By Ann Daly, Ph.D.
Career advancement requires strategy. Most women are always looking for ways to better themselves within their occupation or take a step up in the workplace. But with today's fast-paced world, it can be a challenge for anyone to look away from the current client crisis or the next project deadline to focus on her own future.
If you're serious about giving your career the constant attention it requires, follow these three strategies to develop the habit of deep focus:
Give up the myth of multitasking. It's not a productivity tool--it's an excuse for perpetual distraction. Our brain doesn't conduct its activities simultaneously, it does things in order. When we think we're multitasking, we're actually zigzagging between different tasks. This constant switching is inefficient and even detrimental to higher-level activities, such as strategic thinking. Your career strategy won't appear in the cracks between phone calls and text messages, it requires focus without distractions.
Write it down. Writing--and I mean handwriting--is a form of thinking, and it's a highly effective way to shut out the noise and slow down the rat race. Something about the physicality of the moving hand and the pressure on paper helps us drop down into a kind of concentrated state that's conducive to complexity and ambiguity. Keep a career strategy notebook where you regularly go to review goals, record research, document experiences, play out scenarios, draft plans, reflect on results and make revisions. The act of writing will clarify intentions and invite fresh ideas.
Train your attention. Attention is the earnest direction of your mind. It is, metaphorically speaking, how and when you "turn" your mind. In general, we are too adept at alerting, too timid at orienting, and too remote from the executive network. It's very easy to squander our most precious commodity, our "undivided attention." Think of your attention training as pilates for the brain. Your goals are to:
* Filter out more stimuli
* Respond more selectively
* Spend more time in big-picture thinking
Once you get in the habit of focusing on your future, you'll be able to take more control of your career. Chances are you won't be the one in the office who gets blindsided, left out or passed over.
Ann Daly, Ph.D., is an expert on women's changing lives. Before reinventing herself as an executive coach, she was a journalist and a women's studies professor at The University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Daly is the award-winning author of six books, including Do-Over! How Women Are Reinventing Their Lives. She has been featured on Oprah & Friends' "Peter Walsh Show," ForbesWoman, WomenEntrepreneur and in Houston Woman magazine. She is a blogger for the Huffington Post and a career columnist for The Glass Hammer.