At the start of each day, you have a choice. You can work on the noise that shows up, as it shows up. Or, work on the signal, gaining momentum toward what you and the team has decided is the next goal.
There’s no secret to being productive. If there was, your search would have uncovered it by now.
No…In order to get things done, you have to sit down and, well, do them. The most important “resource” of them all - more than funding, more than time, and certainly more than the next release of your product/app/service - is focus.
While I was working at the Los Alamos National Laboratory a while back, one of the engineers I met with explained the term “Signal to Noise” to me over lunch. Immediately, I began to apply this “electronics” term to the field of productivity and workplace performance. Here’s how I’d like you to think of this term:
Signal-to-Noise: a measure of how much useful information there is in a system, such as the Internet, as a proportion of the entire contents.
As you look at your own systems - your to-do lists, your email inboxes, your shared project management lists - can you quicky identify the “useful” information? Focus on the most important aspects of your work, and achieve more success each day.
2 Reasons to Visualize
Use visualization to see what you are working toward as you realize each goal. My top two reasons for visualizing are:
1) So you can recognize what you want when you see it.
2) So you are ready for the situation or result when it shows up!
Right now, you can practice an effective Focus Technique. Open up your journal or notebook, and on the top of a blank page write: “What will get me closer to my next goal?” As you write down each item, ask yourself, “Is that signal? Or, is it noise?”
Positive focus is different than positive thinking. Watch what happens when you direct your focus on the positive, the “plus side of things.” An executive of a Fortune 50 company told me that he starts each day with a 5-minute focusing exercise. Before he checks email, before he prints his calendar, before he sits in on a meeting, he mentally prepares for his day. Yes, he will surely have to put out some fires, and handle some crises, but that doesn’t take away from his focus on what he wants.
This kind of visualization process is used by politicians, athletes, public speakers and startup founders. Try it tomorrow morning. Sit, quietly, and set a timer for 5 minutes. In that time, imagine (or, as I say “image-in”) what you’d like to see throughout the day. Then, as things come up throughout the day, reflect back on what you wanted to happen and make real-time decisions that keep you on course.
5 Ways to Practice Focus
It’s all too easy to get distracted by emergencies or things that look important. (Since the time you’ve been reading this article
1) Think of an event you will be attending or participating in soon.
2) Close your eyes. Picture some of the people you might see there. If possible, imagine their faces. Are they smiling? Serious? Talking? Listening?
3) Now think about what you will do while there. Will you sit, stand, or walk around? What might you be wearing?
4) Imagine what you will talk about while there. Consider the other people who will be there with you. What might you discuss? What will you ask them?
5) Complete the first four steps (which might take only one or two minutes). Stop and write down one thing you would like to do now that you have visualized, before you attend the event.
When you choose to visualize, you move closer to achieving your goal; and when you get there, you’ll experience a feeling of: “This looks kind of familiar; seems like I have seen something like this before.”
When you redirect your focus, your perspective changes. Clearly state what you want, and increase the “signal” of information to achieve the goal.