You've most likely done it and so have I, spent an entire day working but ended up feeling like you were no closer to your goals than when you started. You found something that needed to be done around every corner throughout your day, but never worked on that one thing that would get you closer to your goals.
One of toughest goals to achieve when you're striving to be your best is staying focused on what matters the most. This is particularly difficult when the stresses and challenges of life come along.
Most people who have achieved an elite level in their field will tell you this focus was critical to their success. But, this isn't focus on a task, it's focus on the right task. In fact, it's having that focus on the primary task at any given moment that pushed them to the top.
Take Time to Understand What Should Be Your "Main Thing."
The first step in this process requires clarity on what your "main thing" is and why it is so important to pursue it.
Most people will rush into a project, focusing on doing the obvious work that needs to get done. They don't pause long enough to understand the deeper purpose of the project. When we do understand this, we have a clearer understanding of priorities.
Stop fooling yourself; Being busy is not the same as being productive.
In Gary Keller's book The One Thing, he says the main thing in any situation is found by asking yourself this question...
“What’s the one thing I can do, such that by doing it everything else is easier or unnecessary?”
The Myth of Multitasking
For years we've been striving for some mysterious ability to multitask, thinking it will help us get more done in less time. Recent research has shown that multitasking actually decreases our efficiency. When you're focused on completing multiple tasks at one time, you make less progress on all of the tasks.
The reality is, what most people call multitasking is really "rapid task shifting." You can't do multiple tasks at one time. What you're really doing is taking a single block of time and focusing on several tasks within that time. At any single moment, you're working on one thing and one thing only. But, you've fragmented your effort over that time, so you could squeeze in fragments of other tasks.
If you were to take all of your fragments of time on a single task and combine them into one single block of time, the sum of the time would be considerably less than your multitasking time.
Pick one thing, the main thing that would make everything else easier or unecessary and focus solely on that until it's completed.
There are two tools we recommend to help you maximize your focus and effort on the main thing. When you put both of these into play along with knowing what your main task should be, you'll rapidly accelerate your progress towards your biggest and most important goals.
The Pomodoro Technique Is Similar to a "Work Sprint"
Focusing your effort on the main thing is much easier when you're only required to do it for a short period of time. That's the premise behind the Pomodoro technique. You spend 50 minutes of intense focus on your one main task and then you take a 10 minute break to decompress.
The Pomodoro technique is similar to interval training for runners. You run for 1 minute and then walk for 30 seconds. This has proven to allow runners to endure much greater distances without fatigue or injury.
There are quite a few apps available to help you use the Pomodoro technique. Search for it in the App Store or in Google Play. Most of them are free and they allow you to customize your settings. If you can't stay focused for a full 50 minutes, move it back to 25 minutes and then take a 5 minute break instead of 10 minutes.
"Time Blocking" Allocates Time to Specific Areas of Work
Most people who are considered "good with money" will follow some sort of budget process. They take the time to allocate their money to the areas they know are most important. Even if they depart from that plan from time-to-time, they're at least aware of that departure. The rest of us will spend our money as the need arises. It's a more reactionary strategy and typically leaves us less well off, financially.
The same principles hold true for our time, which is truly the most precious resource we have, afterall, we can always make more money but we can't make more time.
When you allocate your time to specific categories, you're able to set priorities based on longer range goals. You're not just look at at what's most urgent right now, you're looking at what's most important in regard to our greatest goals.
With time blocking you set up categories for the areas where you spend your time, for example: planning, customer service, business operations, family time, date night, and your spiritual practices. Once you determine how much time you would like to devote to each category, you can place those time-blocks into your calendar.
With your time strategically blocked out on your calendar, it's very easy to see when a category gets out of balance. If you someone wants to meet on new business software but you don't have any more time in that category block, you know you have to either defer the meeting until next week or intentionally borrow time from another category.
Having the Best Mindset for Achieving Your Best Life
When pursuing your dreams and aspirations, move from gettings things done to doing them with purpose in mind. This will not only allow you to work smarter but will lead to more fulfillment as well.
Also, focus on becoming great at what you do, rather than simply achieving a certain desired outcome. This mindset will assist you in identifying and remaining focused on your main thing.