If you're wondering how not to lose focus, what better way is there than to learn from other people's mistakes.
In this article, I will share with you how one simple decision cost me 10 days of productivity. As the Dalai Lama put it:
“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”
Well, if you think one simple decision is too small to lead to make a negative difference in your life, read on!
While this may sound bad, the good news is that the principle I show in this article also works in the other direction:
one small decision can have a huge positive impact on your focus.
Later on in this article, I will be giving you practical advice on how to make small, auspicious changes that can do wonders for your productivity.
But first, I need to explain where I went wrong so that you can avoid making the same mistake I made.
The mistake that lead me to lose focus over a period of 10 days
Just a bit over 10 days ago, I made what I thought was a simple choice that ended up having huge repercussions for my focus.
Here's the decision:
I decided to host a short, daily call with a couple of people who also were going through Mitch Horowitz’s 10-Day Miracle Challenge (which is basically an intention experiment).
Now, let me be clear: the bad choice wasn’t that I chose to participate in this challenge (it’s a great challenge and I’d do it again). The bad choice also wasn’t that I chose to host a daily call with people who were also going through the challenge (I’m glad I did).
No, the bad choice all came down to timing: I decided to host this call at 9 am in my time zone each day.
Somehow forgetting that there are also, you know, pm times, I chose that particular time because I thought that it’s the only time I could consistently be available for 10 days in a row.
Now, you may ask what was so terrible about hosting calls at 9 am in the morning for 10 consecutive days? After all, that’s hardly unusual, is it?
The problem is that that time falls right smack into the morning — which for most people is the most productive time of day.
Ironically, that’s the very reason why that spot was free on my calendar in the first place…because I usually avoid scheduling appointments during my most productive hours like the plague.
(Yes, I’m self-employed. What gave it away?)
Here’s what happened to my focus when I made that bad decision:
Instead of being able to focus on my work priority for the day during those productive hours, I suddenly found myself doing something that had very little to do with work and productivity.
Unfortunately, that had consequences for the rest of the day. While the morning disruption didn’t hurt my writing game (I probably wrote half a dozen articles during that 10-day period), everything else suffered.
To be more precise: the whole thing made me feel like a headless chicken.
(I’m a vegan. Believe me, a headless chicken is not a pleasant image for me. That said, it’s the most appropriate description for what this whole thing did to my focus.)
I’m usually quite good when it comes to productivity and focus. Hell, I coach people on that.
Over time, I’ve adopted a number of positive habits that help me get more things done.
I’ll share some of these below, but here’s just one example: usually, I diligently write down my priorities for the day.
Typically, I do this the night before (because doing it before sleep is more powerful than doing it in the morning).
Well, guess what happened just a few day into those calls?
That’s right, I stopped writing and tracking my priorities.
And without priorities…I found myself in “headless chicken” territory.
I made much less progress on things than usual. Not only that but I also felt worse.
The good thing about that bad decision:
There’s one thing that was good about that bad decision: it helped me realize how crucial all the “focus hacks” are that I had been using for a while.
Unlike many people who don’t have as much freedom over their calendars, I’m so used to the privilege of focused attention that I take it for granted.
These 10 days showed me what it’s like to be constantly disrupted during one’s most productive work hours.
And, let me tell you: it really sucks! (Even if it’s a good disruption and if you’re the only person responsible for that disruption in the first place.)
Today is the first day where I had my morning back. And I’ve thrown myself back into the “setting priorities” game with gusto.
It will probably take me a few days to get fully back on the horse but I’m already noticing a positive difference.
For instance, with the exception of extracurricular activities and one phone call with a client later in the day, today I finished my whole list by 4 pm. By that time, I had also written the vast majority of this article — something that wasn’t even on my list.
So, thing are definitely looking up!
With that being said, let’s talk about how you can apply this lesson to your own life.
After all, you can learn from my mistakes. There’s no reason to repeat them. (Instead, make your own mistakes…after all, there’s so much variety to choose from.)
These small decisions can help you to not lose focus:
I hope my example was sufficiently inspirational (or terrifying) to motivate you to make small changes for the sake of your focus.
If so, here are (in no particular order), a couple of small decisions that have really helped me be as focused as possible.
Now, I’m aware that a lot of people don’t have the same amount of flexibility over their work day as many of us self-employed folks do.
Still, there are probably at least some things you can (completely or at least partially) adopt from this list:
- don’t check emails first thing in the morning (if you have to, only check and respond to emergencies…whatever that means in your line of work).
- don’t check your phone first thing in the morning,
- don’t check Social Media first thing in the morning,
- don’t check the news first thing in the morning,
- avoid scheduling meetings and appointments before noon (as much as possible).
You may be noticing a trend here. The trend is: “avoid distractions.” All of these are things that keep you from being as focused and productive as possible.
- create a list with your priorities the night before (here’s how I plan my day for maximum productivity),
- review that list in the morning,
- keep the list somewhere where you can see it during the day and check of things as you finish them,
- meditate in the morning (even a few short minutes can do wonders for your focus).
If, instead, you’d rather be as unfocused as possible, I recommend you follow the advice I give in this article.
Can I issue you a challenge?
Here’s your challenge: pick one suggestion from above and start applying it right away (or the next morning)! Notice how it goes. Then, a few days later, add another thing.
Changes in life come when we start making changes.
So, please don’t just read this article. Reading this article won’t create the changes you want. Instead, apply at least one of the suggestions from above to your own life.
I’m pretty sure it will make a difference.
By applying even a few of these things, you can avoid the mistake I made and move from “headless chicken”-territory to the realm of purposeful productivity.
And that’s a pretty sweet place to be in!
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