How to stay focused on what matters

One fact is sure in our lives: there is apparently way too many things to do compared to the time we do have available.
There is so much to do both at the workplace and at home that we think that we "have to deal with compromise."
In fact, there are many subjects we'd love to turn our thoughts to but have to recognize that we just don't have time.
Some of you may beat themselves up by telling themselves that "they should concentrate on the job in hand!"
On one side of the spectrum, labels come in. As in "procrastinator." Or "ADD" (for Attention Deficit Disorder). Or "victims."
On the other side, I know of people who try to keep up with all by behaving like superman or superwoman, only to discover that they are human persons with human limits. This can go very far, and become very destructive.

So, what to do to escape that deadly trap?

It is all in your mental attitude. Let's have a look.

Identify what matters to you

You can't be good in something if there is no passion. If you see no sense in what you do, ask yourself why you do it. What do you contribute to that makes you feel good? What's the meaning?
Look deeply. Do you want to be a good little soldier? That's not going to make you fly.
Being oneself is not that easy for most of us. It takes courage. It takes guts.
Make a list of the 20 "must do" things. And look at it deeply. Are these really "musts?" What is more like a "I do it because I don't want to upset someone?" or "I do it because that's always been the way I have done it?"

Look where you are strong and build from there

You aren't going to become more effective by leveraging your limitations. You'll become more effective by leveraging your strengths.
This may mean letting go of tasks you hate doing and outsourcing them. What about leveraging your business strengths to make more money and pay for the lawnmower man? Same for ironing, cleaning the floor and so on.
This may not come from day one but if you put your mind on that, it may happen faster than you think. Until you really trust your skills to deliver the extra means, there is no way out.

Take care of yourself first

How someone could be achieving stellar results while at the same time treating him or herself like crap is beyond me.
Do you believe you are special for yourself? Do you give you little gifts regularly? Like a massage, a walk in the park you like, or sharing time with people you enjoy being with? And I mean without guilt.
You can't genuinely help other people if you do not know how it is to help yourself.

Thank yourself when you achieve

Give you a little gift when you achieve a goal. And do it, don't forget, don't pass. It is a little habit that will help you lift mountains. It sure does for me!

Squash your limiting beliefs

Make a list of what you think you aren't allowed to do. I mean things that stay within ethical and lawful boundaries. Like in "I am not allowed to let the grass grow wild on weekends," or in  "I am not allowed to focus on the future because the present screams at me," or "I am not allowed to work less than 8 hours a day," or "I am not allowed to rest even if I am tired to death."
Do you have beliefs like that? Throw them out of window, they do you no good. Seek the reasons why you have those. Are they really yours? Have you been brainwashed in thinking that way?

Invest in your growth

One sure way to keep the motivation high and stand up to adversity is to invest in your own growth.
Did you read a skill-growth centered book or picked up a skill and followed through last month?
For example, I invested some time on how to use InkScape, a piece of software for drawing vector graphics. This gave me more confidence with such graphic work, and generally making me much more educated on graphical matters. So that I can express my thoughts and points with more impact.
Did you attended a workshop (even an on-line workshop) to understand something that can help you become a better you?
A continuous, growth centered investment regimen will do marvels for your self esteem. And better self esteem sure helps in focusing on what matters like a laser beam.

Optimize the chores and throw the crap out

Let's face it, there will also be a ton of chores to be attended to in life. We can either let them linger or let them take over our lives.
Isn't there another path? Yes: getting good at them so that they take much less time to do. Standardization to the rescue. For example I bought two dishwashers. When there is way too much to clean, these are a huge help.
Another thing is to get rid of broken things right away and not let them accumulate. A broken cup? Out to the trash. A pen that does not work anymore: trash! Objects are either in working condition or they are out. This may lead you to buy only high quality goods. More expensive, granted. But they help in staying focused. In the war "objects" vs "us", I am sure of one thing: "objects" aren't going to win!
I am not going to tell you here how I run my chores in detail but know that I've been quite harsh on reducing the burden. Outsourcing them is great as long as you can specify clearly what you want.
And stop brining in new "stuff." Do we really need yet another set of glasses, dishes, and the like? Do we really need yet another computer, peripheral, printer? More often than not, the answer is a resounding NO. Part of stopping crap mounting up is to stop it from coming in.

Don't overbook yourself and make your estimates twice the size

A big item in being able to focus on what matters is to stop thinking that overbooking yourself is the key to productivity. It is not.
So, stop planning time slices back to back. It doesn't work, will not work, and will never work no matter what.
Instead, pick three key objectives for your day and work on those. You'll feel good about having achieved them. There may be hundred things that scream for your attention. Well, you know what?
They will not all win.
Only three will. The three you selected. The three you find important. The three that give you back control on your life. And by "only" doing three, you'll be much better off than trying to do 100. "Doing 3" trumps "trying to do 100."
Also, makes your estimates twice the size. Especially if you are "trying to do 100." (In which case, you may want to make your estimate x5 or x10).
Estimates are usually done in "perfect days" without disruptions, attention drifts, and general mood swings. Make it twice the time and book your schedule accordingly.

Get help if you are in a medical condition because no amount of advice can cure that

All of the above advice is not applicable if you are suffering from a medical condition like depression.
Burnout also counts as medical condition.
In that case, the top priority is to call your health professional to get help and treatment.
There are sure signs of depression (latent or manifest) and that needs proper help.


So, let's now summarize the points to stay focused on what matters:
Identify what matters to you, look where you are strong and build from there, take care of yourself first, thank yourself when you achieve, squash your limiting beliefs, invest in your growth, optimize the chores and throw the crap out, don't overbook yourself and make your estimates twice the size, and get help if you are in a medical condition because no amount of advice can cure that.
So, to increase your focus on what matters for you, just pick one area in the list above and make something happen there for a week.
And then, repeat.
You'll be astonished by how much better you'll end up in three months.