Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Focus Formula

"I have such trouble getting started on a task, and then I have trouble stopping. The only easy bit is the middle." 
The frustration expressed by my client is something that I hear often. Perhaps you can relate? - The hardest part of doing something is actually getting started. There could be several reasons for this challenge. First, as a Big-Picture, Global thinker you may find it hard to break jobs down into chunks, and establish an entry point. Secondly, if the task is difficult or boring, you could find yourself engaging in all manner of procrastination. And the list goes on. This four-point plan has proved to be very useful with many of my clients. I call it the Focus Formula.

1. Plan
If the thought of planning makes you shudder, you're not alone. Read my previous blog post on planning. For the purpose of the Focus Formula, you need to be specific about what you will be doing. Set aside some time and commit to using it for the task. Then, decide what part of the task you will work on. For example, instead of planning to "do your tax tomorrow", identify what you need to start with and when you will do it: "I will get all of my receipts out of the shoebox and sort them into categories tomorrow at 11."
2. Set Up
In order to make the assigned time productive, you need to set the task up independently from doing it. Get the shoebox of receipts out and put it on your desk. Ask yourself what else you will need to sort them. Will you need a pen and paper to make notes, for example? Have everything ready, and then walk away from the desk. Even a 10 minute break for a cup of tea will suffice. Keeping the Set Up separate prevents it from becoming a long-winded procrastination tool.
3. Sprint
ADHD brains are generally good sprinters. The thought of spending 5 hours on a tax return will fill them with dread. But they can blitz a 30 minute sprint. So make a deal with your brain - that you will give it a break in 30 minutes. Then get to work. After 30 minutes you have 2 options. You may find that you have hit the Focus Zone, and would like to keep working. If that it the case, keep at it. The Focus Formula has succeeded. However, if your brain demands the break as promised, you need to honour that. But before you walk away from the task, there is one more step:
4. Brain Dump
I have discussed the Brain Dump in some detail in a previous blog post. Essentially, it is an valuable tool to use when you are stopping partway through a task. If you walk away from incomplete work, the chances are that it will feel like starting all over again when you return. And you could hit the same brick wall. So take the time to make a note of what you need to do next. In doing so, you are creating the next entry point. When you return to the task, it will be easier to get started on your next 30 minute sprint.

The Focus Formula can be used to get started on any task that is less that tantalising. Housework, paperwork, studying and many other activities can be conquered in 30 minute sprints - until you hit the Focus Zone. 

Try it out, and let me know how you go.

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