The digital age we live in is making it more difficult to stay focused on what we want and what really matters.
According to a study done in 2016, the average American adult spends 2 hours, 51 minutes on their smartphone every day. That’s almost 86 hours a month! That figure does not include time spent on tablet devices or on laptops or desktop computers surfing the internet.
With so many social media platforms, video streaming services and news outlets available to us, our ability to stay focused on what matters most in our lives is becoming increasingly difficult. Our attention span, which is linked to our ability to focus, has reduced greatly in recent years.
The choices available to us will only continue to increase as more services or new technologies are introduced. It’s predicted that in a few years time, most of the content we consume will be via videos, so it will be even easier to be distracted.
Today, being able to stay focused is closely tied to our ability to eliminate distractions. This is why knowing how to eliminate distractions and stay more focused is going to be critical if we want to make progress faster and get things done that really matter.
Have you ever met anyone who is unclear about what they really want in life?
Common responses when people are asked what they want in life include:
- Have more money.
- Be happy.
- Spend more time with their families.
- Get a better job.
- Have a successful career.
Most times, the responses people give are not what they really want but what they feel obligated or responsible to do. Going through life not knowing what we really want will very rarely lead to a meaningful and fulfilling life.
The challenge is those who are not clear on what they want have not given themselves the opportunity to discover what they really want. One of my mentors often says, “Most people are tiptoeing through life hoping to make their way to death safely.”
It’s often said that in order to become better at solving problems or be more creative, we have to be willing to think outside the box.
What this means is sometimes our usual way of thinking may not get us to the result or solution we are looking for, so we have to do things we don’t normally do.
Thinking “inside the box” refers to a predictable way of evaluating things. When we are thinking inside the box, it can stifle our creativity, delay the completion of tasks or projects, and fail to generate new ideas.
On the other hand, thinking outside the box can:
- Lead to new innovative ideas or solutions.
- Generate new levels of excitement or enthusiasm.
- Accelerate the achievement of goals.
- Develop higher levels of confidence.
- Help us become better problem solvers.
If thinking outside the box has many advantages, how do we it?
We make many decisions every day and our criteria for making them often vary depending on our current priorities.
Sometimes the decisions we need to make can be simple or obvious, whereas as other times, there many be a number of factors we have to take into account before we can make an intelligent decision.
One factor that can helps us choose our priorities better or make decisions that will serve us, both in the short and long term, is by considering opportunity costs.
What is Opportunity Cost?
Opportunity cost is also referred to as competing interests. It’s the cost of giving up an alternate activity while a person engages in a current activity. It’s the comparison of the value of one activity against another.
Using a typical everyday example, say a person has the choice of either spending two hours of an evening watching television or spending that time learning a new skill that will help them in the future. The opportunity cost of watching television may be deemed to be high by the person compared to the future benefits of acquiring a new skill.
In that case, because the opportunity cost of watching television is higher than learning the new skill, it’s very likely the person will choose to invest that time learning the new skill.
Sometimes opportunity cost is determined by a sense of loss. A person may imagine, by doing a particular activity, they may lose something else in the meantime.
Knowing how to use opportunity cost better can speed up our decision-making process and also reduce the amount of mental energy used when evaluating options prior to making decisions.
Have you ever made a decision based on what other people would think of you and your decision, instead of what you really wanted to do or have?
It’s not uncommon for us to be influenced by other people’s opinions especially if we’ve been conditioned to worry about “what the neighbours will say” or “what will they think.”
While there are times when taking advice from others who may have more knowledge or experience than us can be useful, most times, we should choose what will be best for us or move us closer to a goal we want to achieve without violating the rights of others.
Motivational speaker Les Brown often says, “Don’t let someone else’s opinion of you become your reality.”
The dangers of being concerned about other people’s opinions include:
- We’ll be easily influenced by others.
- We won’t develop our decision-making abilities.
- We’ll always be looking for approval or validation for things we want to do or have in life.
- We won’t be as self-confident as we want to be.
- We wont challenge ourselves to set lofty goals.
While everyone is entitled to their thoughts or opinions, ultimately, we’re responsible for doing what we think is best for us.
One of the best ways to leverage our time is to find people who are willing to do things we’re not good at or things we should not be doing.
In order to do our best work, we have to be willing to spend more time doing our highest-value activities and find ways to reduce the amount of time we spend doing low-value activities.
As a business owner, low-value activities may include:
- Doing administrative work such as checking emails, checking invoices, paying bills etc.
- Booking travel.
- Going to the post office.
- Updating social media accounts.
- Shopping for office supplies.
There are many more things that could be added to the list. One activity that is worth doing is to make note of all the activities we do during a typical week and how much time we spend doing them. Then we can calculate how much it’s costing us each week to do those activities and whether it would be more beneficial to hire others who could do those activities better and quicker than us.
This is where having a team is vitally important. In today’s world, there is no need to have staff members work in the same office or space as us. With all the tools available now, having a virtual team can be a much better and cheaper option for most businesses.
Our work environment has a major effect on our mental, emotional and physical well-being. The better our work environment, the better we will perform.
As we spend close to a third of our lives working, it’s important to design our work environment so that it can support us to be at our best consistently. If our work environment is set up the way we want it to be, it can greatly enhance our effectiveness and assist us in achieving what we want faster, easier and with less effort.
If our work environment is not the way we’d like it to be, it can cause us to:
- Feel agitated or frustrated when working.
- Generate unproductive thoughts.
- Use up valuable mental energy focusing on what we don’t like about our work space.
- Take longer to get things done.
- Appear to be untidy or messy to our team members or work colleagues.
Setting up our work environment to enhance our personal effectiveness does not have to be difficult or time consuming.
When things don’t go our way or we don’t achieve our goals when we expect to, it can be very easy to start questioning our abilities or intelligence.
We often tend to be our harshest critic and unless we have a healthy level of self-confidence and self-esteem, criticising ourselves will only cause us to feel worse.
It’s rare that while in the pursuit of something meaningful and worthwhile, things will always work out to plan. It’s inevitable we’ll make mistakes, which may lead to unexpected challenges and roadblocks.
It’s during such times that we need to remind ourselves we did our best and still have the knowledge, skills and abilities we had prior to making those mistakes. What we learn from such experiences will be invaluable as we pursue bigger goals in the future.
One or multiple failures does not define our level of intelligence. If we’re in the habit of making the same type of mistakes over and over, then we really need to question what we’re doing. On the other hand, if we’re doing certain things on a regular basis to improve ourselves, then those are signs of a smart person.