In the era of big data, busy lives and information overload, the only way to get anything done is to focus on what matters. There is no enough hours in a day to have everything done. However, it is possible to complete all most important tasks in one day.
Weather it is a project, your company, or your life - start with a mission and purpose. Your mission explains why the project exists in the first place. The purpose defines the main reason you are doing the project.
Start With a Plan
Have a clear picture of what you are going to achieve. Define a "perfect world" outcome and then scale it down to "must have" option. Your final result will be somewhere in between.
Understand your top priorities and align your goals to meet them. All of them should be essential to complete the project. Each goal will have their own priorities. What do you need to do to achieve your goal? Plot your actions for each priority.
Your actions need to be SMART - specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. At this point you can even set your KPIs and targets to measure success. Set a timeline for each task. Outline the next steps and have immediate results in mind while you are planning your attack.
If you are going to do something, you might as well try to do tasks that you enjoy. What are you interested in? What tasks you find exciting and enjoyable? What can you not do?
In the end of your planing process, have a map.
- Know where you are
- Know where you want to go
- Know how to get there from where you are
- Anticipate all possible detours
- Be aware of all options along the way
In the end, in order to focus on what matters, you need to manage priorities. Concentrate on higher quality activities that align with the primary project or business objectives. Do more tasks that allow you to reach your goals in a timely manner.
Ideas are great, but execution is what's most important.
Execute and keep perspective
The biggest enemy of focus is distraction. Carve out some time in your day to concentrate and eliminate all distractions. Put it on your calendar if you have to. In extreme cases, treat this time as an emergency. No matter what, have a productive day.
Review your other commitments. Are all of them necessary? Perhaps, you will be able to free up more time than you thought. And try to say "no" to almost everything.
Use tools to help you focus on what you need, in a way you need it, and at the time you need to do it.
All of it comes down to what you are doing at any given point in time.
Here are a couple of tools that can help you retain your focus. I am not even going to mention Google Calendar.
- Concentrate (Mac only) allows you to keep your focus when shifting between different tasks. If you want to accomplish a set of tasks that require one mind set, it will eliminate distractions for you.
- FocusBoster times your focus time for 25 minutes and then gives you 5 minute break.
- Think will limit your focus to one application at a time.
- Trello - project management tool that allows collaboration.
- TimeOut reminds you that it is important to take breaks to keep your focus sharp. It will fade in at specific intervals and remind you to take a break.
- Several productivity tools to help you organize your day.
Clear understanding of your mission and goals will help you focus on what matters. Formulate your strategy, define tactics. Spend enough time planning. Pick activities that bring you closer to your goals.
Constantly review your goals and priorities to ensure you are on the right track. Pick a few tasks you can do to achieve your goals. Skip the not so important ones. Once you are ready, focus on execution by aligning your tasks with the end goal.
Once you have this structure in place, you will know why your work matters. You will not be doing anything that does not need to be done. Some tasks you will do differently. But overall, you will be efficient and still have time for all your hobbies.