Want to Focus? Prepare, Relax, Do

Relaxed_with_coffeeYou have a lot of things to do today, as usual, and your mind is running at 100 mph. When you start working on something, five other things that you could be doing pop into your head and break your focus.

How is it possible to focus on just one task on days like this? By Preparing, Relaxing and Doing!

Prepare

  1. Write down the task you’re going to work on and put it in front of you.
  2. Have another piece of paper handy to write down any other tasks that pop into your head while you’re working.

Relax

  1. Pay attention to your surroundings – close your eyes and listen. Notice what you hear, just listen to the sounds around you.
  2. Take a deep breath – breathe deeply and slowly.
  3. Feel your body – be present to it, notice where any tension is and imagine it melting away with each breath.
  4. Repeat as necessary.

Do

  1. Work on the task you wrote down.
  2. Anytime you think of something else that needs to be done, write it down and then return to your original task.

Why is Prepare, Relax, Do important?

When you look at your to-do list (or if you don’t have it written down, when you think about it), how do you feel? If you’re like many people I work with, you feel stressed and overwhelmed.

When you Prepare, Relax and Do:

  • you know what you’re doing right now, what your focus is.
  • you’re intentionally leaving the stress behind and allowing yourself to relax (this allows you to get more done and be more focused!).
  • you’re capturing the other things that need to be done when you think of them allowing you to:
    • not worry about forgetting that they need to be done
    • give yourself permission to do them later

Try it today and let me know how it goes for you in the comments below!

Also, repeat the Relax step any time you start to feel stressed or anxious. And if you want some personalized help with this and think working with me might be for you, just let me know by scheduling your own complimentary 30-minute Productivity Breakthrough Session here (this conversation takes place over the phone).

What If You LOVED Your Workday?

Young Female Lying On The Grass In The Park Using A LaptopHow does your day usually start?

Not the getting out of bed part of your day, the business part of your day.

How does the business part of your day usually start? Do you have any habits? What are you thinking? Are your thoughts your habit?

So, do you start your day stressed out, worrying about how you’re going to get the long list of tasks done. Maybe doing a couple really quick ones just so you feel like you’re making progress, and maybe avoiding the more important and intimidating task?

What are you thinking about that list of tasks?

What if you were excited by them instead of feeling like you have to do them?

What if instead of feeling constantly behind by everything you should be doing or should have accomplished you were excited for the things that are happening in your day and business?

What if you didn’t worry about what you’ll find in your email today, but were excited to hear from people? To find out what they needed? Or out how you can help them and how that works into your schedule?

What if instead of being annoyed that someone asked you to do something extra, you were excited about the prospect of helping them?

Would if feel like work then? How would that change your business? How would that change your life outside of your business?

Does even thinking about that possibility feel foreign to you?

I know there was a time in my life where  I would have read what I wrote above and said, that’s great, but I’d rather not live with my head in the sand to all the work that needs to get done. And then pile on more things to do because I’m so busy being happy by all the extra work people are sending me.

So, let me be clear – I am not suggesting that you accept every request with happy abandon.

I am suggesting that it is possible to be happy about those requests AND have a plan or process for them.

So, you’re not just happily saying yes when a client emails you with a last minute request – you’re using the processes you already put in place to tell them that you’d love to do that with/for them, but last minute rush jobs cost this much extra. Or I can do that for you in two weeks because I want to honor the commitments to my current projects.

There are boundaries and processes you can set up so it’s easy for you to navigate requests and you’re teaching your clients (and others!) how you work so you have fewer of those requests coming in.

If this is something you’d like to explore in detail, let me know!

How does your workday normally start? And how do you want it to start?

Share in the comments below!

Image courtesy of photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Meaningful Breaks

Girl_taking_breakMeaningful breaks.

What does that mean?

And why are they important?

Meaningful breaks are when you get up from wherever you’re doing your work and you go and do something else. Something not related to work.

This does not mean you watch TV or check your email.

This is not the time to return that business call you’ve been meaning to get to.

This could be sitting down for a bit with a good book (outside, generally my preference, or somewhere inside and comfy).

It could be playing with your kids.

Going for a walk around the neighborhood.

Walking or playing with your pets.

Playing some of your favorite songs and dancing.

Heck, it could even be taking a really quick nap.

The point of the meaningful break is to give your brain a break from your work. Letting it focus on something completely different for a bit.

Give yourself a couple of 10 to 30 minute meaningful breaks each day. I bet you’ll be even more productive when you return to your work.

