Focus Is More Important Than Microphones

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Every podcaster has one thing in common: they all have 24 hours in the day. Some of us have an issue with focus. Today I'm going to share a ton of research and strategies to get your more productive. Last week I talked about five things that you think will grow your audience but don't. This is continuing on with that theme of determining what you want to do, and then getting it done. One of my favorite quotes from Abraham Lincoln is “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

If you have no focus, it doesn't matter what microphone you have if you can't get it together.

Without Focus for your podcast, it doesn't matter what microphone you haveClick To Tweet

My Own Personal Struggles Maintaining Focus

Growing up I was what some might call “A weird little boy.” I remember driving my Mom nuts as I would be in the kitchen talking on the phone. We had a bunch of 16 oz coke glasses that I would fill up with water and tune and then play as I was talking on the phone. I always described myself as “Creative” but I'm sure if I was in elementary school today that would pump me with enough Ritalin to put a Rhino to sleep. As an adult, I tried going on some medication but the more focus I achieved was washed away by the energy that was sucked out of me. With this in mind when I get my creative juices flowing, I can be hyper-focused and lose all sense of time. To me I define that as “fun,” but when you look up at the clock and it's 3 AM, and you have a big presentation the next day that is a problem.

For the most part, much like many programs, admitting you have an issue is step one. I have a clear indicator and that is my desk. The more messy it is, the better the chance I need to pump the breaks.

Pumping the Breaks

Slowing down seems backward, but when you find yourself behind in tasks, etc and everything in your mind and body is saying “Push through” and you want to throw on your Superman or Wonder Woman outfit and start writing checks your body can cash. The result is you become more purposeful, focused, and you get more stuff done.

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

[6:24]

Whatever the goal is, you need to know it. I would recommend writing it down (more tools later). Take some time to think about it. If you don't know where you want to go, how will you know when you get there? If you aim at nothing you will hit it every time.

Setting Priorities

The book First Things First by Steven Covey he talks about Important VS Urgent

  • Important activities have an outcome that leads to us achieving our goals, whether these are professional or personal.
  • Urgent activities demand immediate attention and are usually associated with achieving someone else's goals. They are often the ones we concentrate on and they demand attention because the consequences of not dealing with them are immediate.

Something that is urgent and important is a crisis. It's pressing problems with deadlines. Something that is important but NOT urgent would be things such as exercise, relationship building, personal growth. If you ignore these important things, they later become important AND urgent.

Some things that are urgent but NOT important might be interruptions, phone calls (some of them), some email, some meetings

Some things that are not important and NOT urgent would be busy work, time wasters, some pleasant activities.

How to Know When To Delegate?

[9:02]

In episode 159 of the Resourceful Designer, Mark had some great questions you can use to make this simple. First, you have to identify all the things you do in your podcast/life. He suggests using post-it notes or an index card, but you're going to need a place for two piles. Then take each task and answer the following questions

  1. Go from task to task and ask yourself, Does this bring me joy or Do I like doing this one particular task?
  2. Am I good at this particular thing?

If you answered yes to BOTH questions, put it in pile number one. If you cannot respond yes to both questions, put it into pile number two. Separate your collection into these two piles.

Pile Number 1: Things that I like doing, and I'm good at

Look at the items in this pile and ask, If I continue doing this thing will it help my podcast grow? Will it help me achieve my goal?

Start two new piles. One will have all the items that will move you forward, and the pile of things you are good at and you like doing are things you are not saying no to, but not now.

Pile Number 2: Things that I don't like doing, or I'm not good at

Look at the items in this pile and ask, If I continue doing this thing will it help my podcast grow? Will it help me achieve my goal?

If the answer is yes, then these are the things you need to delegate.

Capturing and Organizing Your Thoughts

[12:45]

EvernoteBrilliant ideas come at the most inconvenient times. I get great ideas in the shower. You NEED to capture these and organize them in a way so you can use them later. Here are some tools:

Evernote: I use this tool. It's free (there is a paid version at $7.99 a month). I have a folder called SOP Ideas. I have a folder called “Marketing Crap” that is filled with all those ebooks I get that I will read later. The thing I love about Evernote is I can use it on my phone, my tablet or computer and it all syncs together. They have a tool called “Web Clipper” that allows me to take a web page and save it in Evernote with a few clicks. They recently added a feature that makes it super easy to connect your gmail to your Evernote. See https://evernote.com/blog/introducing-evernote-gmail/

OneNote: This is Microsoft's version of Evernote. It's not bad. It is also free. If you are paying for Microsoft Office you have it.. If you are a big Microsoft user (outlook, word, excel) you might play with this tool.

Trello: Trello is another free (or paid) version that is much more visual as instead of folders you have cards (think index cards). Trello premium is $12.50 a month

Common Features: Evernote, OneNote, and Trello all have the ability to have topics and subtopics. They all have the ability to share information (which is great for collaborating with co-hosts)

Whatever tool you want to use is fine. The bottom line is you need a tool. I've got a course on organizing your information that spotlights these tools.

Where Is Your Time Going?

[16:41]

Want to see how you spend your time?  Check out Rescue Time which helps you understand your daily habits so you can focus and be more productive.  Rescue Time is free. The Premium version is $9 a month and allows you to track your time off the computer as well.

Another way to do this is to set your alarm on your phone to go off in an hour. When it goes off write down (maybe in Evernote?) what you were doing. I know when I did this the first time many years ago I was surprised how much time I spent watching reruns of TV shows I had already seen.

