“Success demands singleness of purpose.” ~Vincent Lombardi
Some days I’m totally on top of things, focused and centered and productive. I love those days–I get things done and when the day is over, I feel accomplished and positive.
Then there are the days when I’m scattered and randomly jumping from task to task without any real focus.
Those days are less enjoyable, and even though I “get a lot done,” I don’t actually feel like I’ve accomplished much–and I often find myself feeling guilty. That doesn’t feel good.
It feels good to get things done, to be intentionally focused on not only what needs to be done, but also on what I want to do.
It feels good to accomplish what I set out to accomplish, to meet my daily goals–which always lead toward the more long-term goals. And feeling good and accomplishing my goals is a sure-fire way to bring more positive things into my life.
So how do we find focus when we have one of those scattered days?
One Step at a Timer
I don’t know about you, but I tend to multi-task nearly all the time. However, on those scattered days, I feel the need to stop and focus on only one task at a time. Maybe that’s because when I’m feeling scattered, I’m far more easily distracted.
I find that setting a timer for a specific amount of time and forcing myself to focus on a single task makes a big difference. Even five minutes can be enough to shake off that scattered feeling and get back into a focused mindset.
The feeling of being scattered goes right along with a cluttered work area or home. When I’m feeling that way, sometimes just clearing off my desk or tidying up around the house is enough to help me change my mind.
When our living and working spaces our cluttered, we’re bound to feel mentally cluttered too. Even just clearing off a single table top or shining your kitchen sink can make all the difference in the world.
Just Do It Already
A lot of times, when I’m feeling unfocused, I procrastinate or distract myself with busy work. Then, I find myself staying up late into the night to meet my deadlines or finish up my projects. (I’ll admit, sometimes the late nights are a direct result of just plain being busy–but other times, they could be avoided!)
So, when I feel myself procrastinating, just forcing myself to BEGIN doing the task is enough to get me back on track. Even if I’m not feeling it when I get started, I eventually find my groove and keep on keeping on.
Take a Break
Ok, I realize this sounds counter-intuitive, but hear me out. If you’re anything like me, sometimes the fact that you have things to do can cause you to become paralyzed, especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed. So, while taking a break may seem like it would slow your productivity, the opposite is actually true–at least for me.
If I find myself feeling frustrated or unfocused, a fifteen minute break away from my desk can sometimes be all I need to develop a fresh perspective. Sometimes it’s just doing a mindless activity like watching a little TV or walking around the block, and other times it’s talking with one of my family member or friends. And sometimes, it’s just about being still and quiet and not thinking about anything at all.
The point is that if I take a quick break, I come back refreshed and ready to get things done–while if I skip the break, I might waste even more time by remaining unfocused.
This might seem obvious. But if you’re anything like me, planning may not come naturally to you. What I find effective is to sit down at the end of my work day and look at what I’ve got going on for the next day. I’ll check my calendar for appointments, check my list of assignments and tasks and then I set up a priority list for the next day.
I decide what MUST be done, then what I would like to get done. I set up a really basic plan of attack for the next day, and then I make a point of sticking to it as much as possible. Of course, things come up and priorities change–but having a basic plan for the day can still mean the difference between being focused and being scattered. You might be surprised how significantly a simple plan can change your perspective and increase your focus.
So, how about you? What do you do to get back on track when you find yourself losing focus or feeling scattered? Tell me in the comments!
“Once you have mastered time, you will understand how true it is that most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year – and underestimate what they can achieve in a decade!” ~Tony Robbins
Being productive feels good. On those days that I manage to do all the things on my excessively long to-do list, I just feel amazing. But then, there are those days where I don’t quite hit the mark, and I find myself feeling less than stellar.
I love my work, and though I occasionally have a tendency to take on too much, I still keep plugging–most days. And then, there are those days where I just feel like I can’t get anything done. What about you?
Do you ever feel like your productivity level is slipping a bit?
Maybe you thought you’d get four projects done today, but you completed only two. You ask yourself where the time goes and you’ve noticed you’re feeling disappointed in yourself and how you perform at work or at home.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone–this is all part of being human. But there are some simple things you can do to increase your efficiency and get more out of your life.
