For some reason, I couldn’t quite grasp what Ann Smarty was talking about when she was in the pre-launch stage for her new work of love: MyBlogU.
Now, I get it.
This group interview was conducted via the new site … and the potential there is amazing. Writers, especially, you absolutely have to check it out.
I put out this general topic, via the MyBlogU “Interview” tab:
It is easy to get to the mountain … just keep walking in that direction (from an ancient wisdom story). How do you stay focused on your objectives? What are your best tips for productivity?
I then added a few specific questions, and the responses began coming in:
Q. Do you ever feel bombarded by possibilities and drawn away from the things that matter most? How important is it to stay focused — or is it beneficial to stay open to options?
It is always important to stay focused on your task. Otherwise, you will not be able to complete your task within time. At first, plan for your task to be done. Then keep some extra time to modify it. Before starting the work you can collect the opinions — but after starting a task, you have no room to stop for opinions.
A. Ann Smarty
Here’s one thing that really bugs me about “Things that matter most”: More often than not those are the least exciting! 🙂 To answer the question, being bombarded by the possibilities is something I am dealing with on a daily basis! I am not always doing the best job at being able to get focused on more important things (see my issue with them above) but I really believe in the serendipity principle: Don’t let any possibility pass because it may change your life!
As a result, I am probably doing much more than I really need to, but looking back, I don’t feel sorry. Every possibility and AHA moment (that may draw me away from something that is paying my bills) allows me to grow and enjoy building my career
As to how I am able to still get focused … Before going to sleep, I create a detailed to-do list of what I haven’t done. Sometimes it results in a less relaxing sleep at night, but it’s a great incentive to start my new day with those essential things I missed!
I feel bombarded by clutter rather than possibilities: Twitter, YouTube subscriptions, etc, etc. Those are distracting from really important things. It is really important to stay focused: I am using StayFocused for Google Chrome in order to stay on top of work and not to pay attention to other things. I also work from home which makes staying focused a lot harder …
A. Care Mycue
Feeling overwhelmed by too many ideas and not enough execution is an easy trap to fall in to. I personally wasted years before I saw clearly how my passion for new projects was undermining my ability to achieve solid results. I received some excellent productivity tips, modified them to fit my own needs, and as long as I stay on track with those strategies I consistently make great strides.
For me, it is important to straddle an open-but-focused mentality. This begins with an overarching goal for my life that is rooted in discovery as opposed to achievement: sort of my “North Star”. This intention serves to quickly and clearly inform my decisions regarding which ideas to explore and which project to commit to. It also gets me back on track if I get lost in the weeds.
Recognizing that the capacity to see a project through to fruition was essential towards building a successful business, I had to overcome some fierce conditioned resistance by maintaining a high degree of focus on a project even though I had lost interest in it.
That process of finishing it, even though I wasn’t going to use it as intended, was empowering. I understood something about the process of creating, and about me as a creator, that I never could have known otherwise. This single act served to hone my ability to identify suitable projects to work on, because they have to be ones I am willing to stick with despite resistance. This, in turn, helps to keep my productivity high.
So for me, I exercise unwavering focus with regard to my “North Star”, which is worded in a way that allows for great openness in terms of what ideas to explore. Once I commit to a project, I will see it through to the end even if aspects of it shift along the way.
A. Dave Rekuc
I find I will always have more ideas than I can act on. It’s healthy to re-evaluate your beliefs, but it’s counterproductive to jump from task to task every time you come up with a new idea. The best advice I ever heard on the topic was this: Busy executives add items to their to-do lists; effective executives cross items off their list. Focus on actually completing tasks rather than opening up new ideas. This is one of my weaknesses and I constantly have to focus on overcoming it.
To answer the first question simply – Yes.
It is both important to stay focused AND remain open to options. In both careers, staying focused is crucial to a project or task at hand. However, being so focused as to not see other possible options is going to far. There has to be a happy medium between the two.
So to properly answer this question I should really explain, briefly, what my days generally consist of. I hold a full-time CTO position at Intelagy, a Wall Street based business solutions company; along with running Rapid Purple – my own online presence consulting company and online blog filled with various webmaster resources and news.
So with that said, a big part of both my jobs requires for me to maintain an open mind to new ideas and concepts — while a big part of maintaining my personal sanity requires me to hold some sort of structure and planning amongst the various different tasks, objectives, and ideas that arise day-to-day. In the end you have to find this perfect balance, for yourself, that will allow you to have enough time to explore new possibilities and yet still stay focused on the important tasks at hand.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that staying focused is just as important as exploring. Google’s 20% time concept revolved around this same idea and that has turned out some amazing projects.
A. Phil Turner
My life is like a game of Rummy, a card game where you try to build sets of cards (eg 6,7,8 of hearts or 3 x 6’s). In the card game you try to keep as many possibilities open as possible. Life is just the same; I try to avoid closing off possibilties, sometimes (usually) waiting too long to close one off and focus on something else.
