Published March 27, 2006

Work Productivity with Laser Focus

When I work from home, I sometimes find it hard to focus. Some of my business-owning friends feel the same way. Some of them can't step away from Dr. Phil. Others have young children to take their minds off of their work. Others struggle with the Solitaire game on their computer. For me, it's thinking and building businesses in my mind: very enjoyable but not always productive!

I've found that there are two kinds of focus that can help me: There's a scatter-focus and a laser-focus. The scatter-focus is when I'm checking emails, browsing the Internet and generally doing work that needs to be done but doesn't require 100% of my brain. Usually it's work that's not pressing, but still needs to happen in order to run my business. I call it "scatter-focus" because I'm still working but I'm able to do a lot at once because it's not overly demanding and it doesn't require absolute silence. I can handle interruptions while I'm working with a "scatter-focused" mindset.

Then there's the other kind of focus: the Laser focus.

I call it laser focus because my attention needs to be a very tight beam, like a laser beam. When I'm focused like this, I can work for a long time on one project. When this happens, I turn off my phone, shut my office door and devote a period of time to working with this focus. Here's how I get more done with a laser-focus mindset:

I block out a laser-focus time and when I get there I ask myself, "What's the most important thing to do right now?" The answer is usually a major project with a looming deadline. Once I know, I gather all the materials and resources I need to do the job, I visit the washroom and make sure my coffee cup is full, then I shut my door, turn off my phone and start working. I work steadily for 50 minutes then I take a 10 minute break. If I've scheduled longer than an hour at a time, I work 50 minutes and take a 10 minute break each time.

Try it! You'll be amazed at how much work you can do like that.

Here's how you can prepare ahead of time:

When you're scheduling the time that you'll be in your office doing your work (for example, as opposed to meeting clients or vendors or spending time at a tradeshow), block off time in two colors: one color represents your scatter-focus time, the other color represents your laser-focus time.

For your scatter-focus time, list all the things you can do during that time. That's about all you have to do for this time of focus, because you'll be able to do it in any order you'd like, as long as you get it all done. It's fairly relaxed.

For your laser-focus time, list all the things you need to do, then prioritize them from most important and most urgent to least important and least urgent. Beside each item, write down the amount of time you think it will take. This is a great success step that most people don't do, but by writing down a time-oriented goal, you'll give yourself something to shoot for. Your estimates may be way off at first, but you'll improve over time and that time-goal will help you remain focused as you try to prove your estimate was correct.

I'm not the next Stephen Covey and I know that this idea won't win any productivity awards, but I do know that it works for me and many others. It's a great way to help you get your work done quickly, accurately, and on time.