I don’t know about you, but I often have a hard time staying focused. There are lots of things I want to do, need to do, think I should do but when it comes to actually doing them, I may start but then I lose my focus. I work at home and its so easy to get distracted, think about doing laundry or dishes, or something else. Fortunately I have no interest in daytime TV, but my friends tend to call me in the daytime because they know I don’t have someone peaking over my shoulder at work.
So I came up with five ways to help me stay focused. I’m not going to say they are new, but I am finding them to be extremely helpful keeping me on track:
1. Supercharge your to do list. Don’t just make a list and cross things off when you do them, set reminders in your phone or on your computer so they’ll annoy you enough to remember you have to complete something. Make the reminder as annoying as the alarm that wakes you in the morning and resist the urge to push the sleep button. Or if you do push the sleep button (or the remind me again in 30 minutes button), use that time to complete whatever you need to do so you can actually dismiss the item.
2. Tape your to do list on your computer monitor. No, I don’t mean on the front of your monitor. But I find if I’m staring at a copy of it, its less likely to get buried under the paper that continually breeds all day long on my desk. And I get such great satisfaction in crossing something off my list.
3. Ignore your phone. When working on a task, don’t take a call. Unless the police or firemen are breaking in your door, there is seldom something that is so urgent it can’t wait for a few minutes while you complete your to do item. Calls can be a break between to do items (unless, of course, making or returning calls IS a to do item). But don’t take any new calls until you either complete your item OR make all the calls on your list. Its too easy to get distracted from what you were doing, at least it is for me.
4. When making your to do list, determine a reward. If I complete this problem, write this paper, make 20 calls, or whatever the item is, reward yourself. It can be as simple as an iced coffee or refreshing snack, maybe a walk around the park or making an appointment to go have a massage. The reward should fit the task, but having something to look forward to besides completing the task certainly helps me want to complete it all the more.
5. Lastly, don’t put more than 10, yes ten, things on your to do list each day. Trying to accomplish too many things just overwhelms you and you find excuses not to do any of them. If I’m lucky enough to complete all ten things early in the day, I use that time to either reward myself or, at least, take a break away from my computer, my desk, my chair or my office. Its hard to stay focused if you never give yourself permission to stop. By only putting ten things each day on your must do list, you remind yourself that you’re entitled to have a life and enjoy it.