“Always remember, your focus determines your reality.” — George Lucas.
Have you experienced this? On some days, you might very well try to put in eight hours and not achieve anything substantial, but on other days you might just be on your productive best. Within 2 hours of great concentration and focus, you’d be able to produce fantastic results with which even you’d be surprised.
For someone like me, who has to don many hats at different times within a day, focus easily wanders. From preparing meals every day, taking care of the home, making time to read, write, practice yoga, to spending quality time with the kid - be it playing or sitting down to teach him things if I am not disciplined enough, my to-do tasks inadvertently spill over the next day. Truth be told, it gets the better of me at times and I hit a low.
It is seen that productivity is usually not directly proportional to the time spent on a task on a given day. It is the focus or the lack of it that determines how productive or efficient you can be. While I do not always measure my day by how productive I am, but getting things done at the right time makes me feel happy and content. Certain things have helped me stay focused and get things done efficiently, thereby helping me make time for things I like to do in leisure like reading, making art, or playing with the kid. I am listing them my 7 tips to stay focused below.
Prepare a Daily To-Do List
Set realistic and reasonable daily goals for yourself with a clear purpose. All you need is a paper, a pen, or even a notes app on your smartphone to prepare this to-do list of daily tasks. Ever since I got in to Bullet Journalling, a daily log has been a permanent feature of my journal. Anything that needs my time goes into the list - it can be as varied as - grocery shopping, paying bills, cleaning, decluttering, working on the blog, creating graphics for the posts, study time of the kid, etc.
Preparing a daily to-do list and ticking the tasks off the list as they get done is therapeutic. It is seen that preparing a daily to-do list is a proven way to stay focused and improve your productivity.
Identify the Most Important & Urgent Task (MIT) and set Deadlines.
So, after you’ve followed point #1 and created a list of tasks ready to be ticked off, you need to realize that you have only limited time and energy in a given day. Hence, you need to prioritize your most important task (MIT) and keep that 1st, followed by second important, then third and go on. Not everything on your list should be urgent and important.
This is something I do not do every day. But on days when I actually have a lot of things in my list, some of those tasks need a priority. Knowing how to prioritise tasks and setting the deadlines for them is very important to get them done.
Keep Tasks Manageable
Do you eat a three-course meal in one go? Or finish one meal in one bite? No! The same way, you need to break down your bigger tasks on your to-do lists into smaller, manageable tasks to keep it doable. This way, they will appear smaller and easily surmountable, which will keep you motivated and undistracted. For example, when I have to work on a blog post, I divide the task of writing the content, creating graphics, doing basic SEO for the post, etc., and do it as separate tasks. This helps me in not getting overwhelmed and stay focused.
Give yourself ‘Do-not-Disturb’ Time.
Depending on what how the schedule is - give yourself a couple of hours of ‘do-not-disturb’ time by turning your smartphone to aeroplane mode and putting it away. Minimizing interruptions and isolating yourself allows you to focus. This is very important for me. One of my most productive times is when the kid is asleep or away, and the phone is switched off.
This something I am still working on. When you work from home and have a kid around 24x7, multitasking is practically unavoidable. But I have realised multitasking is a bigtime concentration killer. Hardly any task gets done when we try to multitask too many things. For tasks that need my undivided attention, I avoid multi-tasking. So, I would take up a maximum of one or two major tasks on any given day and complete them fully before jumping to the next one. I have experienced that when we concentrate on one thing at a time, the task gets done in a shorter span.
It is seen scientifically that brain fog sets in if we continue to work beyond 90 minutes without a break. Hence, taking a strategic break for a few minutes after 90 minutes will help in focus better. You can try stretching, walking, etc., however, don’t pick up your smartphone, else before you realize your 5-minute break will be stretched to an hour with mindless scrolling.
Switch Tasks If Required
If a given task requires a lot of time and energy, and you start to feel drained, keep it aside for some time. The reason being, you will start feeling that you’ve hit the wall after focusing on one thing for too long. I often experience it with writing or house chores, so instead of pushing myself too hard at times, I prefer to switch tasks. Our brain needs a change of topic, so switching the subject or changing the task to an entirely new one often helps.
There will be days when you will not be motivated enough to carry on with your daily tasks. We all need a break some days, so do not be harsh on yourself for not wanting to be productive and efficient on such days. But if procrastination seems to become a daily thing, you need to find the cause and sort it out.
Procrastination sets in when we work without a purpose. Think about why you are working on a given task? When your whys are clear, the hows become easy. When we are excited about things we do in life, we are inspired to do it without losing focus. Next time, before you start working on that difficult task, ask yourself what you would gain after you’ve completed it? Your answer will be your motivation to start!