My Favorite To Do List

[19:09]

TodoistWhile there are a number of Todo apps, my favorite is todoist. Much like Evernote, I can have Todoist on my phone, tablet or computer and they all sync together. Also like Evernote, I can take an email and turn it into a task.

You can organize your task into projects. You can assign due dates and be sent reminders. There is even a reward system. You can set how many tasks you want to accomplish a day and earn points. This somewhat makes your to-do list a game. If you've been using tasks in Google, this will sync with that system. It's very powerful.

The todist software is free and the premium is $3 a month.

Why You're Getting Frustrated

Studies show that every time you check email, a social feed, or respond to a notification, your mind requires 23 minutes of re-focus time to get back on task. People that multitask are actually  40% less productive.

Finding Focus To Knock Off Your To Do List

When it's time to record, here are some things you can do that might make things easier:

  1. Have a set time to record so your family knows not to interrupt.
  2. Put your phone on do not disturb and have it out of site.
  3. Have a distraction sheet. If you're working on something, and a distraction pops in your head, write it down and get back to your task.

You Can Stay Focused For 25 Minutes, Right?

[25:32]

Tomato Kitchen TimerSome times we need a boost. I've heard and tried the Pomodoro technique. Here it is in a nutshell

  1. Pick a task you need to accomplish.
  2. Set a timer for 25 minutes and start working
  3. When the timer rings, take a 5-minute break
  4. Repeat steps 1-3
  5. Ever four cycles, take a 25-minute break.

Handling Distractions

  • Inform the other (distracting) party that you're working on something right now.
  • Negotiate a time when you can get back to them about the distracting issue in a timely manner.
  • Schedule that follow-up immediately.

Call back the other party when your pomodoro is complete and you're ready to tackle their issue.

If you find yourself thinking about something that just won't go away, have a sheet/note and write it down and get back to your task.

Why This Method is Working For Me

For me, it's only 25 minutes. It is not that whatever tangent I want to take is being put off forever, it's being put off for 25 minutes. By taking breaks, you keep yourself fresh. You avoid burnout. Studies show that people who work in distracting environments have more stress, a higher workload (cause you're not accomplishing as much), higher frustration, and it requires more effort. When you start to go down a rabbit hole, you can stop yourself and say, “I can do that in __ minutes.”

No, I Can't Stay Focused For 25 Minutes

[28:17]

If you're having a hard time staying focused then I have some additional apps, that are really keeping on track.

PomoDone App

Pomodone AppPomoDone is the easiest way to track your workflow using Pomodoro technique, on top of your current task management service. It ties in with just about every To Do List tool (Trello, Todoist, Evernote, Asana ) so you can track how much time you spent on a task. Once you realize how long something takes, you can better schedule it in the future. For example, I've put in 58 minutes on an article I'm working on for the Podcast Business Journal. At this point, I've got an hour and 20 minutes into this blog post (I haven't even got to press record yet).

By seeing how long you are spending on items, you can make much better decisions going forward.

Using the PomoDone Chrome extension, you can blacklist certain websites during the timer period. Once Timer is active (ticking), you will not be able to access the blocked websites. You can always turn this function on and off in the Extension's option, as well as configure the blacklist of the websites.

If you want to setup up times that differ from the25 standard time, you can do that ( I have times of 5, 25, 40).

Also if you're not using any other to do list tool, you can use this as your to-do list. The tool also works on iOs and Android.

As I almost exclusively use chrome, I use this app. Keep in mind if I want to jump on Firefox I can go to any site I want ( you can always turn off the blocking feature)

Tomato-Timer

https://tomato-timer.com/ is a free tool if you want to take this idea for a test spin (or you can just set two timers on your phone. One for 25 minutes and one for 5).

Freedom

[33:08]

Freedom AppFreedom.to is an app and website blocker for Mac, Windows, Android, and iOS. Start sessions on-the-fly or sche­dule your Freedom time in adv­ance. Plan out sess­ions that recur daily or weekly. With Freedom, you'll make produc­tivity a habit.

This tool is a little more “hardcore.” It blocks websites on both Chrome and Firefox, as well as on your phone. If you want to go “Super Hard Core” there is an option to lock your session (meaning you can cheat).  You can test run Freedom for five session then prices start at $6.99/month

Get Your Brain In Tune

[35:33]

I had heard about brain.fm on a few podcasts. This is music that is designed to help you focus. For me (being a musician) I liked it. It was more or less musical noise that was just above really boring. The pricing starts at $6.95 a month

I didn't feel like another subscription so I checked out Spotify and they have a number of preset “focus” stations that more or less played the same thing.

Make It Easy On Yourself

In Adobe Audition you can make a template but I've always used the poor man's template. I would bring in my intro and outro music and save it with something like namofshow_blank. I then open that file and before I press record I rename the show to something like nameofshow_697. This has all my files in it and I don't have to look for them.

Listen faster when editing if possible. In Hindenburg Journalist, there is an option to listen faster as well as in Audacity. I spoke about this on Episode 327

One other thing to remember is more planning leads to less editing.

Podcast Rewind

[42:15]

I was on the Podcast Reporter (Live from the NAB show)

I was on the Launch Speed Podcast talking podcast Niches

Work With Me

Join the School of Podcasting or let me be your podcast mentor

Join the School of PodcastingPodcast Mentorship Program

Mentioned In This Podcast

Pomodoro Technique Book

Leaning Towards Wisdom

Freedom.to

PomoDone

Podcast Branding

You Wanna Do What?

Podcast Business Journal

The Call to Courage

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