Making choices is one of the most difficult tasks that leaders address each day. So much data, increasing market segmentation possibilities, and a raft of subtle options, face us each day -each of which has a different possible outcome. After pursuing too many choices and special projects, keeping too a variety of options on the table, and juggling the workload that each one requires to move forward, we end up with a muddy set of projects and equally unclear outcomes. Some of the most effective leaders are those who stop the madness of unlimited choices and get their teams and organizations focused. Does this mean fewer choices? Yes, Fewer projects? Yes. Clearer outcomes and measurable success? Yes!
Are you looking for increasingly creative problem solving and increased personal effectiveness in your team and organization? Happily, these are two side benefits of increased focus! The brain can learn to ignore distractions, making you more focused, creative, and productive.
Here are three ways you can start to improve your focus.
Decrease multitasking. Next time you are sitting in a meeting, take a look around. You will likely see people texting, emailing, making notes, and finding many ways to multitask, all while they are supposed to be concentrating on the topics at hand. After all, they must be important if a meeting is being called to discuss them, right? And yet, we don’t give it our full attention. Research shows that you will likely check off more items on your to-do list if you do two or three tasks simultaneously. It also shows that we are more likely to make mistakes, miss important information, and are less likely to be able to retain the information that we DO hear, while thinking of where we’re going next or how to reply to the latest crises that just came through via email.
Tame the frenzy. Frenzy, a state of feeling out of control and anxious, is fueled by the part of the brain called the amygdala, that is what perceives threat, and is the center of anger, jealousy and a raft of other emotions. Functional brain imaging has shown that activating this part of the brain interferes with your ability to solve problems. What’s the cure? Positive emotions provide the brain state that is most conducive to problem solving. Give yourself the tools you need to solve problems and make decisions by getting yourself out of the negativity trap. You’ll be more effective and run circles around others who spend all day in ‘stress mode, distracted and holding their head in hands while they try to plow through each day’s challenges.
Learn set-shifting. Focus is important, and when your mind grows weary of working on one project, completely change and shift all of your focus to a new task. Use your body to shift your mind by getting up and taking a walk or a 5-minute break. Breaks like this can give you new insights and ideas before you get started on the next task.
Practice attention training. Help your productivity by improving your own attention training. You and your team members will find that practicing attention training, either through exercise, meditation, or taking mental breaks during the day, will lead to fewer interruptions. More accurately, the interruptions will still be there, but you and your employees will be able defer them until the appropriate time.
Structure your use of technology. If technology is 100% integrated into your daily life, consider resetting your boundaries, so you can rescue your focused thinking time. Recent research shows that most employees are productive 60% of their time. Don’t let that be you! Have a problem? Fight off the tendency to open up email or browse the internet. Grapple with the problem until you come to a resolution.