One Thing at a Time

One Thing at a Time

As we’ve been scheduling meetings with financial advisors and financial planners for the upcoming weeks, we keep hearing the same comment, “Wow, I can’t believe it’s almost September already.”

While at times it has seemed like 2020 has stretched on forever, the end of the year is rushing towards us.

Do you ever feel like you just can’t get anything done?  Do you start on something and then get immediately pulled away?  Does “focus” seem impossible to achieve?

Our desire to be always available and always in-the-know has left us attacked on all sides by a barrage of information vying for our attention.

If you are among the many who struggle to fight off a never-ending stream of distractions, here is a three-step approach for staying focused.

Step 1:  Acknowledge that you control your behavior.  Just because your phone rings (or dings), doesn’t mean you have to pick it up.  Admitting to yourself that you are not forced to immediately respond to every new item is a critical first step.

Step 2:  Change your environment to eliminate distractions and structure your day.  Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Schedule time during your day to respond to new matters such as calls, emails, etc. Unless you work at a call center, you don’t need to respond to everything as it comes in.
  • Turn off all email notifications – no sounds, icons, etc. Alternatively, you can close your email program until you decide to check for updates.
  • Close all apps and tabs that you aren’t currently using.
  • Remove items from your view that steal your focus such as televisions or clocks. I’ve found that turning off the system clock in Windows allows me to maintain better focus.
  • Are you worried that you’ll forget something important? Create a “distraction journal” or a notepad to write down new ideas as they pop into your head.

Step 3:  At the beginning of each day (or the night before), write down the top three things you will accomplish that day in order of importance.

Place the list in a spot where you can easily see it.  For me, I have small journal to the right of my computer.

Work on the first item until it is completed.  Then cross it off and move on to the next one.

If and when you get pulled away, look back to your list and start working through it until all three items are done.

Why is this effective?  It forces you to sort through everything you have to do and pick three.  That means you are saying “yes” to just a few things and “no” to many things.  You’re not saying “no” forever, just until the first three things are done. Additionally, you don’t have to keep readjusting your focus during the day to decide what’s most important.

As a result, you are giving yourself permission to shut everything else out until those three things are done (one at a time, in order).

If you’re trying to juggle thirty things at a time, you’re going to struggle.  But one thing at a time? That’s just playing catch!

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