We've all experienced periods of powerful, single-minded productivity—days, weeks or months when everything we want falls into place and we achieve our goals without much effort. Hooray! Awesome!
On the other hand, there are slump times (unfortunately, often more frequent than the productive ones) when we are overwhelmed by our day-to-day projects, burdens and responsibilities. It's those frustrating times that challenge us and get us down.
At those periods, when you're down-in-the-dumps and hardly care about anything or anyone, you need to refocus on what's really important.
Easier said than done? You bet!
When it all seems so useless and pointless, exactly how do you find the time and energy to refocus on what really, truly matters? Allow me to share 7 of my own strategies on how to focus on what matters and cut out all the stuff that doesn't.
Write down your top priorities...and keep them in view.
To focus your attention in the right place, it's essential to remind yourself every day of what is truly most important. Recognize what is essential in your life to have clear goals. Ask yourself: "What is most important for me this year? What excites me? Is it an important project at work? My family? Improving my social life? My blog, hobby or money situation?"
Think about it and reduce what is important in your life to the top 4 or 5 most important priorities. Write those things down and post them in your workspace, on your bathroom mirror or on your fridge.
Related: How to Prioritize Your Priorities
Identify what does NOT deserve your attention.
This is where you cut out all the crap that distracts you, is a time suck, and brings you down. Ask yourself: "What is wasting my time and how can I make better use of my precious time?"
If you want to focus on what is truly important for you in your life, you have to consciously know what activities steal your time. Some people don´t even notice that they spend a huge percentage of their time with random activities that are more of a habit, without ever examining (and stopping) this behavior.
Cut out the distractions.
Try to work in a place without unnecessary distractions. Ask yourself: "What are the 3 most common distractions (activities, hobbies, and habits) that are stealing my time and keeping me from doing my work in a focused way?" Figure out how you can prevent those things from distracting you and learn to manage your time.
A few distraction-cutting suggestions are:
- Close the door to your office.
- Shut down email, instant messaging programs, and put your cell phone in silent mode for an hour or more at a time.
- Stay away from your favorite places online...limit screen time.
- If your place of work is busy and noisy, use headphones with music or just noise canceling headphones without anything playing in them.
Stop all that multi-tasking.
Sometimes by multitasking you just cannot focus on one task after another, which decreases the quality of what you do. It distracts you from focusing. You can try to avoid doing multiple tasks at the same time by scheduling your most important tasks of the day. Execute these tasks one after another with the attempt to focus solely on each task, without getting distracted from unimportant things. You will see that the quality of your work will start to increase once you focus on your scheduled (and most important) tasks and projects. And you will feel more satisfied, fulfilled and focused.
Get and stay organized.
In order for you to gain focus and make your priorities matter, you need to have some sort of a personal productivity system in place to hold yourself accountable—where your priorities will actually matter. If you've got a tried-and-true system, great. If not, find one that works for you and stick to it.
Replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
Most negative emotions are completely useless. They distract you and rob you of focus. Resentment, anger, hostility, hate, and jealousy have never improved the quality of life for a single human being. (Ask Cam Newton, the losing Super Bowl 50 quarterback, about the negative effects of hostility and anger!) Take responsibility. Forgive past insults and losses...and simply replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Enough said!
Put on your own happy face.
Remember that you have the right to do stuff you enjoy. I know that not all work is fun, but you can have a good time doing just about anything if you put your mind to it. Try to fill your free time with activities that you love.
It's okay to start choosing happiness over: what others expect you to do; what you think you should be doing, but doesn’t make you happy; trying to please others; and even temporary pleasures.
Having focus and taking the time and energy to refocus are really important if you want to accomplish anything in life. You can even move proverbial mountains. But you don't have to take my word for it.
Related: 3 Strategies for Hacking Happiness
Steve Jobs summed it up so perfectly. "That's been one of my mantras—focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it's worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains." Thanks, Steve!