Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Get focused! I hear you … but how?

Published:Sunday | July 12, 2015 | 7:00 AM

Life is difficult and seems to get more so every day. We are stressed by the demands of our jobs, our families, and people we interact with daily, and we get bogged down. But before we get a new job and interact with different people, maybe all we need to do is change our approach.

This week, we continue our series, Change your Mindset, Change your Life. With the help of certified behaviour modification coach and author Trevor E. Smith, we will help you through some of the bumps and scrapes of life - to be more productive, deal with difficult people, and a host of other topics, with his insightful perspective and boost of confidence for life.

You might recall Ivan - difficult person - frustration catalyst?

Well, if you missed it, here is a micro introduction to him. I am Ivan. I see things from a different perspective. I seem to have a knack for doing things in unique ways. I like variety and hate getting bogged down.

I like to multitask and be engaged in a variety of activities. I am told that I fit the typical profile of I-Style behaviour on the D-I-S-C Framework. I am advised to be more focused, but I am not sure how to do that. Also, I am happy with who I am. I am not keen on becoming a boring robot. If being focused strips me of leading a fulfilled life, I am not sure I want to go there.

What advice could you share with the Ivans in your world if asked?

1. Ivan, I suggest that you opt for a strategy of appropriate accountability.

(Note: Accountability is the single most important component of behaviour modification. That is why solo diets flop and group jogging around the park is sustainable.)

What that means in practical terms is that you will subject yourself to the direction of a formal or informal coach (spouse, colleague, mentor). You are going to find someone who you respect sufficiently to be willing to follow their guidance.

Your coach will hold you accountable. This is someone who will understand your preferences, goals, and objectives. At the same time, you will be required to honour your commitments. The coach you select must be clear about the rules of engagement and have no hesitation about ending the process. Your commitment to compliance cannot be in question.

Now, lest this comes across as stripping you of your freedom, it is important to note that Usain Bolt, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and others, subject themselves to the guidance of coaches in order to get to where they want to go.

Your appropriate accountability strategy is about guiding you to achieve your objectives.

It is not always clear to us how we frustrate our own efforts. This external support will help you to weed out distractions from healthy options. The coach is not there to kill your joy, but to help you attain your best life.

2. The next step is to increase your reliance on devices.

Get a good smartphone and use its apps to bring more structure into your day-to-day operations.

Schedule tasks and link them to reminders that you cannot ignore. Send yourself notes rather than relying on memory. Invite others to send text or email reminders to move projects along and keep you on track.

3. Then we come to the really difficult one - What do you exclude?

Ivan, your underlying challenge is similar to going to a buffet that is filled with one wonderful dish after another. We tend to end up with an overstocked plate, bulging stomachs, and a fair bit left untouched.

Let your coach help you select just what you need and can manage comfortably. Your all-inclusive perspective makes it difficult for you to turn your back on appealing options.

Your challenge is compounded by your desire to please others - it is not in your DNA to disappoint. The problem is that it is not possible for you to accommodate all the requests. In the final analysis, something is going to be left unfinished, and with that comes unmet needs, conflict, and frustration. Avoiding problems beats fixing them.

Your ultimate battle is to master delayed gratification. This is best understood as not giving up ice cream, just deciding to eat the steak first. You are not denying requests, you are merely giving them a slot when you can actually satisfy them. So, Ivan, not "No" but "Not now". Not "Yes", but "Let's work out when".

• Trevor E. S. Smith is a behaviour modification coach with the Success with People Academy, which is recognised by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) to offer Professional Development Credits for the SHRM-CPSM or SHRM-SCPSM Certifications. Home of the ICF-accredited Certified Behavioural Coach Award. Joint venture partner Extended DISC/FinxS Caribbean. Website: http://swpacademy.com.