How To Reel In The Time-Suck Monster
Staying focused and being productive can be challenging depending on what type of work you do. Some people have jobs that don’t require a lot of thought, but do require a skill, such as a line worker that produces parts for a larger project. Other jobs require us to know and work around multiple tasks and responsibilities that can allow our time to easily get away from us.
If you are a writer or blogger as I am, then having structured time for work may be even more difficult. I have found that working from home allows me some freedoms but also creates a different set of problems. One of them is staying focused on the tasks I need to do. When I was working back in my corporate jobs, it was pretty easy to stay focused on the job. Having set hours, and being able to “leave work at the office” is a one thing that doesn’t happen when you work for yourself.
Regardless of if you work at home or away from home, there are times when we really need to re-evaluate how we are spending our time. If we can streamline certain tasks, it can allow us flexibility and create less stress in our lives.
Here I have listed 10 ways that may help you stay focused on your work. These can apply to a regular job or if you work from home.
- Set clear goals. I am a fan of lists. During the past decade, I have never really set up yearly goals. That changes with 2017. I want to start the year with a clear idea of where I want to go during the next year. I may not know how to get there, but by the end of the year, I’ll know where I’ve been.
- Find your time thieves. You know what I’m talking about. Those little “tasks” that you need to do, but aren’t as important as what you should be doing. Pinpoint those things that take time away from the more important thing and put them on your list of things to do, but down at the bottom because they are the least important.
- Work in blocks of time. Set up a 60-90 minute block of time to work, then take a break. I learned when I was writing fiction that the brain begins to have a hard time connecting the dots when I work too long without a break. Get up and take a brisk walk, even if it’s just on the treadmill for 5 minutes. Think about something else entirely.
- Don’t multitask. The world we live in has forced us into multi-tasking. That is the exact opposite of being focused. It will take some training to put yourself into only ONE task, but the rewards are well worth it.
- Turn off the world. I know…I go through withdrawals as well. Turning off the internet, email, chat and phone may make us feel disconnected. That is exactly what you want. In order to not become distracted by something that isn’t important, we need to turn off those things which distract us.
- The social media time suck. We all do it. We say that we’ll just go to twitter to check our stats, or Pinterest to see how a particular post is doing. Next thing you know, we’ve been pinning and tweeting for 2 hours and it felt like only a few minutes. Unless you are being paid to post, leave the social media for after the work. It will still be there. Trust me. I checked.
- Use the tech to help you stick to your plan. There are apps out there that will help you to time yourself on social media or turn off the internet for a certain amount of time. Use these to help keep you on track.
- Learn why you get distracted. I find that when I start to get hungry, my mind begins to wander. I also begin to think about dinner ideas which makes me want to head over to Pinterest and check out some recipes for whatever I have in the freezer. Or, if I am working on something that I don’t particularly care to do, I will find ways to drag my feet. I have found that it is better to push through and get those unwanted tasks done and over with. Not only does it feel better to get it off your to do list, but then you feel you’ve accomplished something.
- Quickie Lists. Come up with a list of things that need to be done, but don’t take a lot of time. These are those things that you can fit in when you need a break from some of the less fun projects. It also creates a sense of accomplishment.
- Practice doing one thing at a time. This goes back to not multi-tasking. With the demands on our attention, it’s no wonder most of us have attentions spans of a gnat. I know mine has suffered since the tech has forced it’s way into my life. Being able to sit down and read a physical book becomes a challenge when my phone is constantly dinging. I’ve learned to turn the phone on silent. If there is an emergency, those who need to get in touch know how. Take time to relearn how to do just one thing and stay with it for a certain amount of time. You may only be able to do it for a few minutes at first. But as you keep practicing, it will get easier.