One of the most important components of productivity is our ability to focus. The key to focus is being selective about what to focus on. The fewer things we can focus on, the more clearly we can see them and the better we will perform. However, we all have things in life that divert our attention in a multitude of different ways. Running a business, having a family, running a home, keeping up with friends and the general busyness of life all vie for our attention. So how do we cut through this and maintain our sanity whilst getting all the important things done?
How To Stay Calm And Focused When You Have A Million Things To Do.
1. Have a brain dump.
Have a brain dump. Sit down with a blank piece of paper and write down literally everything that’s on your mind. Literally everything that you need to do whether it be to do with work, home, family, friends or anything else. Absolutely everything that you can think about.
Don’t worry at this stage about organising it, just get it all down on paper and don’t stop until you’ve got it all out. The process of writing it down is cathartic in itself. When we try to remember things we store them in our brain so mentally we can’t let go, because subconsciously we always know we have to remember that thing. That’s why sometimes when we’re in bed at night trying to sleep to do lists come surfacing in our minds and when we’re tired and trying to sleep these things come spinning around in our heads.
Writing it all down means you are transferring these lists from one place (your mind) to another (the paper). Once it’s written down you can allow yourself to switch off from it because you no longer need to use up brain space holding on to these issues.
2. Write down everything else that is stressing you out.
Just when you think that you’ve already got a million things on your piece of paper already I’m actually going to suggest you write down even more. This piece of paper is for anything that’s not necessarily a task, but it’s something that’s worrying you. For example, you could be concerned about a health issue, a money problem, perhaps a colleague’s behaviour is troubling you. Anything else that’s on your mind, again write it down.
The reason I suggest writing these things down is that generally when we feel stressed about something it’s because we don’t feel in control of a situation, that we don’t know what the outcome will be. So after you’ve written down these things, for each of these troubles is think what your desired outcome is to the situation.
3. Write down THE thing that you really want to do.
Again this could be a personal goal or a business goal. It could be that you want to learn a new skill, write a book, start a blog. Whatever the thing is that’s your real passion and the thing that you feel will make a big difference to your life if you can achieve it. Be specific here, for example, don’t just say “I want to lose weight”, that’s not specific enough, losing one pound is losing weight but that’s probably not what you mean. Instead make your goal specific, for example, “I want to lose 2 stone” or “I want to start a blog about wine and get 1000 readers every month.”
After you’ve already thought that you have so many things to do, you may think that it sounds a bit self indulgent to look at doing something for yourself and even counter intuitive to add other things in. but the thing is your burgeoning to do list is EXACTLY why you should be factoring in something for yourself. Working towards something that you really want from life will boost your mental fortitude and give you the strength to get through some of the more mundane aspects of life that you need to deal with.
It’s not a luxury, it’s doing something to build a better life for yourself. It makes you feel more positive and that’s good for you and the people around you.
Now that you have everything down on paper it’s time to organise. Between those three categories you probably have quite a list. The secret to true productivity is not about fulfilling as many tasks as possible, it’s about identifying the most important ones, the ones that are going to have the most positive effect and concentrating on those.
Look at every item you have written down and ask yourself what are the true consequences of doing or not doing this task. Often we add things to our to do list that are based on someone else’s agenda, but whilst it’s important to help others where we can it’s equally important we set our own agenda in our own lives. Does it really matter if you don’t have time to bake cakes for the school cake sale and buy some to donate when you’re in the supermarket instead? On the other hand, increasing your number of paying customers will make a tangible difference to your life, so be objective. Be ruthless and cut anything that is absolutely not necessary.
Making a conscious decision to not do something is very different from just not doing it. You can feel good about your decision to not do something, knowing that it’s enabled you to focus on something more important, as opposed to feeling guilty about letting something slide.
Now you have the list of the things you are going to concentrate on it’s time to make a plan. Consider the time scales you have to complete everything. You’ll find you have a mixture of small tasks on your list, such as collect dry cleaning, as well as the huge ones, such as write a book.
For each of your big tasks our outcomes that you want to achieve break it down in to smaller chunks and write each of these stages down in to separate items. Plan your days and weeks out with your tasks, always prioritising the most important task each day.
You can download a printable planner here to help you organise. Take small manageable steps every day to make real progress in the direction that you want, rather than just running around like crazy not actually achieving anything.
Writing everything down and coming up with a clear plan to get things done will firstly enable you to have a mental declutter. You don’t need to remember and be stressed by so many little details as they are all written down. Organising properly and cutting all the unimportant tasks will free up a load of time, without you having to feel guilty or inadequate for not doing everything. It also makes sure that you do do all the important things that will genuinely make a difference to you. Finally a well thought through plan gives you the peace of mind that even if you haven’t done something yet, it’s going to get done.
Don’t forget to download the planner to help you get started on your way.
Also, feel free to join my Facebook group, Small Steps Big Achievements to be part of a supportive community determined to achieve the things that are truly important in life.