Keep Focused: Step 6 of the 7 Step Maximum Productivity Process

6th in a series of articles outlining my 7 Step Maximum Productivity Process.
Click here if you’d like to start at Step 1.

keep focusedIf you have come to this post after working on the first 5 steps, well done!

So far we have worked on getting into the right mindset, determined goals, mapped out the actions to these goals, set priorities and laid out your schedule. At first glance it appears that the ‘hard work’ is done — and so much of it is, especially if you have really worked through each step; but for many the ‘hard work’ is keeping with the routine and focusing on the priorities and goals.

The challenge for many women — women like us that want to live a full life and achieve many wonderful, wide ranging things for ourselves and our families — is to develop the practice of believing in ourselves: that we are worthy, that what we want is valid and achievable and that we won’t give up when we get scared or have a failure.

Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging. Brené Brown

In my life I have done so many wonderful things and achieved a lot, but to be perfectly honest, until now, none of my actions were  strategically planned out. There are many goals that I didn’t ever achieve — some that were never even identified, but there in my heart and never realised. Opportunities arose and I went with them.  I worked really hard to do well in many things, but with no real plan. What’s changed for me now? There isn’t one thing in particular that led me to be more focused and increase my self belief. There has been a number of things that have come together — and for most people it would be the same.  Having children that you want to be the best role model for, dealing with REALLY difficult people, losing loved ones of all ages, feeling that your own time is running out, discovering a spirituality that rings true with you, etc. For some it includes finding the right ‘path’; via a book, article, teacher, therapist or consultant that you are working with that sparks something inside of you.

As I’ve mentioned in many of the posts before, it’s important that you have a daily ritual to keep you in the right mindset and focused on what is real and true for you.  In this step we will work on expanding that practice further to develop your self worth and confidence to allow you to keep focused on the activities you need to do each day to achieve your most important goals.

Step 6: Keep focused on what you are scheduled to do today

  • At the beginning of each day, take 15 minutes to get into a positive mindset and focus on the specific tasks for the day. See what works for you: positive affirmations, yoga, meditation, EFT (tapping), formal review of your schedule and action plan, visualization, etc. You need to decide if you will do this when you wake up or when you start the ‘work’ part of your day (after your shower, after the kids have left for school, when you sit down at your computer, etc.) or at both times.
    • Before I get out of bed, I start the day with positive affirmations, like in the Brené Brown quote above, “No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.” Then I think through all the things that I am grateful for and put out loving ‘vibes’ to all the people involved and to myself. (Until now, gratitude and love were things there in the back of my mind, but since I have been more deliberate in practising gratitude and showing love (even for myself) on a daily basis, I am much more focused, clear thinking — and joyful.)
    • When I am at my desk, after the kids are off to school or whenever my scheduled personal tasks for the early morning are completed, I take 15 minutes to review what I am scheduled to do for the day to get myself focused and into ‘business mode’.
  • Throughout the day, focus on the task at hand and when you are finished move on to the next scheduled task, which should be the next in order of priority or required because of a deadline set..  If you run out of time and haven’t finished a task, reschedule based on the priorities you have determined.
    • Keep to your ‘Day-Tight Schedule’. If you find that you are thinking about other things or starting to do other things, get your focus back on to the specific task you are supposed to be working on.  If this happens often, perhaps you need to set a time in the middle of your day to look at the schedule and confirm your priorities and that you are focused on the right things. Or better yet, take that time to meditate or read something to bring back your self belief and confidence in the decisions you have already made.
    • Reduce distractions. Don’t check emails throughout the day, but only at schedule times. Turn off the TV, radio, social media, etc. unless it’s required for your task — though I do find the right music helps me focus, but not ‘talk radio’. Switch off the phone (or set to vibrate if you need to be available for urgent matters) and only take make calls at  scheduled times.  Turn off notifications on your phone and computer; unless you are using them to remind you when it’s time to move on to the next task, but not for when you’ve received a social media message or general emails. Don’t be tempted to take on a quick unscheduled task, but stay focused on what you’ve already planned. Don’t do personal tasks when you are scheduled to do work tasks and vice versa.  This not only makes you more productive, but also gives you peace of mind.
  • At the end of each day, take 15 minutes to review what you have completed and acknowledge all that you have accomplished and how much closer you are to meeting your goals and look forward to the good work you will do the following day. Similar to the start of the day, you may to choose to do this when you finish your ‘work day’, just before you go to sleep or at both times.
    • At the end of my ‘work day’ I review the ‘work’ items that I’ve completed and what I have scheduled for the following day. I review how effective the scheduling was and if anything needs adjusting (more on that in the last step, next week).
    • Before I go to sleep, I reflect on all that I accomplished during the day and give gratitude and appreciation to myself and all the people I dealt with during the day — even if it wasn’t a positive interaction. I don’t like to think about my ‘to dos’ for the next day just before sleep because I will think about them through the night. (It may seem like there’s a lot of gratitude and love going on in my mind, but it’s something that I wasn’t doing before that has really made a big difference in creating a positive mindset — and I think it’s something I feel is important to share and practice with my children.)

 Next week we come to the final step, Step 7, where we do a bit of shuffling.

What to watch out for…

Scheduling, mapping, defining….? Does it all sound a bit too stiff and structured?
When developing this process, I had voices in the back of my head telling me that there would be people that wouldn’t like all this structure, but for most of us we won’t accomplish our goals without some planning — and when you have lots of goals, especially if they are very challenging, you need to be more structured.  I schedule when to have a shower (or I won’t have time to get presentable to face the world) and when to have lunch (if I don’t plan for lunch, I eat rubbish and then feel like rubbish).  You may not need to do that.  You may not need to schedule every action and just schedule in blocks of time to work on your ‘business’ in general or schedule some specific activities and some ‘free’ time to do what you like — but you need to get real with yourself if you aren’t moving forward toward your goals without more structure.

If this all seems too much like hard work, school or a 9 to 5 job for you; look at it from a viewpoint that works better for you:

  • an artistic person might ‘design’ her day with beautiful and creative calendar and notes;
  • an analytic person might view this all as ‘data’ and manage it with charts and apps for reminders;
  • a more social person will spend more time working with others and may work as a team rather than solo;
  • a highly spiritual person might use it as a way to be more mindful in all things and have more time for reflection.

Use this process as a base for your own and tailor it to suit your personality and your needs.

7 Day Challenge for the Week

Each day, practice what you’ve built in the previous steps:

  1. Be mindful that you don’t have to get EVERYTHING done today, just the things that you have determined that you will do today — to the very best of your ability.
  2. Focus on your highest priority goals…
  3. …and the actions required to meet those goals.
  4. Stick with your day-tight schedule.
  5. Plan for the near and distant future

Keep focused on what you are scheduled to do each day:

  • At the start of the day, or the time you’ve allocated for work, spend 15 minutes reviewing what specific tasks you are going to focus on doing that day.
  • Throughout the day, be present and focused on the task you are working on.  When that task is completed or you’ve finished the time allotted, move on to the next scheduled task.
  • At the end of the day, or the time you’ve allocated for work, spend 15 minutes reviewing what you’ve completed and congratulate yourself.  Determine which tasks you will be focusing on the following day.
  • At these times, or other points of the day that suit you; use affirmations, meditation or another practice to get yourself in a positive mindset where you feel worthy and confident in the goals and schedule you have laid out.

Any questions or challenges, please leave a comment below.
Do you have any tricks to maintain your schedule that I haven’t mentioned?!