I have seen the scenario play out a thousand times before: Your to-do list is pages long and your email box is overflowing, yet you keep finding yourself being pulled into YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. You know deep down that you should be working on more important things, and that time is in short supply, but why do you keep getting sidetracked and playing on your phone? Is that cat video more important than your quarterly goals? Of course not! But there is a very good reason why you struggle to stay focused and on task at work.
You Shouldn't Be Doing The Tasks on Your To-Do List
One of the biggest reasons that you have trouble focusing is because the things on your to-do list really shouldn't be there. Think about the work you did last week.
How many hours were spent in meetings that were non-productive?
How many emails did you answer that really didn't require any action on your part?
How many reports did you create or read that had absolutely no impact on the bottom line?
How many fires did you put out?
How many hours did you spend doing office work you could pay someone $25/hour or less to do (filing, faxing, copying, typing, shipping, cleaning, etc.)?
How much time did you spend handling low-level requests from team members?
Deep down, you know that these tasks are a waste of your time, so subconsciously you look for ways to get out of doing them. Which means that you might spend hours a day on Twitter instead of working on your business. Now imagine what it would be like to come into the office and have only a few, high-level tasks on your to-do list. They would likely be challenging and thought-provoking, and you would know that making progress on those items would have a positive impact on your business and your bottom line. The tasks at hand are suddenly more exciting that the latest cat video on Twitter.
Change the Way You Work
The best way to get a handle on your time and start focusing on the things that matter is to be very strategic and deliberate with the things that make it to your to-do list. Delegate and design out whenever possible, so that your list becomes more focused. Over time, this should become easier and easier. If you find yourself falling into your old habits, like reaching for your phone in the middle of the afternoon, stop and review your list and see where you can make cuts. If you continue to wander, put the phone down and go for a walk instead. The mental break will do you some good, and allow you to return to your desk refreshed and ready to tackle a higher level project or task.
It will take time, but it's worth the effort. The cat videos can wait, but your business can't.