• Ron Thurston

Discover 6 tips for improving your focus while working in retail.

On any given day in retail, your attention will be pulled in countless directions. Restock the shelves. Update the window display. Resolve a customer issue. Find a replacement for someone who called in sick. By the end of your shift, your mind is as sore and tired as your feet.

If you have felt overwhelmed in the face of all these different tasks, you are not alone. It’s the nature of retail to have a seemingly unending list of things to get done.

With so much to do, one of the greatest skills you can hone is focus—the ability to distinguish the “nice things to do” from the “must do.”

When you spread your attention and energy across too many tasks, you hinder your ability to achieve the best results. You start a dozen different tasks but end up not finishing any of them. With focus, you can start and finish, pushing through distractions and setbacks to achieve your goals.

In a retail environment, you’re surrounded by situations and people that can distract you, but with these six tips you can begin increasing your focus.

#1: Have a Plan for the Day

Make a list of your top priorities for the day, week, month, and even year. It will help you resist reacting to every distraction that comes up.

Review your list each morning and decide, realistically, what tasks you can accomplish that day. Make your plan clear. For example: "I'm going to finish the first three items on this checklist by noon."

From there, decide how long each item on your list takes. Some may take fifteen minutes or less. Group those things together and check them off quickly. Longer projects and more in-depth conversations will require greater focus. Make a reasonable estimate of how long each will take and try to hold yourself accountable.

If you get off track, that's okay. Readjust and keep moving forward. Don't lose your focus on the big picture.

#2: Create a Space That Keeps You Focused

Wherever possible, find a way to carve out time when you will not be available to others, in a space where you know you can focus. This will help you go deeper into your work without having to maintain the many moving parts of your business.

When you can find these opportunities, create a specific goal for the time. For example, “For the next sixty minutes, I am going to attentively listen to a recommended podcast on leadership.” A clear purpose will allow you to achieve your goals and gain the satisfaction that comes from being focused and present.

#3: Schedule Time to be Unproductive

The pings, vibrations, and other notifications that signify the arrival of a voicemail, email, text message, or social media update can be a constant distraction. Perhaps the best thing you can do to stay on schedule is to turn off your technology and focus without interruption.

But let’s be realistic: our phones are part of our lives. For many people, going all day without checking their messages or social media is not going to happen. Fortunately, you don’t need to give it up entirely. You can still check your phone. You simply need to discipline yourself to log in only when you have an extra chunk of time free.

I recommend scheduling time in your day to be unproductive. If you know that at, say, 2:00 you have a social media break scheduled, it’ll be easier to avoid checking your phone continuously throughout the day.

#4: Don’t Say Yes to Everything

Highly focused people are not always people pleasers. They don’t feel the need to say yes to everything. They know you can’t always make everyone happy and sometimes you have to say no. Highly focused people, therefore, firmly but gently say no to things that don’t help them achieve their goals, allowing them to focus on things that are important.

#5: Stop Procrastinating

We all procrastinate. The thing about procrastination is that it doesn't have an endpoint. Things keep getting postponed until tomorrow. If you leave a task that is due today until tomorrow, you will find it hard to focus on whatever you are doing. Become a pro at doing things quickly and easily, without procrastinating. To keep yourself interested, reward yourself when you accomplish the tasks at hand.

#6: Rest, Relax, and Recharge

Making time to take care of yourself is an important part of being focused. Proper rest, good food, and time for unwinding are all necessary for a happy, healthy you. Especially when you’re feeling scattered or life is chaotic like it can be in retail.

Taking time for self-care gives us a chance to step back, re-group and put our needs first for a little while. So zone out with Netflix, enjoy a glass of wine, play with the dog, whatever you do to decompress. Be content knowing that you accomplished a lot today!

Practice, Practice, Practice

Focus is like any skill: the more you practice it, the easier it becomes.

When you first start working on this, you might only be able to focus for short periods at a time. That’s okay. Even just fifteen minutes of intense, focused work can dramatically increase your productivity. And as you practice, you’ll be able to focus for longer periods of time.

Whenever you can, practice single-tasking throughout your day. At lunch, just eat. Don't read the newspaper or check your email at the same time. In meetings, don't doodle in your notebook or play with your phone. Focus on the meeting.

Eventually, as you follow these six tips, focus will become natural to you, and you will be able to tackle the many tasks of your day without becoming overwhelmed.

For more advice on setting retail goals, you can find Retail Pride on Amazon.

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