Techniques for Maintaining Focus and Staying On Task

December 15, 2008 at 4:29 pm 4 comments

There are always going to be some days where, no matter how important the job (or sometimes because of how important the job is!), you are just having a hard time getting focused and staying on task.  Maybe you can’t get started at all, you’ve gotten started but keep getting distracted, you’re overwhelmed by the size of your to-do list, or you have several items of seemingly equal priority and aren’t sure where to start.  Here are some great ways to get (and keep) you moving.

1.       When you can’t seem to get started:  Choose your task and think it through from beginning to end.  Make a list of all of the tools necessary, and gather them together now – you don’t want to build in interruptions by having to stop to get something.  Set a timer for 30 minutes, and 30 minutes only.  For those 30 minutes, accept no interruption and work as hard as you can, with the agreement that at the end of that half hour, you can take a break, switch tasks, or keep going.  The majority of the time, you will have become so involved in your project that you will want to see the task to completion, but if not, make sure you honor your agreement with yourself.  You can always repeat this process later, but in the meantime, you have accomplished some solid results.

2.       When you can’t seem to maintain focus:  Work on a series of tasks in small bites of 15 minutes each.  This is not as effective as the dedicated focus of tip #1, but some results are better than none.  After a couple of projects, you’ll usually find a rhythm and start to settle in, but even if you go through the entire day in this manner, you will have made considerable progress on your list.

3.       When you are overwhelmed by the length of your to-do list:  Start by prioritizing your list, select the six most important, then commit to 60 minutes on each project.  Set a timer, and switch when it goes off.  This will keep you from getting so involved on any one project, that you never get to the others.  Take a 10 minute break after each one, and give yourself a work-free lunch after item number three.  This is vital to keep you fresh and energized for each new project, as well as to allow you to decompress and refocus.  Note:  some items will probably not require the full 60 minutes.  Switch when you complete that item.  If you have time remaining for a second round, start with the project you initially got the farthest on, but did not complete, and repeat until all are finished.  This will make a sizeable dent in your list.  If you finish your list of six, make a new list.

4.       DO take breaks, but schedule them by task rather than time.  For instance, take a break after you finish project x, not at 11:00.  Taking breaks at a scheduled time keeps you focused on the clock, instead of the task at hand, and as break time draws closer, you will mentally begin to disengage before the appointed time.

5.       Work in a pattern of “little-little-big.”  We feel motivated when we see results, so by accomplishing two small tasks before tackling a large one, we feel like we’re on a roll!  When you’ve then finished the large task, returning to easy projects is a welcome relief.  This also ensures that your entire day does not mysteriously disappear into a vortex of minutia.  We often intend to just “get the little stuff out of the way,” and end up never getting to the projects of greater importance!

6.       When you are looking for distractions, do your best to eliminate them.  Turn off your email alerts, TweetDeck, and cellphone, unplug your land line, and put on headphones (you don’t even have to play anything on the headphones, but they will keep people from talking to you!).  When your task is complete, give yourself 10-15 minutes to make the rounds and collect your various messages.  Rinse and repeat. 
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Wishing you a passionate, prosperous, and powerful day! 
Kristy Nichols 
a.k.a. The Average Goddes

Entry filed under: Business and Career, Organization, Success and Motivation, Time Management. Tags: , , , , , .

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Paula Eder  |  December 24, 2008 at 8:00 am

    Great post – I was especially struck by your comments about scheduling breaks by task rather than by time. Great tip!

    And thank you for the shout out in your e-zine. We’re back up and running here in NH – and now in the clean-up phase.

    Have a wonderful holiday!


    PS Love the blog, too – I’ve added you to my blogroll!

    • 2. averagegoddess  |  December 27, 2008 at 10:12 pm

      Thanks Paula – and I’m so glad to hear you’re back to full power (or any power, for that matter)! The blogrollage is mutual. 😀

  • 3. PaintandSoul  |  January 11, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    Sigh – such good advice. Now I just have to USE it. I copied this into a note I’m going to keep in my personal folder on my computer and on my new Palm phone. 🙂 You’ll be with me everywhere I go miss AG!

  • 4. Kat  |  August 24, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    great tips


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