I don’t know that I am drawn away from the things that matter most, because one of those things to me is my creativity. I love it when my brain is buzzing trying to associate different concepts.
I am one of those people who remembers everything. I have a video player memory, and I can never close myself off to new options, though I do only develop one idea at a time now.
Q. What is your current primary work? How did you decide on it (or did it choose you)?
My current primary work is Software Development. This is my job! I try to stay focused on it and always try to get engaged with it just by writing new programs. Which gives me a feel of satisfaction and I get encouragement from my work. However, when I feel bored or tired, I try to think of something interesting.
A. Ann Smarty
I have four full-time projects currently. The most important one is working as a brand manager at InternetMarketingNinjas.com – I vote for it as my major commitment because the job there allows me to meet and work with so many great and smart people; it gives me so many opportunities and food for thought, that I couldn’t ask for me.
IMN chose me (I never looked for a job), I decided to give it a try and never felt sorry about my decision!
I am content writer: More often than not I am ghost-writing articles for clients. That’s something I have chosen and I love doing that. The only annoyance is really that I find it hard to get organized: When all you do is writing articles (and doing research often by reading other blogs and social media which is in itself very distracting), sometines with kids around – staying focused is hard!
A. Care Mycue
Currently I am a consultant helping budding entrepreneurs clarify their life and business goals, and identify the actionable steps necessary to get them unstuck and on track towards achieving their goals.
For the most part, I’d say I chose this path. When I surveyed the vast field of possibilities for my life’s work, this was one area where I had both personal expertise in and a natural aptitude for, so I knew I could be of great service.
There’s a great cubicle exodus happening right now, and I am thrilled to see so many people coming alive and exploring their potential. If successful, this entrepreneurial revolution is sure to transform the global economy by redistributing the gross imbalance of wealth and power that currently causes so much devastation on humanity and the environment.
While the entrepreneurial barriers to entry are substantially lower today than they have ever been, there remains a daunting challenge to overcome the mental, emotional, and psychological barriers that can undermine even our best intentions. If entrepreneurs don’t take some time to clarify and align their values with their ambitions, they run the risk of being 10 years into a business before they realize it wasn’t anything they really wanted to do. By then, the idea of starting over is deflating. They end up no closer to fulfillment then if they had just stayed at their desk job. This wasted opportunity is exactly what I help to mitigate. For me, for now, I can think of no greater use for my unique skills and talents.
A. Dave Rekuc
I’m a marketing director for an eCommerce agency. I chose a marketing major in college, but the digital world certainly chose me. I was sucked in by the allure of being able to measure everything (for better or for worse) and have never looked back. It’s hard for me to imagine a marketing world without mountains of data at my disposal and dozens of fun tools to help me do my research.
I work as a full-time IT Project Manager and part-time Freelance Writer.
I decided to be a Project Manager both by deciding and by it choosing me. My education qualified me and there was an opportunity at my company for the position. I am a very organized person who loves projects, so it made sense.
As a Freelance Writer, I chose it because I love to write. Once I had my first article published online, it gave me the confidence to jump on that bus for the real journey. I write for several sites, have my own clients, and am working on two different books. I love it!
A. Phil Turner
My current main objective is to develop a business to help teachers quit teaching and set themselves up as entrepreneurs or self-employed individuals. I did this myself, and I wish I had started the journey 20 years earlier than I did. I have set up Facebook and G+ groups for Escaping Teachers. Long-term I want to run real-world seminars for teacher-entrepreneurs.
Q. What are the 3 to 5 best tips you can offer for increasing success and developing productivity?
1. Do not take your task too seriously. Try to play with it, and then you will get enjoyment.
2. Be on time. Just remind this. If you are not on time then you are lagging behind. You need to work extra hours to be on time.
3. Productivity always counts. Nowadays, the definition of productivity has changed a bit. Now, quality is also required with efficiency. Try to become creative and maintain a standard.
A. Ann Smarty
1. Create a new to-do list daily. Never reuse the same one if something is not done! I am organized because I rewrite it on daily basis: It’s very refreshing and motivating. I start each new day with the new to-do list
2. If you feel tired or swamped or unable to get focused, don’t force it. Do something else (best thing: Go jogging). You’ll find yourself much more productive it you get inspired …
3. Don’t feel bad if some of your projects or tasks are failed. Every failure is the opportunity to grow. ALWAYS find the way to turn lemons into lemonade! One of my favorites @JomBoykin’s quotes is “I am sure in five years I’ll be able to say that I achieved everything DUE to this miserable failure.” That’s how my Internet Marketing Ninjas boss supported me after the My Blog Guest penalty, by the way!
