When it comes to sitting down and getting things done, many of us (myself included) have a tendency to find a million things to do – none of them being the one thing that needs doing. If your current task requires laser-like focus, you may need to take some steps to prepare yourself and your surroundings in order to give you the best chance of avoiding distraction. If you’re finding it difficult to devote all of your attention to a single task, give these tips a try:
1. Know what you need to get done
A to-do list can help your productivity in many ways. The most obvious is that it will give you a clear idea of what you need to accomplish. Another way it can help, however, is by letting you see exactly what you don’t need to accomplish. A written to-do list lets you put future tasks out of your mind for the time being, and focus on the tasks you need to finish today.
2. Turn off email notifications
You’re not going to get anything done if you’re getting a popup every thirty seconds with the next urgent note from a client or employee or the deal of the day from a dozen websites. Close your email program and turn off any notifications you’re getting. Don’t worry, they’ll still be there in an hour.
3. Shut down social media
In the same vein as email, social media can be a trap that keeps your attention split all day long. Nothing is going to happen on Facebook or Twitter in the next hour that won’t still be relevant when you’re done working. Close all your social media pages, turn off your mobile notifications, and get some work done.
4. Tell everyone what you’re doing
Your family and co-workers should be able to respect your need for privacy when you’re working. On average, it takes up to 15 minutes to get back into the “groove” after being distracted, so if you’re working in hour-long blocks, one interruption can affect a quarter of your work. Set your chat programs to “away,” hang a sign on your door, make an announcement in the middle of the office – whatever you have to do to make sure you’re not disturbed.
5. Finish an easy task
People are motivated when they get things done, so to help get you in the mood for accomplishment, quickly complete the easiest thing on your to-do list. If your list doesn’t have anything that falls into that category, pick a simple task around your office that will work. Organize your desk, clean off your cabinets, file that stack of paperwork – anything you can check off as “done” will help get you in the right frame of mind.
6. Use music to maintain the atmosphere
Turn on some instrumental music to help mute the sounds of everyday office (or home) life. If that’s not good enough, invest in some comfortable headphones. Those tiny little distractions way only make you pause for a second, but over the course of an hour or even a day, they can be a big hindrance to your progress.
7. Take scheduled breaks
The looming prospect of a workday without end is enough to make anyone want to delay getting things done. Instead of looking at an eight or ten hour workday, plan your next 50-minute work session, then take a 10 minute break. If you can’t handle that, work for half an hour. Hypothetically, two ten-minute work sprints and two twenty-minute breaks are a better use of your time than browsing Reddit for the next hour. Find a schedule that works for you and stick to it.
Everyone has their own ways of refocusing and getting to work. What are some of yours?