day. Do us all a favor. Stop encouraging us to send email. If it’s important, people call. Or they’ll IM you.

7. Don’t reply to emails immediately. Wait. Either you’ll sense it’s urgency or you won’t. If you do, then you’ve had time to prepare a more thoughtful response. If it’s not, you haven’t wasted time.

8. Put your phone on DND. Turn off your cellphone. Not all day, just for an hour or two.

9. Block your time. Work on a project for 30 minutes. Then move to the next project. A. it keeps your mind fresh. B. you’re making progress, albeit in baby steps, but still progress. C. you’re not creating imaginary obstacle in your head. D. instead you’re systemticall,y consistently, breaking down big projects into little 30-minute projects.

10. Take a break regularly. Breaks keep my mind fresh.

12. Treat Twitter the way you treat email. Hit it, then turn it off. Focus your tweets on adding value. (I’m still learning that one.)

13. Create DND periods for your self. Tell your staff/family not to disturb you for an hour. Interruptions are not innovations. And soon, you’ll find they’re more self-reliant and you’re more productive. That self-reliancy thing you’ll see develop makes them more valuable to you and to themselves.

14. Keep a routine. Whatever it is, keep it. It frees the mind to focus on more important things.

15. Seek help. Yes. That’s right. You need help, my friend. Join a peer advisory board. The best are the Tab Boards and Peersight Online.

16. Buy a faster computer. There are great deals out there, now. And faster computers gets more done, faster. That makes you happy. A happy you makes your family happy.

17. Take an offline weekend. Don’t read email, don’t read blogs, don’t answer your cellphone, don’t Skype or Twitter. Turn it off. I’m always surprised at the solutions and ideas that come at the end of one of these.

18. Tell your spouse you love them. There’s something about doing that that just makes me more focused. Maybe it’s the contentment of making her smile. I don’t know. Try it. Tell me I’m wrong. And tell your kids, too. Your pets, too, for that matter. ( Tell them you love them, not that I’m wrong.)

19.  Pick one or two of these. Try them for a week. See what happens. Adjust them to fit your needs.

Confession: Some of these I do very regularly, some pretty often. Some are on lists of others and after I read those others’ lists, I realized I was doing them, too. (Pretty cool.)  These aren’t exclusive to me. They’re just what I realized work for me, when I do them.

I blogged a list of Tips to Stay Focused in Tough Times. (Disclaimer: it’s a shameless self-promotion. But…I’m focused. )

Anyway. We’ve got to go. Too many things to do: meetings, reports, problems to solve,  twitters to tweet, utters to utterli, tumbles to tumblr, stumbles to stumbleupon, delicious, facebook, gmail, linkedIn, change my status or a tree will fall in the forest and no one will be there to witness it….

Oh wait. Now, we can focus. Ahhhh. Life is simpler, life is good.


Zane Safrit Zane Safrit's My passion is small business and the operations' excellence required to deliver a product that creates word-of-mouth, customer referrals and instills pride in those whose passion created it. Zane's blog is Zane Safrit.

16 Reactions
  1. Looks like someone lost focus and posted the introduciton twice. Or was that on purpose to test us? 😉

    Excellent article Zane! I like how you included some often overlooked aspects of personal life that directly effect focus at work, whether you realize it or not!

  2. Very funny. That happens to me all the time; I start thinking about something, get distracted and then start thinking from the beginning again. I’m with you, I like making lists each week of what I need to get accomplished. It helps me stay on track and it feels good to have everything crossed off at the end of the week. Lots of other great tips too.

  3. Thanks for the headsup! Too funny. “be careful of those who preach too loud”. The duplicate intro was edited. LOL.

  4. Great post. I printed it out and it’s now hanging on the bulletin board next to my desk!

  5. Good tips Zane and I can identify with block your time this week especially with one project.

  6. Great post, but I’d get fired if I checked email only once a day! 😀

    But then I work in web media.


  7. Excellent tips, Zane! But oh, I’m kinda hit to that checking emails. I checked my emails very often. Every an hour I think. My goodness, I don’t know if that tip will work for me however all others are excellent. Thanks!

  8. Zane Safrit: Are you practicing the Getting Things Done method?

  9. Martin, I’m not practicing GTD. Do you recommend it?

  10. Zane,

    Yes, I can recommend to test it. I am still struggling with the first stage of cleaning my desk! 😉 The big question is: What’s the next action? You could read about the topic in my post, Getting Things Done and To Do Lists. Click on “Martin Lindeskog” Says. I have added a GTD widget by Alltop on my blog.

  11. This is a very practical time management article. Is is possible to do all of these? I think that it would be a real challenge to try! The benefits in productivity will make it so worth it. Thanks for the post!

  12. I believe I should give this a try especially on this tip: 17. Take an offline weekend. Don’t read email, don’t read blogs, don’t answer your cellphone, don’t skype or twitter. Turn it off. I’m always surprised at the solutions and ideas that come at the end of one of these.

  13. great post!

    I agree with most of it, except:

    if you want to be productive, yes, turn off IM, twitter and cellphone.

    Thus, you should encourage people to email. Get a blackberry push mail, but only answer when you have time. IM, and phone calls are disruptive, while you can choose when you can answer your email.

  14. I gotta chime in. This is great, Zane, like everyone else has said! I used GTD for a while, but then simply shifted to doing a better job of filtering email via Google Gmail. Labels, filters, what have you. GTD has a lot of raving fans, so it works. I’m with Wilson on the email thing — turn off the distractions. For many of us here, we’re involved with online marketing or online media in some way that we want to stay tied to IM, Twitter, Skype, Cell (although i do turn mine off regularly). Just figured out how to text to twitter from my cell and that will make it more regular for me without the distraction of seeing everyone else’s cool tweets. The other thing i love about Gmail is the ability to add a filter on the fly, such as, “JohnSmith+GTD@gmail .com” and you now have a unique email and a built-in label you can search on. You create these emails on the fly with Gmail — just add the + and a term to your main email name and you have it.

  15. Hey Anita — can you disable that link i just posted above — the Gmail one? Don’t want the poor guy named JohnSmith to get a ton of emails…. Sorry about that.

  16. Zane, I really like this article. Sometimes it is hard to keep up with everything. Sometimes your business runs you not vice versa. The tips will definitely help with that.