In this world of constant distractions it can be hard to focus. We have become accustomed to reacting. Email, text messages, phone calls, and social media have made it almost impossible to turn off distractions. Communication is essential in business and you must respond quickly or you may miss an opportunity. So how do you focus on the task in front of you without ignoring the request coming at you?
Set clear expectations. Whether you are working to obtain new business, manage existing business, manage teammates, or working with peers you need to explain the best way to reach you when it’s urgent.
If you receive an email does the person on the other end expect an immediate response? Do you check your email throughout the day or do you check email 3 times a day? I learned once from a wise man that email could become the biggest distraction in the day. He told he put an out of office assistance on his email each day to inform those emailing him that he only checked email twice a day, and if they needed an immediate response to call him directly. He makes a point to focus on the task in front of him. He specific schedules times to read emails and respond, as opposed to stopping what he is doing each time an email hits his inbox. His days have turned out to be much more productive and anyone that emails him knows they will get a response. 9 out of 10 of your emails really can wait 12 to 24 hours for a response and if it’s an emergency the person probably called you as well.
Prioritize. Start your day with a list. Before you look at your phone or email take 5 minutes to make a list. Write down everything that you need to get done. Write down small and big tasks. Keep the list with you throughout your day. As you complete tasks cross them off. You will feel accomplished as you get things done.
Acknowledge. If you are focused on a task at hand and someone needs your attention acknowledge them and their request. You do not necessarily need to stop doing what you are engaged in, but give them a response of when you can get back to them. Add the person to your list so that you do not forget about them or their need. Even if you think you can handle their request quickly you are taking away from your focus and the 10 minutes you take to help them may put you behind 30 minutes to an hour.
Don’t Over Commit. Know your limitations. If your day is already full don’t over extend yourself. Make realistic schedules and keep to them. Set times to meet or speak with people and focus on that meeting or call for that time. If you constantly seemed rushed, miss calls, late to meetings, find yourself checking your phone during meetings, and racing to next engagement you may want to plan more time in between meetings and calls. Give yourself time for the meeting and then time after meeting.
Let’s face it we live in a world where we expect immediate responses. Learn how to be proactive, set expectations, manage time and acknowledge request without stopping your current task. You will be surprised how much more you accomplish when you actually take time to slow down to focus, but remember that being focused doesn’t mean unresponsive. People don’t expect you to stop your day for them but they do want to be acknowledged.