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Curing “Oh Look, A Squirrel!” — 5 Steps To Focus

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Curing "Oh Look, A Squirrel!" — 5 Steps To Focus

If you check your phone a hundred times each day or suffer from “Oh Look, A Squirrel!”, any one of these 5 steps can help you create more meaning, purpose, and depth in your work and life!

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve had three clients who have removed email and/or social media from their smartphones. All three did so with a blend of nervousness and excitement (and even a “You can actually do that?”).

And all three have reported feeling more focused and intentional, even in that short time frame.

I just finished reading a fascinating book called Deep Work by Cal Newport. In it, he discusses how as our distractions and interruptions increase, our ability to focus continues to diminish. Cultivating a sense of focus and depth is becoming more rare – and more valuable. 

So, that “Shiny Object Syndrome” or “Oh Look, A Squirrel”? It’s not just you. 

But it’s also not going to fix itself.

Much of my coaching work resides in this area of focus, priorities, and making the most of time. While some changes naturally take a while, others prompt immediate results. Below I offer 5 steps to FOCUS , any one of which you could begin this week:

Find your rhythm.

Are you a morning person? Night owl? Somewhere in between? Determine what part of the day your energy tends to be highest. Then, to the extent possible, schedule your high-concentration and -creativity projects during those times, reserving lower-energy time for more routine tasks. 

Omit notifications.

If removing email, social media, and other “interrupters” from your phone doesn’t seem viable, at least turn off the beeps, pings, and light-up bubbles that appear with each new contact – preferably all the time, but especially during your scheduled focus time. 

Clear your space.

Clutter comes in all forms – physical, mental, noise, and so on. Prompt clarity by cleaning up your physical space, starting with a highly-visible space like your desktop. Don’t feel like cleaning? Pack up your project and head to an inspiring locale: botanical gardens, out-of-town coffee shop, hotel conference room.

Utilize filters.

And I mean this in the broadest sense possible. Set up filters in your email so non-important messages go right to folders. Filter your to-do list by choosing your Daily Top 3 priorities each morning. Filter your calendar by asking if a request helps you honor your purpose.

Schedule in focused time.

Time blocking is a beautiful thing! It requires discipline, but even brief blocks of time reserved for a specific outcome will make a significant difference in your sense of focus and purposeful productivity. Schedule – and honor – time blocks each week.

None of these tips is necessarily easy, especially if you’ve become addicted to those Facebook notifications or “looking at squirrels.” 😉 But none of them needs to be difficult either. Choose one, decide why it’s important to you, and commit to it for a week. Then, reassess at week’s end. 

I bet the moments of focus and clarity you experience will be enough to make you want to continue!

Which strategy will you commit to?

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