Time poor? Refocus in 4 dimensions
Post by Penelope Waller -
I recall going on a time management course as one of the first courses I ever did as a young trainee accountant. We were given an ‘in-tray’ (in the days when this consisted of an actual in-tray rather than a virtual one!) and told to outline the order and priority we would give to each item in the in-tray and the time we would dedicate to it. Presumably there was a deemed right answer to this exercise (I don’t recall partly because it was twenty years ago and partly because even then I thought it was a pretty pointless exercise). I’m sure such exercises still flourish within Time Management courses. But we know that company success is not measured by how we prioritise the seemingly endless list of potential tasks in front of us. The fact is, there will ALWAYS be more and more things to do (this is true of our personal lives as well).
What is it though that the really successful people do that differs from prioritizing the endless to-do list? Well I would suggest that it’s an all-encompassing FOCUS. Now that may sound obvious and even simple but the reality is that we can be easily distracted. I sat down this morning to complete a module on my distance learning Masters degree. It’s now 11.36 am and so far I have cleaned the bathroom floor, polished 4 pairs of winter boots (it’s 25 degrees here where I live), popped out to buy dishwasher salt, sent a couple of emails and started writing this blog. Not to say that these are not useful tasks but suffice to say I haven’t finished module 1 of my course yet. Now I will. No doubt. I am a pretty determined person, but even knowing that, my distraction levels are still stratospheric.
Now did J K Rowling have an endless to-do list that she continually re-prioritised daily, just hoping that at some point the writing of Harry Potter would surface to the top? I seriously doubt it. What’s required is a purity of focus – in 4 dimensions. So firstly physically – close that door, find a comfortable space to work in, shut down your email and put the phone on silence. Some people find it useful to ‘energize’ themselves physically by taking a power posture for a few moments (where you literally take up more space physically – e.g. your arms high and outstretched) or simply re-activating their bodies by getting up for a few moments and walking around and shaking their arms out.
Emotionally - assess how you are feeling. If you’re feeling excited, motivated, enthusiastic – great! If you’re not can you visualize a time when you experienced those emotions? How did they manifest in you physically? Can you master that emotion now by changing what you’re thinking about, or putting certain words in your head, or even changing your physical position. Alternatively try thinking about what it will be like once the job-at-hand is done. How will you feel? What could be the impact? Or perhaps even create a reward mechanism for yourself if necessary.
Intellectually park the other thoughts and tasks for the time being (and put that to-do list in a drawer until you’re done).
Finally and most importantly set your intention. If this project or task - or whatever its accomplishment is likely to bring you - is really that important to you, really tap into your intentional self. If all you really want is to strike off the maximum number of things on your to-do list, have a full fridge and a clean floor – if that’s your intention then that will dictate what you choose to do next. If your intention is to achieve success in whatever it is you are working on, then that will take priority, even without you circling it in red surrounded by multiple asterisks on your to-do list.
Set yourself up in 4 dimensions to be focused and less open to distractions. It takes practice… and that’s what successful people know.