Staying focused - an important time management technique (article)


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If you are too busy to concentrate on one task at a time, then this free article by Derek Stockley about the benefits of staying focussed may help.

It is very easy to become distracted

I was recently reviewing some time management training material and I came across the actual words for a story that I had seen many years ago. It was a powerful story. I have remembered it on many occasions when the scenario depicted has started to happen to me.

The story goes like this:

"A farmer told his wife he would plough the north field the next day. In the morning he went out to oil the tractor, but he found he was low in oil, so he went to the storage shed to get some. On the way he noticed that the chickens had not been fed. He went to the corn crib to get some corn, where he saw some sacks on the ground. That reminded him that the potatoes needed sprouting, so he started toward the potato pit to sprout the potatoes. On the way, he passed the wood pile which reminded him that he had to take some kindling to the house. He had picked up a few sticks when an ailing lamb passed by. He dropped the wood and reached for the lamb. He ....."

Source Unknown

This quote deals with critical time management issues on many levels. It covers the importance of focus, conflicting priorities and the need to differentiate between the urgent and the important.

Maintaining Focus

The key message for me is the 'C' word - concentration. It is related to other key concepts like key result areas and priorities. But the key is concentration - where ever possible, the message is to concentrate on one task at a time.

I am a 'morning person'. That means that I am most productive, more creative and work better in the morning. Other people are 'afternoon' or 'evening' people.

This means that I, along with all other 'morning' people, should try to do my/our creative and/or important tasks in the morning.

The major task for the day for the farmer was to plough the field. In terms of 'must do", 'should do' and 'could do', it was his major 'must do' for the day. His lack of personal focus meant that he was diverted on to 'shoulds' and 'coulds'. We do not know the end of the story, but we can all reasonably expect that the farmer did not finish ploughing the field. You might believe as I do that he did not even start.

Interruptions

It takes a conscious effort to control interruptions. There are many techniques, but the important issue is the question:

Is the interruption more important than the task I am doing right now?

Wherever possible, interruptions should be eliminated or at least delayed. If you are interrupted, asking the question listed above helps.

I find that an interruption free hour produces as much output as two or three hours of interrupted time.

Conclusion

Controlling distractions and interruptions, even self-imposed ones, has major time management benefits. Your personal productivity can rise significantly if you focus on one important task at a time.

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