In our modern times of digital dancing between apps and sites it becomes quite an effort to see a task through from beginning to end without distraction. Distraction, for me at least, means the end of the day comes round and I am left with lots of unfinished tasks on my to do list. I realise this is because I am not focusing my efforts. I allow distractions to enter into the task on hand, no matter how important the task is. Distraction is a destroyer. It destroys achievements, brain-power and confidence. The ABC of getting things done. So here are my tips on staying focused:
- Switch off the telephone, emails and notifications – learn to deal with them twice a day (at most) at set times (others will soon realise the best time to get a response from you quickly)
- Break each task down into a collection of smaller sub-tasks – list the steps it will take to complete the task and mark how long each step is likely to take. That way you get an idea of how long it will take you to accomplish the task.
- Make an agenda for the day – set yourself a timetable with at least two short breaks and a longer one for lunch. Pee and tea are two necessary self-care obligations!
- Prioritise the tasks – I go with a maximum of three ‘must do’s and three ‘would like to do’s.
- Don’t be afraid to diary non-immediate tasks or tasks with deadlines (I often make appointments with myself for specific tasks).
- Do the most difficult or the most dreaded task first – that way when it is done the others will be easier to do and perhaps even quicker to finish.
- Stick with the task in hand – finish it before going onto the next and that way you will not be carrying unfinished work into the next task (that just becomes another self-made distraction)
- And last but no least, switch off the music, television or any other background noise. The brain still absorbs what it is hearing.
Just as an add-on to this subject, a book that may be useful in the quest for becoming more focused is DEEP WORK by Cal Newport.