Hit the ground running. Be ready to go to work as soon as you arrive, whether you’re commuting an hour to your corporate job or 10 steps to a home office.
Using the example of work, visualize yourself on the way into the office, and then think about what it’s going to be like when you get there. Do you have three large stacks of paperwork to do? Articles to write, research to do? Phone calls to return?
Think about what you’ll do first. Perhaps you can complete that project you started last Friday with just a couple more hours of work. Put your mind ahead of your body’s arrival so you can get started quickly.
Learn to anticipate. When you consider what will be happening next, you’ll be ready to meet whatever challenge is occurring at the time.
For example, at home, you might think, “I know the kids will be hungry for a snack. I’ll get out that fruit salad from yesterday and give them glasses of juice right away so I can get to the laundry.”
Anticipate what might happen, and have a plan.
Develop a method of keeping track of tasks that works for you. Whether it’s speaking your list into your smartphone, jotting down things to do in your calendar, or carrying a spiral notebook, having a running list to look at or listen to will help you get more things done.
For me, it’s all about Google Calendar–I can have multiple, color-coded calendars in one, and I can share various calendars with various parties. In my case, I have a personal calendar as well as various work/editorial calendars, among others. All sync to my phone, and for the really important stuff, I set reminders to help me remember–sometimes several.
Whichever method you choose, be sure it’s convenient and works for you. Having some way to check-off items is helpful so you can tell at a glance which tasks you’ve completed and which ones remain–this also increases your sense of accomplishment and can help encourage you to keep on keeping on.
If you don’t already have a calendar or task manager tool in place, try a couple of methods until you find the list that’s easiest for you to use. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution here. Just find something that fits in your life and go with it.
Politely tell others you don’t “have a minute.” If you’re at work and people stop by your office to chat, feel free to say, “I’m sorry. I can’t talk right now but I’d love to have lunch today and hear more about this.”
On that same note, remember that you are not Superman or Superwoman, and that you have the right to say no, sometimes. For example, in my case, I might need to push back a deadline or explain that my schedule is too full to be on that committee or to plan that party.
I’m not going to lie. This one is hard for me. I find myself saying yes and just “making stuff happen.” But at times, this attitude makes my life more difficult in a number of ways, including lack of sleep, lack of personal time and more.
So sometimes, we all have to be strong and explain that we just don’t have time–and if possible, we can offer alternative options, but if not, we just have to politely say no.
Keep meetings brief. If you’re in a position to have control over meetings at work, make a goal to meet for 30 minutes max. If you go into a meeting with a written agenda, you’ll be ready to cover your points quickly.
Personally, I have a weekly meeting with my team at Scrubs & Suits. We always try to come in with an agenda, and since we’re a creative and inspired bunch, we have a tendency to get off-track and the meetings can run long. But when I remind everyone early in the meeting that we are limited to a certain period of time, we manage to stay on track a bit more effectively.
So, when you’re leading a meeting, involve the group in helping to manage the time. And, if you’re not leading but you’re attending the meeting, you can do your part by helping the group to stay focused.
Reinforce your efforts to achieve.Praise yourself each day. Maybe you completed a work project you’ve been working on for several weeks or cooked a great meal for friends and family.
Recognize the efforts you make to complete tasks. You deserve it, and you’re worth it–and you don’t need to wait for others to notice. Celebrate yourself, and stay positive about your efforts and achievements.
Allow yourself plenty of time in the morning. If you need an hour to shower, have breakfast and get your task list written for the day, then get up early enough to have your full hour.
And if you work at home, don’t think you’re exempt from this idea. You should still get up every morning (most mornings, anyway) and get ready as you would if you worked in an office–whether you’re a stay-at-home parent or you work from your home office, something about “getting ready for work” will change your mindset and help to increase your productivity levels (and you won’t have to hide when the UPS guy shows up.)
So, how about you? What are your best tips for increasing productivity and eliminating procrastination from your life? Let’s discuss! Share your thoughts in the comments section, below.