Share your meaningful break in the comments below!

photo credit: Silvia Sala via photopin cc

It’s Not Working…

Evie's DeskI’m wondering what you think my desk looks like.

Do you think it’s completely clear? Clutter has been ruthlessly eliminated and only a sparkling desktop remains?

If you’ve ever lived with me (Hi Mom!), you probably have visions of piles of paper, stacked precariously.

Like many things, the truth is somewhere in the middle.

While I aspire to have the sparkling and clear desktop, I rarely do. That picture above is what my desk currently looks like. Most of it is a result of not taking the time to put things away at the end of my day.

I remember something my previous mentor said about the state of her desk. She said something to the effect of: It only says something about me if I decide it does. Meaning she wasn’t judging herself based on the state of her desk – clean or messy.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I prefer a clean desk to a messy one. I can find things on a clean desk. The stacks of paper generally happen when I don’t have somewhere to put them that’s convenient to my desk.

So, generally anytime I find myself with a really messy desk with stacks of paper, I know it’s time to look at how my desk is organized and adjust.

The process looks something like this:

  1. Notice somethings not working for you.
  2. Review the possible reasons why it’s not working.
  3. Brainstorm possible solutions.
  4. Determine the simplest workable solution from the brainstorm session.
  5. Create a plan.
  6. Execute the plan.

What does this look like in action?

  1. I have a piles of notebooks and paper on my desk (which I noticed when I couldn’t find a specific notebook or piece of paper).
  2. I don’t have a good place to keep my notebooks. I tried the stackable desk trays, but it was just as bad there and I never wanted to put anything back because finding it again was a pain. And I don’t have a good system for the paper.
  3. Well, I could file the notebooks vertically. They still need to be on my desk though. And the papers could be grouped by like topic and kept in labeled file folders.
  4. I tried setting them up between book ends, but it didn’t do a good job of keeping them together. Hmm, I think I have some crates in the basement that I bet they’d fit in. And the file folders could sit in there too.
  5. I’ll go get the crates tomorrow, clean them up and then clean up my desk.
  6. Do work in step 5.

And what does this mean for you?

Well, the thing that’s not working for you might be the state of your desk or something else entirely. The process is still the same.

Don’t judge yourself because something isn’t working quite right. It’s not good or bad, it’s just the way it is right now. And when you’ve identify what’s not working, you can take the steps to change it.

Sometimes having another person to go through this process with is extremely helpful. Their not emotionally involved in the situation and processing things out loud with someone can help you answer the questions quickly.

I’d love to know how you’ll apply this to your business or life. Share in the comments below!

Do You Need Seasonal Habits?

summer girlIn the past, summer has been one of my least productive times. With the sun shining and the weather being so nice, my office (which seems so nice and cozy in the winter) feels too warm and not sunny enough.

This used to lead to me doing a lot of work on my laptop at various locations around the house. With piles of whatever I was working on being left at the most recent “work” location. That was fine, until it was left on the kitchen table or on the couch my husband generally watches TV from. Because he knew he couldn’t move it and I didn’t always get around to moving it very quickly.

There’s nothing wrong with working on a laptop, I did it happily for a couple years. However, the traipsing around with it generally meant my posture wasn’t very good. So I’d end up with a sore neck or back. And I would quickly develop terrible habits, usually involving a computer game, Facebook or watching TV.

No wonder summer wasn’t productive for me! If I wasn’t trying to find a new spot to work, I was sidetracked with something else.

This summer things have already started to change. It was time to replace my seasonal habit of being a wondering worker. I decided to stay in my office, it’s where I’m most productive and have fairly good habits.

And, with that decision I realized I needed a new seasonal habit or two. Here are the two habits I added to my day:

  1. I adjust my environment daily.
    My office is on the east side of our house, making it pretty warm in the afternoon. So, after lunch, the window shade goes down and the ceiling fan goes on. Those two small adjustments make a big difference in the feeling of my office.

  2. I take regular breaks.
    One thing I’ve learned about myself is if I’m spending a lot of time on distracting websites, I’m probably not taking quality time for myself. So, if I take a break, I make it count. Meaning I leave my office for at least 15 minutes.

    Generally, this break involves a book (I’m always reading something) and sitting outside on the deck enjoying the sun when the weather is nice. I grab a light snack, set my timer and read.

    My brain gets a break from whatever I’m working on and a change of scenery. And, amazingly, I’m less likely to spend a lot of time on those distracting websites.

Do you have problems staying focused during the summer? What are a couple of small seasonal habits you can adopt?

Share your ideas in the comments below!