Steps to Refocus, Regroup, and Get Productive

After a series of unrelated meetings or going through a full inbox, it’s easy to feel scattered, unfocused, and distracted.

Male hand drawing Focus concept with marker on transparent wipe board.

This has happened to enough times, that I’ve written out an instruction manual for myself to enable me to quickly get refocused and back on the right track:

  1. Record everything in your head. Dump all tasks into your favorite task manager (ToDoist is mine!). Don’t attempt to label, prioritize, or organize tasks.
  2. Collect scattered tasks. Get all tasks, ideas, or unorganized bits of information in a centralized location.
    • Run through any written information and transcribe any actionable items. I’d recommend setting up a “paper inbox” to throw all paper, notes, mail, etc so it’s easy to process.
    • Look through missed calls and listen to all voicemails and record any tasks.
    • Look through all text messages and record any tasks.
    • Run through your email and move any tasks to your todo list. Todoist has a feature that enables you to email tasks into your todoist inbox; this is super helpful for quickly extracting action items from your inbox.
  3. Prioritize. Run through the list and prioritize all tasks.
  4. Eliminate. Is there anything you can:
    • Delay. Does it really need to be done now?
    • Automate. Is there a recurring task that you could use zapier or another service to completely automate?
    • Outsource/Delegate. Use a virtual assistant, fiverr, etc. Think you can’t afford a virtual assistant? Calculate how much your time is worth, realize that your time is worth more than $20/hour, and then start getting comfortable paying others to do things you don’t enjoy.
    • Delete. If you’ve committed to too much, try to get out of the commitment. This is super hard for me (I’m a people pleaser), but it’s so essential to making sure you make good on the commitments you’ve already made.
  5. Rescan your list.
    • Is there anything you can hand off to someone who will do a 80% ok job? “Good enough” can be “great” if you didn’t spend any time on it!
    • Make sure your list is manageable. You know how much you can get done in a day, make sure your todo list for the day can be accomplished without sacrificing your margin.
  6. Apologize & communicate delays. If you’re slammed, most likely you are going to be delayed on getting some tasks done. Make sure that anyone who is depending on you knows about the delay and understands what the revised timeline looks like.

Although it takes time to run through this process, it’s been an enormous help. What works for you? How do you get refocused when you feel unfocused?