Last week my post was all about Being not Doing and sometimes that can be easier said than done. In fact, we are so programmed to ‘do’ stuff and multitask that we have to re-learn how to focus on just one thing at a time.

So this post is all about how to FOCUS and how this can help you become more present, and actually more productive in the process.

focusBack in the good old days multi-tasking was seen as the way to be productive. In my many administrative roles being able to answer the phone whilst typing a document and filing something just proved how good you were at your job. I seemed to be able to concentrate on lots of different things and still get them all done with time to spare and with little or no stress at all.

So what’s changed and why doesn’t this juggling act seem to work as well anymore?

Well, what’s changed is technology and our use of it. We have access to more information in a few minutes now than we would have had in a few weeks or months 20 years ago and we also feel we should be constantly available with mobile phones and social media able to suck us time away into a black hole without any problem at all. And if you have kids it’s a whole extra issue! They want the answer to everything NOW because Google knows everything. Seriously, I once overheard my 6 year old saying “OK Google, how do I make a stink bomb?”…

How often have you got to the end of the day and realised that you haven’t actually finished anything on your ‘To Do’ list because you have been flitting backwards and forwards between chatting on Facebook, sending out tweets, reading an article or two all whilst trying to do some real work at the same time? I know that I have been a victim of this more often than I care to admit and it’s not a healthy way to work – or live.

So now it is no longer about multi-tasking, but about single-tasking and completing one job at a time, or listening to your kids without trying to unload the dishwasher at the same time. By focusing your attention on the job at hand you can actually achieve MORE than by trying to do ten things at once (she says just as her mobile phone chimes with a message which I am not going to check) and succeed in being present, rather than missing half of what you are doing (it’s Being not Doing remember!). Trying to swap backwards and forwards between tasks actually takes up more brain power, so no wonder you feel drained at the end of a day when you’ve juggled 20 things.

It’s time to learn how to focus, and here are three things that you can do to help:

1. Start each day with a ‘To Do’ List – I have a ‘Must Do’ list that consists of 3 things per day. I always feel better when I can cross off all three and then get on to more tasks on my general ‘to do’ list. If you don’t have a good printable here’s one from Suzy Homemaker. Three is a good number for me, but you can increase or decrease this if you really want – whatever works for you, just don’t overdo it.

2. Set aside a time for each task – I try to break my day into half hour slots so that I know that I can get up from my desk and put the washing on if I need to, but only once my half hour is finished. It also helps me be more present once the kids are home because I know that I only have a limited amount of time with them each day. This not only allows me to focus on one thing, but it increases my attention span which I have discovered is a lot shorter than it ever used to be!

3. Clear your distractions – Turn off your mobile and log out of email and social mediaOK, so this is definitely the hardest for me, but not answering a text immediately or checking whether my mates in Australia have read my last message is not going to kill me. I make sure to set aside time for these once I have completed my three ‘must do’ tasks of the day and spent some quality time with my kids. I get them to do the same and amazingly when they are not looking at their tablets or the TV I actually find out some really cool stuff.

If you start with these tips then you will gradually find that you become more and more productive. You can also use the focus of single-tasking into your daily life to bring your stress levels down and really enjoy what you are doing.

It takes practice but I know you can do it.

H x