Taking Back Control Over Your Day: 7 Steps to Laser-like Focus

Where are we going wrong?

At the end of day do you sometimes realize it’s 5 o’clock (or 6 or 7?) and you ask yourself, “What happened”?

You’ve been busy all day long doing exactly what needed to be done…answering emails, returning phone calls, going to meetings, reading, writing…yet the you never completed any of the items on your “To-Do” list. Your desk just got messier and the list just got longer.

No matter how hard you work, it seems there is really no end in sight. So how do you take back control of your day?

For me, personally, I try to do too much. I always over estimate how much I can do and how long it will take. My plan is to “knock out this task real quick” and then get back to my daily plan. NEVER HAPPENS. I don’t take my own advice about clearing the workspace, brain dump and time blocking. It’s makes the difference between being busy and being productive.

Dealing with daily chaos is normal.  We all have five or six issues that pop up and we get caught up dealing with them. This could be our own doing or forced upon us by others. In the David Allen – GTD lingo, it means fighting off the URGENT to get to the IMPORTANT.

If you feel overwhelmed or the wheels come off during the day, it’s time to STOP and make a plan. Follow the steps below to take back control and get that laser-focus you need:

1) Brain dump:  Start with a list of everything you want to get done. Get it all out there – start with big ones, then all the small ones. Make a list of your priorities that keep getting pushed back. By taking the time to brain dump, you will find your stress level decrease. Even when the list is overwhelming, you can get a sense of peace once it is written out.

2) Prioritize quickly: You should clearly see some priorities in your list. Focus on the IMPORTANT, not the URGENT. Use the Pareto Principle or the 80/20 Rule. Find the clients, items, projects which deliver the most impact. Devote 80% of your time to these areas.

3) Break it down:  If an item on your list looks more like a project, you should break it down into tasks or activities you need to do. Sometimes, we don’t know where to start, so we don’t do anything. As you get the mini-tasks completed, you will start to feel energized!

4) Pick 3: Your list might be pretty long at this point. That’s OK. Keep it simple. Just pick the three items that you would LOVE to get done. Imagine it was 5 o’clock and you didn’t get anything done today BUT those three tasks. Not a bad days work right? 

5) Set a timer: Now attack one of the three priority items. Use principles of time blocking and Pomodoro. Literally block off chunks of time to devote to the task. The hope is that this will be uninterrupted time. With Pomodoro you work in increments of 25 minutes of laser-like focus and then take a five-minute break. It takes discipline but don’t make excuses. Make it happen.

6) Be anti-social: Let others know you will be unavailable. And unless the building is burning down, you are not to be interrupted for the next 30 minutes, hour, etc. Now the hard part: avoid checking email, answering the phone or texting. No social media, internet browsing or TV. Close your browser if possible, shut off email notifications, silence your phone.

7) Schedule email time: If you’ve never done this, it sounds crazy. But this can make a huge difference in your daily outcomes. When do you normally check email for the first time? If you are like most people, it’s one of the first things you do each day. I promise you that if you will delay checking until 10 o’clock it will change your life. Ultimately, the goal would be to check email only 2-3 times per day with the first being 10 o’clock in the morning and then again late in the afternoon. Try it for one week and you’ll be amazed.

The rest is up to you.

We all have a zillion things we could be doing. And many things we should be doing. But forget about the things you COULD do and pick the items that will have the greatest impact. The rest of it can wait. If you do this on a daily basis, it will absolutely transform you results and mindset.

David Moore is the owner of APG:Legal, a division of Advantage Print Group, a full-service print and marketing services provider to solo, small and mid-sized legal firms. To learn more about David, visit: http://www.apglegalprint.com/