Make us your home page
Career Q&A | By Liz Reyer, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Career Q&A: Take time to reflect

Q: I don't believe in multitasking, but I have to switch gears so often that it feels like that's what I'm doing. Because of the nature of my work, that's not going to change. I'm finding that it's getting harder and harder to focus; what strategies can I use to lock in my mind when I need to?

A: Paying attention to doing each thing fully — even if briefly — will help you relearn the skill of focusing.

As your first step, grant yourself some time for reflection during which you won't be disturbed. If it's during the workday, you may prefer to leave your office. But at least block your calendar and set your phone, email and chat functions to "do not disturb" so others know you're not available. Then settle in, spending five minutes or so focusing on your breathing and letting tension and the demands of the day slip away.

When all the demands are coming your way, how do you feel? If the pace is energizing, it may be more suited to you than the more in-depth focus, at least at this time in your career. Perhaps it fires you up to be needed? If so, ask yourself if it's a healthy level.

How do you feel when you successfully focus? What tactics have worked recently? When you were able to focus more, what was that like and how are things different now?

Consider whether you're over-delivering on responsiveness, being reactive and losing sight of the big picture. Colleagues and clients alike may not need you to get back to them with quite as much speed, especially if it's taking a toll on other aspects of your contributions.

Teach yourself to focus again. When you're responding to an email, think only of that, even if for one minute. Then take a conscious breath and switch to something else. Every time you move to a different focus, return to your breath. This will give you a clear instant between tasks. Then try to build up your focus time. Start with something brief, say, 10 minutes. Practice on tasks that you enjoy, and build up to those that you may be putting off.

Also try to manage the demands on your time. Meet with your team to discuss the issue. Lay out the competing demands you're experiencing, between giving them what they need and having time to focus on other tasks.

Brainstorm together on time-management strategies that won't keep them up in the air when they need your input. This approach recognizes that it may often be appropriate to get immediate input from you, but perhaps not always.

If external clients are involved, chat with them about their needs. Perhaps you can have a four-hour rule for responding to email (instead of immediate response), and if something is more urgent, they can phone.

Acknowledge yourself when you successfully complete a task that needs more focus, forgive yourself when you struggle and persevere to regain this valuable skill.

Practice focusing, if that's what serves you, and also help others become less dependent on moment-by-moment connectedness.

Liz Reyer is a credentialed coach with more than 20 years of business experience. Her company, Reyer Coaching & Consulting, offers services for organizations of all sizes.

Career Q&A: Take time to reflect 12/29/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 26, 2012 5:26pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Tribune News Service.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Water Street Tampa unveils illustrations showing downtown's transformation


    TAMPA — Water Street Tampa, the sweeping, 50-plus acre redevelopment project in Tampa's urban core, has unveiled new images and video of what the downtown district will look like upon completion.

    Strategic Property Partners released a conceptual image of what the Tampa skyline will look like once its redevelopment of 50-plus acres of downtown will look like. [Photo courtesy of  of SPP]
  2. Florida ranks high for workplace equality between men and women

    Working Life

    When it comes to the workplace, Florida ranks fifth in terms of gender equality, a WalletHub study released Tuesday found.

    Florida ranks high in terms of equality between men and women in the workplace. Pictured is Sandra Murman, county commissioner in 2015, talking about the differences in pay between men and women. | [Times file photo]
  3. Treasury secretary's wife boasts of travel on government plane, touts high fashion


    U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's wife, Louise Linton, boasted of flying on a government plane with her husband to Kentucky on Monday and then named the numerous fashion brands she wore on the trip in an unusual social media post that only became more bizarre minutes later.

    Steven Mnuchin and his then- financee Louise Linton watch as President Donald Trump speaks during Mnuchin's swearing-in ceremony as  treasury secretary in the Oval Office of the White House on Feb. 13. [Mandel Ngan | AFP via Getty Images]
  4. Ford, Chinese partner look at possible electric car venture


    BEIJING — Ford Motor Co. and a Chinese automaker said Tuesday they are looking into setting up a joint venture to develop and manufacture electric cars in China.

    In this April 23, 2016 photo, attendees take smartphone photos at a promotional event for Ford Motor Company ahead of the Auto China car show in Beijing. Ford Motor Co. announced an agreement Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017 with a Chinese partner to look into forming a joint venture to develop and manufacture electric cars in China. [AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein]
  5. Judge throws out $458,000 condo sale, says Clearwater attorney tricked bidders

    Real Estate

    CLEARWATER — Pinellas County Circuit Judge Jack St. Arnold on Monday threw out the $458,100 sale of a gulf-front condo because of what he called an "unscrupulous" and "conniving" scheme to trick bidders at a foreclosure auction.

    John Houde, left, whose Orlando copany was the high  bidder June 8 at the foreclosure auction of a Redington Beach condo, looks in the direction of Clearwater lawyer and real estate investor Roy C. Skelton, foreground,  during a hearing Monday before Pinellas County Circuit Judge Jack St. Arnold.  [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times ]