The Secret Ingredient to Getting Things Done

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Finding Focus

This headline sounds like a sales pitch, doesn’t it? Don’t worry. I’m not selling anything—just offering a bit of encouragement. We all want to know how to get things done. We want the magic key, the secret sauce, the whatever-it-is that has eluded us all this time and keeps us from accomplishing what we most want to do.

I’ve finally discovered the secret. And it wasn’t what I thought—or hoped–it would be.

The secret ingredient to getting things done is encompassed in one tiny word that packs a powerful punch. The missing, magic ingredient is FOCUS, which is oh-so-easy to say, but in practice requires a constant and ongoing battle to gain and maintain.

Focus comes when we somehow quiet all the clatter in our brains and deliberately and intentionally point everything inside us at one thing. Only one. To the exclusion, for that brief time, of everything else.

Finding Focus

Finding Focus

And therein lies the challenge. If your life is like mine, you have a to-do list that unrolls like toilet paper and you often run out of day way before you run out of to-do.

So where on earth do we find FOCUS?

The hard, but simple answer is: practice.

Focus doesn’t come naturally, not for most of us anyway.

Focus is hard work.

It means turning off the social media networks, closing the email program, setting the to-do list aside and putting all of our thoughts into Just. One. Thing.

I haven’t posted a new blog recently. I have to admit that every time I sat down to write one, I couldn’t corral the thoughts racing around in my head long enough to compose one simple blog post.

So I’ve been getting back to basics. Here are a few tricks that have helped me get—and stay—focused.

  • Set a timer for one hour—and then do as much of your project as you can in that bit of time.
  • Set a deadline for yourself—and tell someone to ask you if you met it. Nothing motivates like accountability.
  • Set a reasonable daily goal—and don’t let yourself stop until you’ve met it.
  • Give yourself a prize–if you meet your goal/deadline/time, give yourself a reward.

And then start all over again.

Will it ever be easy? Probably not. But it will always be the secret ingredient to getting things done.

What are your strategies for staying focused? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

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    The Conversation

  1. Terri Weldon says:

    Great post, Connie, and so true. I’m not the best when it comes to focusing so you really hit home with me on this article. I tend to go in 50 different directions!

    With ACFW approaching, I need to focus and have my manuscript ready to pitch!

    Good luck on your writing.

    • Connie Mann says:

      Thanks, Terri! I’m so glad it encouraged you. Focus is a constant battle for me–it’s so much easier to think about other things! Good luck getting your MS ready to pitch at ACFW!

  2. Trish Wentling says:

    I think my problem is: which do I want to work on today — poetry or children’s stories.Then the next issue is setting the time to do the work. I get physically tired after housework and fixing dinner before husband heads out the at 2:15 pm for his job in Lake Mary.

    Focusing is the answer! You are completely correct. When I do focus, I can write three poems and a picture book in the same afternoon. Thanks for this topic, Connie.

  3. Summer Stephens says:

    Isn’t it nice when we reduce things to their simplest form? In my endless struggle to figure out How To Get Things Done, I have made lists, meditated, set goals, set alarms, and sweated over why it wasn’t happening. Then you answer the question for me, Connie, in one simple word: focus. Makes me wonder how much I could have gotten done if I had channeled the focus I put into my struggle into my work instead! Thank you! (I’ve got this now. I think! LOL!)

    • Connie Mann says:

      You made me laugh, Summer. I think we’ve all done the same thing! 🙂 It’s simple, yet hard. I’m struggling with it now as I try to write a new novel. You go, girl!

  4. I think after years and years of being pulled in multiple directions at once, our brains kind of forget how to focus. You’re right; it takes practice.

    I like your suggestions, too. One thing I do is tell myself that I only have to concentrate on this one thing for twenty minutes then if I want to, I can do something else. Twenty minutes doesn’t seem too daunting and by then I’m usually well into the task and focusing well.

  5. Jan Jackson says:

    Great advice, Connie. I am a serial multi-tasker and my brain does not like to focus on merely one thing. The times when I do become so immersed in my story world that I forget the outside world, that’s when the magic happens. Focus on one thing at a time and do it well. Yes, I like it!

  6. Connie, thanks for the helpful suggestion. Rather than set a clock timer, I found an app called focus@will that has a free version. It begins with a chime, plays various types of ambient music, and counts down 60 minutes. It really serves as a psychological trigger that tells my mind it’s time to focus and get something accomplished.