How to keep focused…

When-Words-Drive-Me-CrazyWhen everything around you is going crazy and you’re tempted to pull out your hair?

One of the difficulties of being a small business owner is that he or she is the business. There is so much that has to be done. There is so much you have to become, to learn, be aware of, control and make sure happens.  You’re it!

If you’re a micro business then it is much worse, because you may not yet be at the stage where you can afford to employ someone else, even part-time, or contract out the task or activity to someone else. It’s just you. You look around and see everyone else achieving so much more than you’re able to and you feel like you’re losing ground or will soon. How can you be on top of everything all the time?
No matter how brilliant you are, and we all agree that you are, there are only so many balls you can juggle on your own before you start to drop them.
So what can you do to stop yourself from feeling overwhelmed? First and foremost, remember that everything you see on social media is meant to make you think everyone else is doing well. You don’t have to buy the hype. It’s mostly all marketing.

To stay grounded, here are a few thoughts and tips that will help you to stay focused.

Ju7st breath1. Stop and take a deep breath.

Many of us think that we have to keep moving 24/7 and if we take a few minutes out during ‘work-time’ we will be failing ourselves or wasting time. But this is far from the truth.
It is at those times when we feel most stressed that we need to take time out to rebalance ourselves. Stopping, stepping back from whatever it is you are working on and taking a deep breath can be just the thing to help you refocus and realise that there may be another way to manage the task.
Apparently taking a break every 45 -60 minutes has been proven to work wonders for concentration. Because our brains were not built to run continuously at that the consistent levels of stress and influx of information we’ve become used to in our modern day.
Your brain was made to be on alert of danger to protect you, but doing this along with our high-activity lifestyles can make our brains overwhelmed and exhausted.
Trying to focus continually and solidly on one thing for a long period of time or trying to focus on too many things consistently for a while will cause to fatigue.
Overwhelm, boredom, and mental fatigue are signs that your brain actually needs a break. So what can you do:

  • Change your activity, do something different. If your setting, stand and stretch and moving around
  • Walk away – go for a walk or walk around the office. Go talk to someone else about something completely different
  • Take deep breaths. Fill your lungs with oxygen
  • Do a few minutes’ meditation. You can do this sitting down just where you are
  • Drink some water. This will help your body remove some of the negative chemicals you’ve built up within you from feeling stressed.

2. Prioritise your listfocus

Go back to your list, if you have one, and review it again to make sure that the things you are working on now are in line with your priorities, or whether your priorities have actually changed.
This exercise will help you to see if you are working on the right things just now. Sometimes due to other people, emails, telephone calls, or other interruptions, we can find ourselves working on things that are no longer the priority for us or the business.

We’ve just happened to be working on them because:

• of another piece of information that has come in to interrupt our time and focus,
• the situation has changed, but we’ve not changed our activity.

If after your review you find that your priorities have changed, then acknowledge the change and the reason for the change. Doing this will help you calm your anxious thoughts and feelings and refocus on to what is really important now.
If you didn’t previously have a priority is making one now. It could be that your lack of focus is because you need help to focus. Having a structure means to help you focus will also assistance you finding a calmer space in your head as you work through the things you had on your mind.

Lists 13. Work to your list

This may seem really obvious following on from the point above, but sometimes no matter how many lists we write for ourselves, we rush off doing other things and forget we’ve made a list and so don’t work to it.
Our subconscious mind does not forget that we have a list, so its there in the back of minds, nagging away at us, even when we’ve forgotten.
It may be that there are things on our list that we really would prefer not to be doing and we’re avoiding our list. I’ve done this a few times.
The thing here is to do the things we don’t want to do first. Get them out of the way as quickly as possible and then, we can enjoy doing the things we like best.

Do the thing you fear most and the death of fear is certain. Mark Twain.

To keep yourself encouraged work from your list and mark off or tick off each activity on your list when you’ve completed it. This simple exercise will help you to see that you’re actually accomplishing quite a bit and reduce your stress levels
If there is something that I’ve had to do during the day, that was not originally on my list, I add it so that I can remind myself of what I’ve done with my time.

calendar 14. Use your Calendar or Diary

Another obvious one, but you’d be surprised how many people have them but do not use them. As I always say, “If it’s not in my diary, it does to happen.
There are many types of calendars, task reminders, list maker apps available on the market that we can use. Everything takes a little time to learn how to use it and get comfortable using, but this can be valuable in saving you time and helping you to focus in the long run.
Maybe, you are one of those people who would prefer to use Filofax or hardback diary. That’s fine. I tend to use both and app and my Filofax. I guess I’m not ready to give up the ‘old-school’ yet. Just find something you feel comfortable using and use.

Emergency5. Deal with emergencies

So what do I do when emergencies come in? I hear you ask.
Deal with them. If they are important and urgent, they need your attention. It’s important to be able to distinguish between those things fit this category though and not allow yourself to be distracted just because someone shouts the loudest.
Deal with your emergencies and then go back to your list.
It can be easy to become distract from what you were doing after you dealt with something that needed your immediate and undivided attention. This happens because your brain has been activated on high alert for a while and will need to realign itself before you are ready to get back to what you were doing before. Take a break and then get back to your list and remind yourself of what you were working on before the emergency. So then, remember work to your list.

In summary

A strategy to help you when you’re feeling that you’ve lost your focus is a helpful tool to get you back to working effectively as quickly as possible. Allowing for the need to be kind to your brain. You’re not a robot and even robots will need some level maintenance and repair.
Listen to the messages your lack of focus is giving you and look after yourself.

Sandra Pollock

Director, OMTD

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