The other day a light bulb taught me a lesson. There are four vanity lights in the master bathroom and I was changing them all out. When I took them out, I could take out two light bulbs at the same time very quickly. But when I was putting in the new bulbs, I had to use both hands and really pay attention to get them lined up correctly so I could complete the task in a reasonable amount of time (and without breaking something).
What does this have to do with business? If you want to do something well, you need to focus on what you’re doing. It’s always easier to undo or break something than it is to do or make it. I could have put in the lightbulbs with one hand each, trying to do two at once. But that would have taken much longer, frustrated me, and possibly cost me more money by cracking a bulb. In business terms, that would have introduced unnecessary risk and extended the timeline which would have used more budget than if I had used two hands.
We live in a fast-paced world where everything is always moving and everyone is always multi-tasking. All of us have a never-ending list of things we need to do. It can be very difficult to slow down and focus on only one thing at a time, even if that one thing is something we really enjoy. Here are some tips that can help you focus on one task at a time:
1.) Block off time for tasks. Set aside an hour to build that report or two hours to work on that new budget. And do only that task during your blocked-off time. If you get done before your time block is scheduled to end, then great! You’ve just experienced how much more efficient focusing all your attention on a single task can be. Depending on the task, it is sometimes helpful to “time box” it—in other words, have a hard stop where you end the task for now in order to focus on something else. This is a particularly useful technique to help avoid overengineering a solution. It can be hard for us to stop working on something and shift our attention to another item right in the middle of what we were working on. To help avoid this, try scheduling your most important tasks first thing in the morning so you don’t have to stop another initiative to get started on it. Also, try to allow yourself enough time to work on the project so you’re at a good stopping place when your time is up. Hal Elrod (co-author of The Miracle Morning) firmly believes in scheduling every single hour of your day, making sure to include time to relaxing, your family, and sleeping. If you haven’t read that book, I highly recommend it.
2.) Avoid distractions. To make sure you stay focused on the job at hand, minimize your e-mail, and mute notifications. There are even programs out there that will block you from going to time-wasting websites during certain hours, such as Facebook and Instagram, to help keep you focused. Let your team know that you’re hunkering down and will be back up for air in an hour or so. If something very urgent comes up, your team can text or call you. Communication is key in every situation, so make sure your team understands your plan and how to contact you if necessary.
3.) Prepare. It’s great that you’ve blocked off time for part or all of a task and your team knows not to interrupt you unless they have to. But that doesn’t help if you don’t have what you need to accomplish the initiative. Think through the steps you’re going to take during your blocked off session to make sure you have all of the pieces you need to make your puzzle. Do this prior to entering your block of time. Visualizing the process you’ll be following and the progress you’ll be making will help ensure any gaps are filled before you get started and keeps you motivated to actually spend the uninterrupted time on the planned task.
I’m relating my “lightbulb lesson” to business, but it’s equally as important in every aspect of your life. When you’re out with your family and you keep checking your phone for new updates, what are you accomplishing? You’re not giving your family the attention you want to give them or enjoying the time you’re spending with them as much as you can. Your family may also feel like they aren’t as important as whatever is on your phone, and you’re also not reading and/or replying to anything on your phone with the thought and consideration you would like to give it. If you check your phone alerts after spending time with your family, then you could give your family the love and attention they need and reply to important matters the way you want to.
Give every task your full, undivided attention and I promise every task will turn out better and each experience will be more fulfilling.