If you are on your computer any amount of the day, try a tool you can use to take breaks. A couple of suggestions are: Focus Booster (based on the Pomodoro technique for productivity) and Time Out, (originally designed for taking time out every 10 minutes to give your eyes a break, followed by a get-up-and-stretch break). Any tool like this will give you a chance to refresh, refocus ,and restore your energy to stay focused.
- Use Todoist to manage your to-do lists (here’s a good review).
- Use calendars. I like iPhone calendar a lot: It also sends me reminders right to my laptop.
- Give yourself small rewards: After accomplishing a task allow yourself a funny Youtube video, for example. It’s important to look forward to something!
A. Care Mycue
At its core, productivity is about knowing what to say “Yes” to and knowing what to say “No” to. With that in mind, my best tips for developing productivity and increasing success begin and end with clarity.
- Identify an overarching intention for your life that aligns with your values and informs your everyday choices. Keeping this intention in mind helps you with the simplest of choices that will ultimately set you up for your highest success. For instance, if I know I have an important project to tackle after lunch, recalling my intention makes it easier for me to choose a salad for lunch instead of a veggie burger. This choice will set me up to be my most productive.
- Clearly defined goals and tasks result in greater success and productivity. As you list out your goals and tasks, make a note as to why it is important to your overall success, and how you will know when it’s complete. This will help you in multiple ways: first, you reinforce the reason for putting it on the list in the first place; second, you start with the end in mind; and third, when you look at it later you won’t waste time wondering why it’s important.
- Keep “planning/strategy” sessions separate from “execution” sessions. Each week identify what your goals are for that week, and create a high-quality task list. Then during the week, stay focused on executing the tasks on the list: don’t lose focus by rethinking the tasks. You are more likely to resist a task if you have to think it through again.
- Become aware of your personal rhythms, and then leverage them accordingly. In other words: When are you most creative? When are you better off doing mindless, repetitive tasks? Schedule your tasks accordingly.
- Lastly, only commit to projects you intend to follow through on, tackle the hard tasks first and save easier ones for when you are worn out, and connect weekly with a group of peers who can provide support, insight, and accountability.
(Okay, I cheated and threw three in that last one: but they are all important!)
A. Dave Rekuc
- For being successful: Learn how to do research in the 21st century. It’s such an unbelievably overlooked skill. Nearly everything I know in my profession comes from an obsession with discovering the truth and relentless searching. From SEO to Excel to Investing, if you need to learn something, just start reading.
- For being productive: Single task. Everyone wants to believe they’re the exception, that they can multitask without losing a step, but you can’t. You can’t text and drive without losing reaction time. and you can’t multitask without losing focus. Block out distractions and focus entirely on getting one thing done.
- For being successful: Embrace your weaknesses and account for them. Before sporting events, my Dad would sometimes put a drink in the freezer to cool down quickly. That way when he went to the basketball game, he’d have a cold beverage. But, my Dad knew he was forgetful, so he’d put his keys in the freezer too. That way, it was impossible to leave the drink in the freezer. He called it “Idiot proofing his life.” Let’s call it embrace your weaknesses instead.
Tip #1 actually goes back to a previous question — focus. Focusing on final objectives, along with the tasks needed to get there, is important to achieve goals. This also adds to being productive.
Tip #2 is persistence. Being persistent in achieving those goals even when things go awry or seem bleak is a key element in success, in my opinion.
Tip #3 is confidence. Having confidence in what you do and what you set your mind to do is both a personal as well as a professional trait that leads to success.
1. Keep a list. It sounds extremely simple but it works. In the office I have a white-board above my desk where I write out my to-do lists. This way as I sit and work I can always glance up and see what’s next on my list. Generally this same list will also be in my Wunderlist app (which runs on my iPhone and my Samsung tablet) which allows me to stay focused on all my tasks regardless if I am spending the day in meetings or at my desk.
2. Don’t just dive into the work load early morning. Take some time to sit back and visualize the big picture. Pick out the larger goals and prioritize your day.
3. Relax. Make sure your day has some breaks in it for you to relax and free your mind. Believe it or not this will keep you more focused and singificantly more productive.
A. Phil Turner
Productivity and success tips:
- Get up early: I get up at 4am when I am on a roll. The house is quiet and I get a ton of thinking done
- Get 90% of the project planning done before you start: This prevents false starts and means you always have the BIG picture in your mind when you are working on small parts of the project
- Know when to stop: There comes a point when the best thing you can do for your project development is to go to the gym, take a day off or just read a novel. If you keep working past this point you do more damage than good.
My end was simply to pose the questions, collect the answers, perform some light editing … and publish the article. What a timesaver!
But … speaking of time … I would love to pull out some of my favorite quotes and highlight them. I don’t have time, though 🙂
A HUGE “Thank you!” to all who participated.
P.S> I’ve a second Interview posted on MBU, looking for people who know about the path to becoming a professional Chef. If you’ve experience to share, please join the Interview: MBU Chef Interview