Maintaining focus on the work at hand is one of the most critical keys to being productive on a daily basis. Even as someone with a daily focus on productivity improvement both professionally and personally, it is impossible to not have times when grand plans go off the rails. In most cases you expect to learn from those mistakes, but in some cases the mistakes just seem to come back again and again. I'm willing to admit to the most common recurring mistake I run into in my systems...a lack of focus.
What should I be doing now?
Executing the right things at the right times in the right ways is a great approach to being productive when it's applied consistently. Where things go off the rails is when there are too many things in motion and you fail to focus on the work at hand. Most everyone has multiple things going on at one time. Balancing the work while still maintaining forward momentum can be an effort even greater than the work itself.
Keeping everything on track
Let's take a common situation for me. I'll need to write an article, update newsletter content, think yet again (and unsuccessfully) plan a new podcast episode, all while giving priority to billable work for my clients. While I'm on billable work it's not difficult to focus since there's an inherent incentive in getting those tasks done. It's the other work that struggles from a lack of focus. Balancing writing, podcasting, promoting, and general administration fragments focus and results in some, but not nearly enough, getting done.
How to battle a lack of focus
There are a number of techniques you can use to encourage focus. The Pomodoro technique of time sprints help some people (not so much me but I've seen it work for others.) Checklists, Kanban task boards, and workflows all can help. I've found one thing that works for me on a fairly consistent basis. When I can feel my focus drifting I ask, "What should I be doing that creates the greatest long term value for me?" This doesn't preclude the "necessary evil" tasks. The purpose is to help get back to being productive right away rather than spending time completely resetting.
Productive focus is a method not an objective
Striving to develop a productive level of focus is not an objective in of itself but rather a way to improve the execution of tasks and plans by staying on target and moving in the right direction. Make sure when you achieve focus you've already identified the right things on which to focus.
How do you maintain focus on your work. Any tips you can share? Tell me about them in the comments.