Have you ever given a kid a direction and by the time you finish the sentence you can tell by the look on their face, they have no idea what you just said? Or you send them to get something for you from the other room and they come back 20 minutes later doing something completely different and don’t even remember that you asked for anything in the first place? It has gotten to the point with my oldest that I think I say, ‘Dude, focus.’ About 15 times a day. There are other times though that I’ll give him and his brothers the green light to do something, build a dirt bike track in the woods for example, and they are at it for hours without deviation or complaint. There is something different enough between Please go down and grab my an extra box of tissues and Sure if you want to clear this out you can build a track that makes him lose focus on the one that would 8 seconds and keep focus on the other 4 hours straight.
Now, I could give you the typical top 10 focus items list:
- Clear distractions
- Set a timer
- Make a prioritized list
- Get into deep work
- Limit screen time
- Make the most of bonus minutes
- Create a weekly time to get tasks done
- Do the most difficult thing first
- Reward yourself for focus
- Just get it done
And all of that is true, but stopping at that just really isn’t my style. I mean think about it, did my big work for hours on a dirt bike track because he limited his screen time or because it fell into his weekly designated time, of course not. I see the same thing in myself too. I can look at the same email 15 times and not do anything with it but if you ask me to create a communication or training plan and I will clear my schedule and work a full day if that is what it takes to get it done. We all know the tips to a certain degree. They might have had different names or the how might be a little different but the message is the same. So why are we able to apply it to some things so easily and others it is like pulling teeth?
If it isn’t the lack of knowledge around the basics of getting things done, what is causing our lack of focus? I would say its at least one of three things. You either don’t want it enough, don’t understand what it takes, or don’t have a clear plan on how to get it. I would say that the vast majority of the time that you don’t get something done or don’t make progress on something is because we don’t want it enough. I know that sounds harsh and maybe like judgement but I am telling you it is not. I want my kids to have a dirt bike track, but not enough to spend hours building it. I want there to always be clean laundry but not enough to do wash, dry, fold, put away every day. I even want that email to be dealt with so that I can reward myself by deleting it, but not enough to actually spend the 10 minutes to actually get it done.
When you’re procrastinating on something, particularly something big, ask yourself;
- Do I know how to do this?
- Do I have a plan on how to get it done?
- Do I want it enough to do it?
OK but then what right? You’re thinking, I know how to answer the email, I have a plan, and no I don’t really want to do it. Now what Genius because I still need to get it done. I would recommend thinking of it as a piece of a bigger plan that you do want enough. Maybe you want a promotion. Maybe you want to be seen as the expert on X topic. Maybe you want Mom to say yes when you ask for a cookie before dinner (ahem… get the dang tissues). Every single task isn’t going to be earth shattering work that accomplishes a deep aspiration, but things still need to get done. Try that if you’re habitually procrastinating on a specific task or type of task. Figure out how it fits into the bigger picture of a goal that does light you up. Then start. Just take that first step. There is no magic bullet step or tip or key that will get the things done for you so you will need to just get it done.