In this busy world of ours, it is increasingly hard to stay focused and “on-task”. Even when under a severe deadline, I still have trouble, at times, keeping my mind on my work. So I thought I would share my ten best tips on how I stay focused.
#1: Look at every activity that you do, and ask yourself if it helps you accomplish your goal.
I am under a critical time crunch- does it help me to start a new project that’ll take six months to finish? No. So I don’t do it!
#2: Set yourself a smaller task to accomplish in 10 minutes- then work feverishly to finish it in five.
It’s amazing how a sense of accomplishment over a little goal can make a larger goal seem infinitely easier to obtain.
#3: Identify the worst distractions and then restrict or eliminate them.
Mine is my computer. I can sit down to do something that will only take 20 seconds, and look up to find an hour (or more) has passed. It’s usually even productive in the over all abstract- but not for my deadline, so I shut the whole thing down. Even the thought of that little pause waiting for the tech-widgets to boot back up is enough to keep me on track sometimes.
#4: Be Short-Sighted.
Look only at the next step- not ahead, or beside. If your projects are anything like mine, you’ll be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work to do. So don’t look anywhere but right in front of you at the very immediate next step. Then do it, and look at the next very next step. Rinse and Repeat.
When you have a minute- a coffee break maybe- think about the worst possible outcome that will happen if you don’t get your project done. Don’t go overboard, but a little healthy fear of failure is good in small doses. I can almost guarantee you’ll be spurred into work with the right motivation!
#6: Why are you doing this?
It’s not like some stranger says, “Hey, you! Come do this insanely complicated project by tomorrow morning.” Nope- you likely volunteered. Do you remember why? You probably had a good reason then, and it can help you focus now.
#7: Think of the Glory.
So after thinking about the negatives in number 5, and your initial motivations in number 6… consider the positives. Not just realistically, “Gee, I’d really like to impress my boss/craft team/accountant/spouse…” Really dream BIG. Ticker tape parades, the cover of a national magazine, statue in Times Square, the works- but only if you finish this!
#8: Let go of the excuses.
My mother used to say that if it didn’t involve blood, flood, or fire, it wasn’t critically important. I’ve found she’s right. So whatever you’re holding up as your reason to not finish your goal… if it’s not critically important with the above caveats, then it’s not a good reason.
#9: Be honest.
We all play head games. It’s too hot to work, it’s too cold to work, my chair isn’t comfy, I can’t get anything done in only five minutes… What ever it is, be honest with yourself. When it comes right down to it, you’re the only one keeping you from accomplishing your goal.
Which leads us to number ten…
#10: Just do it.
Put your head down and just work. The only person stopping you is you. If you just start, your subconscious that really does love what you do will overwhelm that pesky conscious mind that prevents you from doing it. Once you start, you’ll accomplish your goal very nearly in spite of yourself!
Other people will tell you to turn the radio off, hire a babysitter, or get up an hour early… but none of it works long term. The babysitter eventually leaves, you do have to sleep sometime, and while the radio does have terrible commercials- that’s what playlists are for! Focus is really only a state of mind, after all. As much as I’d love to be able to switch my focus on and off, my mind isn’t that orderly. I have to work at it, and I’m sure quite a few other people do too.
So I’ve shared what I’ve found to be the secrets to staying focused. Do you agree? What helps you to stay focused?