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How to stay focused: 3 simple secrets to help your clients succeed

Here is my focus in this blog.  Actually I have two.

inspectingMy first focus is this:  I want to show you — the coach, consultant, or change agent — how to get things done and develop good work habits.

My second goal is to show you that you’re missing something in your work with clients.

Are your clients getting their long-term goals accomplished?  If the answer is “No” or “I don’t know,” read on.

Here’s what I’ve seen over and over — wonderful teaching, inspirational, motivational coaching sessions, but not enough training in how to get that big project done in daily, doable small steps.

Today my focus is on how to get your client to focus on those small steps.

Here is how I work with my clients to help them focus on the important.

inspectingupOnce the client has decided what their long-term project will be (e.g. starting a business, improving their use of social media, writing a book, developing healthy eating habits, building their practice), the client needs to know what to do next.

A long-term goal is important, but if you don’t know what to do tomorrow, you won’t do anything at all.

I believe that most people thrive with extremely specific plans, which means they need plans for what to do each day.

Jocelyn K. Glei reports in 99u that “a recent happiness study from Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert found that the more our minds wander, the less happy we are. Summing the research, the New York Times wrote, ‘Whatever people were doing, whether it was having sex or reading or shopping, they tended to be happier if they focused on the activity instead of thinking about something else.’ In short, being mentally ‘present’ and focused on the task at hand really does matter – quite a lot, in fact.”

The only way to learn how to focus is to know exactly what you should focus on.

So I ask the client to determine the very specific next steps they must take.  I work with them until they know what they are going to do, in small steps, each day.

I also help them break down what could possibly get in their way, and how they are going to accomplish each small step.

Clients are overwhelmed by a deluge of information, thoughts, fears, and interruptions from daily life.  Without a list of next steps, they just won’t take any steps.

Seven Rules to Teach your Clients

  1. If you don’t know what to focus on, you can’t focus.
  2. If you can’t set an intention to focus, you probably won’t focus long.
  3. If you don’t eliminate distractions, you will be interrupted and stop focusing.
  4. If you don’t know that you’ve been distracted, you will end up doing something else without being aware of it.
  5. If you focus too long, you will burn out and not want to focus the next day.  So you need a reminder to stop.
  6. Without a reminder to keep focused, you may lose your focus.
  7. You need a way to mark the fact that you have started, which helps you start focusing.

Three Simple Tools That Help You Learn How to Focus

Here are 3 simple tools that address these issues.  See if you can identify which issues each one addresses.

  1. Use a timer.  First decide how long you want to work.  Make it a reasonable period of time (planning on 30 minutes is better than planning on 4 hours, because you might not want to do 4 hours, so you’ll do nothing).   Turn the timer on, and start your work.  As long as that timer is on, you keep going.  You don’t stop for email, eating or any other distraction.  When the timer bell dings, you stop.  You don’t keep going.

    Using this method, you have an internal reminder of what you are supposed to focus on, and an external reminder of when it’s time to start and stop.

  2. There’s an app for that: Concentrate, for Macs only, lets you specify which applications on your computer will be turned off while you focus solely on your chosen task.  It also gives you reminder sounds to help you stay on task.  It then turns off those apps once you tell it that you have started.

  3. Intentionq is a simple, web-based app that is designed to make you aware of what is often unconscious.  The designers of Intentionq ask this intriguing question:  “What would it look like to use the computer in a more intentional way; to only engage in tasks out of a conscious desire to do so?”  They then explain that Intentionq aims to answer that question in the simplest way possible, by recording and tracking your intentions as you use the computer.

First you set your intention. The instructions below say this say, “What are you using the computer for?  Be specific.”


Here I’ve set my intention as “writing an article,” and I’ve chosen 25 minutes as the amount of time that I want to work on it.


The timer has started, and I’m reminded by the title what my intention is.  If I decide part way through the 25 minutes that I want to check my email, I must set a new intention.


I’ve set my intention to check my email for 10 minutes.  Note that my previous intention is “Pending” below in the middle bottom.


As soon as I finish checking my email, the app will put my previous intention, “Writing an article” back on the screen, and continue the countdown clock.

The point of Intentionq is to help your clients become intentionally aware of the choices they are making, instead of finding themselves immersed in Pinterest 2 hours later, without any awareness of how they got there.  Like I was yesterday.

Try one or more of these apps for yourself.  Most of us mere mortals need something external to help us structure our work.  And remember, FOCUS!

What do you think of these apps?  Do you know of others? What do you do to focus? How have you helped your clients focus?

Please post your responses or thoughts below – I really want to hear from you!

4 thoughts on “How to stay focused: 3 simple secrets to help your clients succeed

  1. The only way to learn how to focus is to know exactly what you should focus on.

    Very nicely explained and I must say that you have done a deep analysis on how to stay focused.

  2. Being self-employed and working from home takes so much more discipline than I ever expected. I know I can do way better at time management and a lot of it is about creating the right environment and habits.

  3. LOVE this line Gina:

    4) If you don’t know that you’ve been distracted, you will end up doing something else without being aware of it.

    This is SO TRUE!! I am not one that has trouble getting things done but I do find that I could be better at maximizing my use of our most precious resource – TIME – and I have more than once set myself up to do one thing and suddenly discovered that I made my way down some rabbit hole (which the INTERNET and SOCIAL MEDIA are great at creating) and part of the day has disappeared and my “thing to do” is only partially complete! That being said – I have created other things in the process – not the least of which has been building and nurturing my relationship with you!!
    Amethyst Wyldfyre recently posted..Feel GREAT Speaking, Part 1My Profile

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