Updated: 7 days ago
In a world full of limitless distraction, how do we focus on what we really want, rather than getting pulled into the million directions which seek our attention?
How can we make the most of our time and not waste precious hours scrolling and screening our days away?
As a woman who wears many hats, literally and figuratively (the gold sparkly one is my favorite), it took me a while to figure out how to focus on my own flow, instead of getting carried away by everyone else's.
As a freelancer who works on numerous projects at any given time, it took me time to figure out a structure that allowed me both freedom and flexibility in my schedule - and also supported being productive and efficient with my work and my time. I often found myself juggling too much, letting clients soak up too much time, and getting pulled into the work weeds. I felt overwhelmed and stressed out 24/7. But what's the point of working for yourself if you can't actually enjoy it?
I knew I needed to set boundaries with my time and my mind. I let both get away from me, instead of leveraging them. Especially my mind, used to wander e v e r y w h e r e. And it still does sometimes. It's only human. But the more precise and focused I was with my thinking, and my schedule, the better I designed the days that I desire.
"Focus is a matter of deciding what things you're not going to do." John Camerack
Whether you're trying to create structure in your business, make sense of remote work and life balance, OR you just want to feel more productive and less 'Netflixed' during the final months of 2020, here are my top 7 tips to get your schedule in check and your mind in focus. Because only with structure can we truly find freedom.
1. Find one calendar that works for you.
Google, Outlook, Trello, Asana, OH MY! Choose the one that fulfills your needs, and commit to it. Like any relationship, it takes effort, but it's worth it. OR, go totally rogue. It might be 2020 but there is nothing like a pen and paper to plan your life :)
After trying and failing at (most of the above), I finally accepted that the only way I get shit done is working with the vintage expression tools, with a weekly calendar. Now that I've accepted the plain paper calendar as my truth, I actually look forward to using it, instead of avoiding my schedule.
Sure, if people offer to send me a calendar invite, I won't refuse - but I won't be missing any meetings because I didn't click one more damn time into Google.
2. Map out your goals for the week.
Day planning is necessary but weekly planning is key to seeing the big picture and keeping track of how and if, you're advancing. Setting weekly goals creates a zoomed out space to move forward. If we're only focused on the day to day, projects can stay stagnant and may never get done.
Sometimes when my goals feel scattered, I like to use a mind map style goal list, which supports a braindump. Then, I decide which to prioritize, create smaller tasks for each goal, and filter the ones I can get done in my weekly schedule.
3. Break projects down into time blocks and tasks.
If you’re a human who is alive today, you are likely doing ALOT of things. Because we have evolved into such multi-dimensional beings, it often seems like there is much to do. Even if you're unemployed or retired, it can serve you to break down projects into categories, and insert them into your schedule so that you actually complete them, instead of letting them live in the abyss of "shit that never gets done."
Projects should include both personal and professional development, learning, community, family, and whatever else fuels you forward. Whether you need to launch a new product, start an online course, or make time to practice harmonica. Once you have a running list of projects, block time in your schedule to invest in them. If I talk about becoming a rapper, but I don't schedule time to rap, or write, or create videos, then how can my rapping career ever blossom!?
One of my favorite leaders Robin Sharma says, "if it doesn't get scheduled, it doesn't get done." By breaking down our interests and desires into projects - we can focus and prioritize the ones that matter, and stay balanced rather than burn out. We CAN achieve everything we want. We just can't do it all at the same time.
4. Be mindful of your energy.
Imagine me sitting on top of your screen right now, like a small golden Zo-bird peeping this into your ear again and again and again. THIS IS THE KEY to focus. Why? Every day, we do things that drain our energy, and we do things that give us a boost of energy. Be aware of your patterns and learn your energy cycles. The more you can map your energy, the more you know how, when, and what to schedule.
For example, Sundays used to stress me out. For those who don't know, in Israel, Sunday is the first day of the workweek. It's like Monday, but a day early. I KNOW. I used to start the week in super stress until I acknowledged this awareness, and chose to take intentional action to create a slow Sunday ritual.
Now I start my week slow and savoring the day. It sets up the rest of my week for success. This tip relates not only to how you plan your days but how you plan your projects. The more you know yourself, the more you can leverage your natural energy cycles and focus on how you can efficiently spend your time.
5. Create consistent workflow containers. Read: Boundaries.
Make space in your schedule for NO distractions. Phone on airplane mode. No unwarranted notifications. Kids elsewhere. No email checking, no phone call answering, no coffee breaking. Just solid space to sit down and do the work.
Some people like to work in 45-minute bursts. I personally like a well-rounded 60 mins, capped off with a rewarding piece of chocolate or a 2-minute dance party at the end.
BONUS TIP: Schedule the same time every week to "meet" with a friend or a few. Every Thursday for 90 minutes, I meet online with a group of women. We do a quick check-in, and spend the rest of the time working on our books. It’s my favorite time of the week, and also an uber valuable time to work on my book, which is sometimes the only time I work on it.
If you're interested in this kind of creative space hit reply and let me know. I’m thinking to create a Monday Circle :)
6. Redefine your idea of "time," and cut yourself a break.
Time feels funny these days. It seems like the universal RUSH has crashed, and we've all been forced to slow down due to the global pandemic. It's also like we're flying ahead and at a complete standstill at the same time. First and foremost, ease out of the rush and the race, and give yourself permission to find your own pace.
This moment in time has amplified a crucial truth. The past is gone. The future is uncertain. The only time is now. What we choose to do NOW will support the future we want to create. If we hold on to our past, our future is limited. If we live in the present, our future is boundless.
Make sure you are investing your time today doing things that you love, nurturing connections, taking care of yourself, body and mind, and contributing to the world. Make time to follow what feels good.
7. Make time for the dirty work.
I have a million ideas at the tip of my tongue, and someone once told me: "Whenever you think of a new idea, imagine the next 100 steps you’ll need to take to make it happen. Is it where you want to be spending your time?"
I used to have an idea and just run with it. Yet this thought made me stop, collaborate (with myself), and listen. Was I factoring in all the nitty-gritty goodness that it takes to develop, strategize, and execute an idea successfully?
Before diving into any new project, ask yourself, are you ready to commit to those 100 steps? If yes, run with the wolves! If it feels like too much, listen. The idea will always be there. Make sure you choose to fully be there too.
The dirty work is real, and in order to get any project off the ground, we have to commit to it. But remember: Every project comes with emails, phone calls, meetings, emails to set up meetings, branding, content creation, copywriting, launching, updating websites, answering questions, creating processes, marketing, and of course, actually preparing a bomb-ass product or service as the end result. And don't forget the follow-up.
Don't let yourself drown in the dirty work. Execute with patience. Invest your energy wisely. If you don't feel excited about the dirty work, click and pass. Save your time and focus on your own path forward. You don't need to say YES to everything. And the more you're able to say NO to other projects that may swing your way, the more you say YES to your own dreams.
Distractions are like demons. They will always hunt you, follow you, come after you. But, with a little intention, discipline, and implementation, your focus will flow so you can flourish. So now the question is, which tip will you focus on first?