how to cut through the clutter and focus

Do you ever have so many things to do and feel so scattered that you feel your body clenching and that your brain will short circuit? I know you have because it happens with my clients and to me. In fact, it happened after I posted my first video.

I had visions of posting them weekly as do many of my favorite YouTube people, and perhaps that will happen someday, but now I’m still on a learning curve.

I recorded my next video soon after that one, but ended up re-recording it, again and again, then my computer broke down, got a new one, did my interview with the mystery woman I mentioned and loved it, but her sound was wacky. This was in between recruiting and coaching which is really how I earn my living, not by recording videos.

Due to how my week was unfolding, I switched my topic to a video on a tool to use when you need to focus. Again, I recorded a few, but none seemed right. So I went away for a week’s vacation and got perspective and a new goal in my life, and realized why it hadn’t been right. I wasn’t being specific.

The tool I offered to help with focus was to create a “filter question.” This is a question to cut through the clutter and get to the heart of the matter so that you can take your next action.

But first, you need a goal. My goal had been too broad. My question was, “Will this make me money?” Recruiting and coaching is how I earn my living while doing videos and blogging is a way for me to be creative and share information. But it doesn’t pay the bills. It does help promote my business because people can see what I’m all about and decide if they want to work with me. So yes, when i’m doing it, I’m technically working. But, if I pause to assess my options for what’s next and apply the filter question, I’m more likely to focus on what my actual job is — recruiting & coaching rather than the extra stuff.

But the filter question needs to be clear and specific. I discovered that fact while I was on vacation and unearthed a new, more specific goal than “making money.” There’s a Master’s program I’d like to do while continuing to work. It relates to my broader goal because I need money to do the program, but it’s much more specific and motivating than my original question. Now my filter question has become, “Will this get me closer to doing this program?”

Some examples for others might be, “Is this action going to get me closer to a promotion? “Will this action improve my relationship with _____?”

When do you use the question? It can be when you’ve got so many things to do that you end up going in circles about what to work on or when you’re frozen in place by fear of what’s next or when you react to something and pick up the phone to tell the person what you really think. Stop for a minute and ask yourself the question.  It can be interesting to become more aware that there is a choice to make. If you’re really on top of it, use the question every time you schedule something.

To get used to using the question, write it on a post-it where you will see it. For me, that’s near my desk.  The photo above is in California where my program is, so pictures or photos help make the goal more real. Goals need to be specific, as do filter questions and you will be able to move forward. Use it before your brain short circuits. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to breathe.

p.s. I will still be doing videos, so stay tuned. Just wanted to get this point across and didn’t want to leave you hanging too long. 🙂

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One Response to how to cut through the clutter and focus

  1. Anne,

    Just wanted to say that I found your filter question a helpful tool when dealing with a fullplate. Coming back to a consciously-set intention before you start acting is a great way to guide yourself through the clutter.

    I look forward to reading more from you.

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