Staying Focused — Being Efficient & Productive
Do you ever struggle with getting distracted on a project? Today I’m talking about staying focused as part of a system for being efficient and productive.
This is the third post in my series. You can find the introduction here to see what you’re going to get. If you prefer video you can watch the video below or take a look at the series playlist on my youtube channel.
So far we’ve talked about making your plan and getting both physically and mentally prepared before you take action.
Today we’re talking about staying focused while you’re taking action.
First things first. You need to look at your plan and you need to pick a task. It doesn’t matter what task. It doesn’t have to be the first task. Pick any task and get started on it.
Sometimes it’s best to pick a difficult task that you know you’re going to procrastinate on. Other times it’s best to pick a simple task that will give you a quick win. My preference is to combine a simple quick win back to back with a more difficult win.
Pick a task, get in depth on it and get it done.
Before you start, you have to turn off all your distractions. No social media feeds, no text messages, no emails, no phone calls. Nothing. Turn off all your ringers and alerts so that no sounds will annoy you. Turn your phone face down so you don’t see an alert and be tempted to pick it up. Put your phone in the next room if it’s too tempting. Another great idea is using airplane mode which forces you into taking a few steps before getting distracted.
We’ll talk more about your distractions in a few moments
Making sure your tasks are broken down into smaller blocks is key to keeping things moving along. Find logical separation points and break larger tasks into two or maybe three smaller tasks that will be easier to handle. However, make sure you finish up one task before moving on to the next task.
Remember, a list with half of the tasks crossed off is halfway done. That same list with all of the items kind of halfway done is not even close to halfway done. You need to finish a task and cross it off your list before moving on.
In our example of shooting a video you’ve already done this a few times. You started by making the plan, which has multiple tasks of its own. You followed that by cleaning and setting up your space. Then you gathered all your stuff together. You completed these tasks and crossed them off your list before moving on.
You definitely want to stick to your plan, which might be full of vague or high level thoughts. But don’t ignore creativity while you’re working through the details. Allow yourself to drift through the gaps in your plan and take inspiration along the way. However, don’t forget to check in with your plan once in a while to make sure you’re not climbing ever deeper into a never ending rabbit hole.
In addition to creativity, a big part of staying focused is by planning some breaks. I don’t know about you, but I can’t run at 110% all the time. I don’t really want to either. Breaks will reset your body when you’re run down. Breaks will also help give clarity on challenges and allow for new inspiration to pop in for a quick hello. Surely you’ve had those moments doing something completely off topic and a solution to another problem pops into your head. The breaks will give your mind a distraction which opens you up for new ideas.
A valuable part of taking breaks is diving into your distractions. Schedule your distractions and your vices right into your breaks. Go nuts. Fire up your social media feeds. Check your text messages and your email. But, and this is a big but. Don’t waste a lot of time. Five or ten minutes at most. Focus on your distractions briefly, grab a cup of coffee and get right back to moving forward on your plan.
A big distraction for me back when I worked from home was burning my CD collection to MP3 files. I would just plug them in and let them go all throughout the day. I figured they ran in the background so they take care of themselves. I was wrong. It actually was a big distraction. Eventually I forced myself to burn one CD first thing in the morning and that was it. No more. That let me accomplish my distraction while still focusing on the projects at hand. Maybe something like that will work for you.
So there you have it. The key to staying focused is to pick a task, get in depth on it and cross it off your list so don’t have to redo it. Schedule lots of breaks and focus on your distractions during your breaks. Then cut them loose and get back on task. Doing all of this will keep you efficient as you move forward on your project.
Now, I want you to do something for me. I want you to leave a comment below and let me know how you keep your distractions at bay. I’m always on the lookout for new ideas.
Hopefully this series will help you along your journey and give you some useful tips. I have more great content coming up so stay tuned.
I’ll see you next time when we talk about staying consistent.
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