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4 January 2012

Declutter and Find Focus for a Productive New Year

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Focus is a difficult animal to wrestle and especially hard to find when entering a New Year.  While a New Year provides hope and encouragement, it can also bring a need to set expectations that tend to overwhelm even the Type A personality.

Focus, as defined by Webster is “a state of maximum distinctness or clarity.”  It’s the optical lens in which we view our top priorities and through which we set our sights upon goals that will define our 2012.  Focus is a must, but capturing it can be elusive.

We evolve in a business that tugs and pulls at us from every direction. Whether it’s a phone call from a prospective buyer, a listing that needs updated photos, the brunch we forgot to put on our calendar or the 5 unanswered voice mails; it’s apparent that finding focus is something we earn over time and certainly don’t stumble upon without a concerted effort.

Declutter and Find Your Focus

1.  Don’t Stray

Any thought that runs through your head will automatically create a physical reaction.  You will immediately feel the need to grab the phone, shoot out an email or run to your assistant’s office for a “quick” debrief.  Whatever that thought might be, it will inevitably stray you from your focus and purpose. When you feel the need to stray from your current to-do or project, fight the urge and just STAY PUT.

  2.  Track Your Activities

Track your daily activities and determine whether your day is sucking you into non-productive tasks or if you are controlling your day through planning and implementation.  The simplest way to do this is using a tried and true method: a plain old yellow legal pad.  Start at the beginning of your day and write down each action, task, email, phone call and interruption that takes place. Then rinse and repeat for the next three days.  It is a guaranteed EYE opening moment for you and your business.

  3.  Manage Social Media & Your Time Online

You roll into the office, hop online, read a few blogs, comment on Facebook posts, retweet your favorite tweeps when you look up at the clock to find an hour has passed.  If this sounds familiar, you are not alone.  We can all find ourselves sucked into the big black hole known as the World Wide Web.  As you calendar out your day, give yourself a couple of time-outs where you can “play” on the web for 10 minutes.  If you don’t trust yourself to stick with a set time, use a system like RescueTime to monitor and analyze your time spent online.

  4.  Create Daily To-Do Lists

Does your to-do list full of yellow sticky notes, loose pieces of paper and torn napkins take up a significant amount of space on your desk?  If so, you need a to-do list intervention!  A manageable to-do list is key to maintaining focus and productivity. There are multiple solutions to creating and maintaining an on-going and up to date to-do list.  If you are a techie and appreciate all of the bells and whistles found on your mobile phone, tablet and laptop then TaDa List or Remember the Milk might be your solution.  Both of these applications are simple to-do lists that sync seamlessly between all of your devices.

Need something basic?  Take that yellow legal pad back out and start listing all of your to-do’s in the order of importance.  The goal is to dump everything out of your head and onto the paper.  This means you may end up with 50 tasks.  Not to worry…you are going to start at #1 and work your way down as far as you can.  Once your day is up, flip the page and transfer the remaining tasks to the next page.  Doing this at the end of each day allows you to walk into the office with a road map rather than reacting to the “noise” swirling around you.

How do you maintain focus throughout your day?  Is it a system you have created and implemented over the years or your diligence to sticking with the basics?  We’d love to hear from you!

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