Quick tips you can try today to stay focused on your goals (and avoid distractions!)
About eight years ago, I started noticing that other people seemed to be having more fun than I was. And I realized that if I wanted more fun in my life, it was up to me to do something about it.
One thing I did to introduce more fun into my life was to take up golf. I felt it was a natural fit for me. I love the outdoors, I enjoy watching golf on TV, and I consider myself a natural athlete.
If you know me at all, you know I don’t believe in half measures. I applied the same vigor to this new hobby as I apply to my business goals. My action plan included scheduling and taking golf lessons, keeping a journal of swing tips, and buying almost every training aid as soon as I saw it promoted on The Golf Channel.
In the end… after more than 100 golf lessons and with 400+ pages of golf notes and a closet full of training aids… my scores have definitely improved. I don’t think they’ll ever be as good as I would like – still, embarking on my “learn to play golf” goal has yielded many benefits: a mountain of fun memories, new friends, and great experiences. Golf remains an enjoyable challenge.
I’m not telling you this to try to convince you to take up golf. But I do want to encourage you to take action on whatever goals you have set for yourself. Acquiring any kind of knowledge is worthwhile. Yet, that knowledge is absolutely worthless unless you use it to develop a plan, take action, and channel that action into success.
A good approach is to use the following formula:
- Dedicate 25 percent of your allotted time to studying.
- Dedicate 25 percent of your allotted time to observing.
- Dedicate 50 percent of your allotted time to DOING!
And I think you’ll find that the DOING part of the formula is integral to the studying and observing.
In my case, it was easy to assign 50 percent of my time to DOING by taking golf lessons, practicing my swing on the driving range, and practicing chips and putts around the greens. But if I hadn’t dedicated the other half of my time to making notes, thinking and visualizing my game, and observing proper course management, I wouldn’t have gotten much better.
All three elements linked together. I needed all three to be successful. It will be the same for you and the goals you set for yourself.
When you are dedicating yourself to achieving a specific goal, you must promise yourself to use the time you’ve blocked off for it ONLY for working toward that goal. Avoid mental and physical distractions. If, for example, you start thinking about your job, family, friends, or the party you’re hosting next weekend during the block of time you’ve scheduled for learning golf, you’re stealing time from your goal.
It’s easy to let your mind wander away from what you should be focused on doing. In fact, studies have shown that the mind wanders every chance it gets. This has probably happened to you many times. For instance, you could be reading an important financial report and suddenly find yourself thinking about an unpleasant encounter you had earlier in the day.
What to do? Take charge of your brain. After all, it is YOUR brain!
Here are five techniques I have used to get my mind back on track whenever I find it wandering away from the task at hand:
• Check your emotions.
If I’m stewing about something unrelated to what I’m supposed to be working on, I remind myself that “emotions have no cash value.” And I refocus.
• Let it go.
If I’ve done my part and the ball is now in someone else’s court, I remind myself that there’s nothing I can do about it at the moment. And I refocus.
• Take a breather.
To refresh my mind, I take a quick break. Even stopping to get a glass of juice helps me refocus my attention where it should be.
• Keep a notepad handy.
If the distracting thought that pops into my head could be useful – maybe an idea for a solution to a client’s problem – I write myself a note and refocus. That way, I know I won’t forget that idea. I’ll get back to it later, AFTER I’ve finished what I’m doing.
When I’m tired my mind tends to wander even more. In that case, unless I am on a tight deadline, I reschedule what I’m working on.
It is far more productive to stay focused on the work you are doing WHILE you are doing it. Although studies suggest that 30 to 40 percent of the time most people don’t really think about what they’re doing, YOU can be different. It takes practice and willingness to discipline yourself to be “in the here and now.” But it is worth it.