The world is a distracting place. Sure, you can point your finger at all the things out there that are getting in the way of you getting things done. But if you want to get more done tomorrow, start planning your focus-zone work times.
In research widely cited done by Gloria Marks, professor at the University of California, Irvine, office workers admit to being interrupted roughly every three minutes -- and often those interruptions are self-inflicted. Marketers are trying hard to get your attention. Customers are pushing you to do more, better. Employees -- or contractors or interns -- all need you to watch what they’re doing. There’s no end to the things that can draw you away from your priorities and compromise your ability to produce.
When you have to get into your focus-zone, what do you do? Most people avoid the important by trying to stay current, stay organized and stay productive in every moment. Perhaps you’ve downloaded an app to help you organize your to-dos. You’ve scheduled time-blocks on your calendar to focus on a project. Maybe you’ve worked with an accountability coach, someone you call or text in the morning and again in the evening to hold you to your commitments.
And, all of that might work…sometimes.
But, what if I were to say that the external distractions should be the least of your worries. In the grand scheme of things, those outside concerns are but a drop in the bucket. When it comes to losing momentum, the internal world is what I suggest you clean up first -- as in, right now.
There are two internal world issues that will block your productivity and stop your momentum faster than a text message coming in or someone re-tweeting a post you shared. You will not achieve the flow state that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi writes about if these two areas are not addressed right away:
1. Appropriate self-care
When are you at your best? No, not by time of the day, I mean the conditions that will lead to you being your best you throughout the day. Think about the past 24 hours and ask yourself: "Was I the best friend, partner, boss, colleague, traveler, learner…etc. that I could have been?” Inadequate self-care, that is the inability to put yourself first by making sure you get the rest, nutrition and movement you need to perform is the cause of much stress, re-work, and poor leadership.
Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic states: “Excessive sitting is associated with 34 chronic diseases, and conditions including obesity, diabetes, cancer, depression and back pain.” Because of that, I ask people to add one or two self-care line items to their at-my-best-when-inventory.
On top of a piece of paper write, “I am at my best when…” and then add seven to 10 ingredients that would contribute to you being your best you. Think about what needs to have happened, how you need to have been, what you need to have seen / heard / done and consider the things that can increase the likelihood that you will be you, better. Look at that inventory every morning and every evening for a week and see what changes you make.
2. Abundance of positive support
When you talk, what do you talk about? And, when you listen -- what do they talk about?
According to Dr. Shad Helmstetter, a self-talk expert, we live the “law of reputation.” Those minor pathways in the brain become roadways, which become highways -- which become our way of thinking. What does that have to do with momentum? If we’re always on the defense, if we’re always looking for the opportunity; if we’re always “on,” our outlook can be one of lack, or overwhelm or it’s-not-enough-ness.
Right now, take out a piece of paper (yes, again). On top, write, “What have I completed that has moved the mission forward?” When you make this small change in focus to recognize the wins, you’ll find that you set and achieve more weekly goals, and you create and complete more action steps. When you address the abundance as well as the lack, you put yourself in a position to capitalize on the power of directional thinking -- much more than positive thinking.
Yes, you’ll still make a to-do list, and you’ll still stay up too late or wake up too early, and you’ll still notice when things are wrong -- but don’t only do just that. Make sure you notice the things that are on course, and when they are.