For someone who loves planning, I do wonder whether it is the process of planning that I enjoy rather than following the plan, as I often struggle with sticking to my plan.
Over the last year, I have created many 90 day, monthly, weekly, and daily plans. Most have become redundant as soon as something new and shiny distracts me. The distraction can be anything from receiving a shopping catalog in the post, to receiving an email, to something I see on TV. All can lead me to a video or google article that then leads me to another and then another. Before you know it, I am down a rabbit hole not knowing why I even started looking at but have lost a couple of hours in the process.
Or I will think of something that I had forgotten to do. So I decide to do it while I remember. That causes me to lose my train of thought about what I was doing. Before I know it I can’t get back onto the important stuff I was working on before I got distracted. I take a break and make a cup of tea, then see something else I should do, and off I go again!
I don’t think the planning, or the to-do lists, are the problem as if I didn’t create them I would be starting each day without any purpose. But maintaining my focus so that I stick to what I intended to do is a massive problem.
Distractions are the new focus
I can get so distracted that a week can go by without me achieving anything. I have been busy, but I have not done anything that is going to help me move closer to my goals.
So trying to stop the distractions and continuing with my original plan has become a real challenge this summer.
For me, I know if I have a plan of what I want to achieve, I can at least make a start on it. Being organised Yet, this hasn’t been enough lately.
It has been a real challenge to finish anything I start.
What needs to change
Taking a good look at what I have been doing and why I have become distracted has allowed me to come up with a way to try and create a balance.
What has worked for me over the last year is my cleaning routine. It has become a natural habit to maintain as I have simple activities that I cycle through each week. The result is that, on the whole, the house is tidy enough to deal with any unexpected visitors. And that suits me.
The cleaning routine works because it helps me feel that my house is always clean and tidy, and that is a compelling reason for me to continue. It is also easy to remember what needs doing and when. So I now don’t need to check the ‘plan’, I know what to do on each day.
So with this in mind, I wanted to create a daily plan of activities for my working like. These need become repeatable and part of my routine.
What is needed in a new routine
Running a business by yourself means that you have to wear many different hats and to try to do everything every day wasn’t working.
Some areas of the business need a different focus than others. And let’s face it, some are more enjoyable than others. I bet you can guess which ones I left in the “do it later” pile!
I realised trying to do too many different tasks each day was creating distractions, and nothing was getting done. Plus, everything that was still left to do made me feel too overwhelmed.
For any new plan to work, it would need to be more than just my standard to-do list. The activities need to have real implications for doing them, with actual, quantifiable results. Something I could remember to do without having to think about it.
Creating a new routine
My new plan has resulted in making high-level work areas my focus of attention on specific days. This is similar to the cleaning routine and the reason why it works for me.
The result is that I have a broad idea of what I will be doing on any given day. I can then really focus on that topic for the day without thinking I’m dropping the ball somewhere else.
If I think of something off-topic that I need to do, I simply add it to a list for the day appropriate to that topic and get back to what I was doing.
Within each day, I have a set of activities that I know I need to do for a topic, but I still have the flexibility to do other things as and when required.
So far, this is working well for me, and I don’t feel so overwhelmed with all the tasks I need to juggle.
The steps to take to create a good working routine
A good routine is different for everyone, so to create one you need to make it personal for you.
Following these tips will help you create a routine that will work for you.
1. Know your goal and its importance to you
For you to stay focused on a plan without getting distracted, you need to truly understand what you are trying to achieve and why it is essential to you.
There must be a compelling reason for you to spend your time on any activity.
Knowing this will help bring you back on track if you do find yourself getting distracted.
2. Make it measurable
All goals must result in achieving something.
The key here is to be able to measure your progress so that you know you are getting closer to achieving your goals.
Think about your goal. How can you break it down into measurable chunks that you can regularly track to keep you motivated?
Create a spreadsheet, or document, to record your progress.
To create a routine, the tasks in it need to be repeatable. Avoid adding changeable activities, your daily plan will detail these.
3. Create a fixed weekly plan
You are aiming for something that allows you to remember that on a specific day and time, you will be working on one particular topic.
For me, this has resulted in a plan that covers different business areas on different days. I have days for marketing, product development, blog posts, social media, etc.. The same business areas, or topics, repeat each week on the same day and at the same time. My overarching weekly plan is consistent and unchanging. The detail of what I do each day may change, but the overall strategy remains the same.
There are several weekly planners in my shop that you could use to document your weekly plan. But I find this one particularly useful for containing a one-off sheet, along with other regular planners if you need one.
If you want something that also manages the bigger picture, try one of my life planners. These have different types of planners that you can keep track of in one digital notebook. You can then copy and amend as much as you want.
4. Eliminate your distractions
Distractions are everywhere, and you know what your shiny objects are! If I’m brutal, anything that is not getting you closer to your goal is a distraction.
The only sure way of not getting sucked into your rabbit hole is not to go there!
A great way of not eliminating all the fun is to build in time for whatever distracts you. So you could schedule time at the end of each day to binge on your distraction.
Alternatively, you could allow yourself 10 mins every few hours, giving you time to relax. But make sure you stick to it by setting an alarm.
Or use it as a treat so that if you finish a particularly nasty task, you can compensate it with a set time doing something you love.
Do whatever works for you but make sure you manage it effectively.
5. Create a detailed daily plan (if required)
Sometimes the activities in your high-level topic will change each week. Then on these days, create a daily plan that breaks the topic down into more manageable, changeable tasks.
Make sure you work on tasks in the right order by prioritising them in order of importance.
My daily planner inserts are an excellent way of planning your day. They provide four different ways to manage your day, depending on what is appropriate that day. This helps maintain flexibility so you can re-evaluate what you need to do and make sure you are re-focussed daily.
6. Set an alarm to remind you to check-in
Setting a daily alarm brings back your focus to the present. If you happen to have been side-tracked, having the alarm go off will alert you to bring back your attention.
I find alarms are a great way to manage your time, but more of that in another post.
7. Keep track of your progress
You’ve made sure your goals are measurable. You’ve created a document to track your progress. So make sure you use them!
Depending on what your measurements are, track them daily, weekly or monthly (or all 3!). Taking the measures shows you how far you have come and also how much you still have to go.
Keeping track of your progress in this way is a great way to motivate yourself.
The secret to stopping distractions
I have found that the secret to stopping distractions is to create a routine that compels you to stay on track. It should contain enough depth and meaning so that you know the importance and sequence of each task.
With your weekly plan in place, you should be able to start creating a routine. This will turn into a habit, and before you know it your actions will become second nature and your distractions will be more controlled.
Let me know below what makes you lose focus from your goals and how you manage them.