Oftentimes we have a task to complete but run into difficulty getting it done. This is frequently due to distractions. Either we become sidetracked or overwhelmed and don’t begin or we get off task once we have started working. Here is a five step process to help stay focused when you have a piece of work that you really need to complete:
1. Anticipate Possible Distractions
Most of us have certain things that cause 80 percent or more of our distractions. We can predict what these things will be because they are consistent. Think of what usually distracts you from getting work done and make a list. Then consider what you can do to eliminate these distractions while you are working. For example, if one of your distractions is text messages popping up on your phone, then you could put your phone on silent and out of view while you are working or use an app that only lets emergency calls come through. If another distraction is noise from other people in the house, you could consider working before other people are awake, using noise-canceling headphones, or finding a quiet spot away from others.
2. Choose a Specific Task
We often don’t begin because a task feels overwhelmingly large. So, the first step is to break down big projects into manageable chunks. Make sure the first task you have to complete is the most approachable. This will allow you to begin easily. When you are going to work for a set period of time, choose a very specific task that fits within the amount of time that you have. For example, make a Jeopardy game out of the study guide for chapter 1. Do not give in to the temptation to multitask. None of us actually multitask well.
3. Choose a Block of Time
Decide how much time you will need based on the task that you need to complete. For example, if the task above of making the Jeopardy game will take you an hour, then schedule it into a one hour block of time that you have available. Next, consider how long you can usually stay focused. Is it 20 minutes, 30 minutes, or perhaps the full hour? Break the block of time into segments of work followed by a short break, if needed, with the intention of gradually increasing the amount of working time whenever you sit down to complete a task.
4. Set a Timer
Set a timer for the amount of time you decided on. Then work on the task you chose until the timer rings. If you worked and did not get distracted, take a short 2-5 minute break (time it) when the timer goes off. After you have completed 3 or more short work periods, take a longer 15-30 minute break to do something active,eat a meal, or participate in an activity you enjoy.
If you get distracted, do not get discouraged or let frustration cause you to quit. Make note of what caused the distraction, so that you can avoid it in the future. Then start the timer over and begin working again.
We would love to hear from you! Please let us know about strategies that you use to stay focused in the comments below.
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Nina Parrish, M. Ed.
Co-Owner and Director of Education
Proud mom of two adorable girls. Teacher who has developed an education business that started at a kitchen table and has grown into a thriving small business... Click here to Learn more about Nina.
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