One day, faced with an extremely long to do list and a severe lack of sleep, I drank 40 ounces of iced coffee within a two hour span. Healthy? No, not at all. Effective? Not in the least. I spent the rest of the morning battling jitters, a racing heart and the anxiety of knowing that I was so hyperactive and unproductive that my to do list would never shorten. Moral of the story: caffeinating is not always the answer to buckling down to focus on the tasks at hand.
I’m sure we’ve all had those days, hopefully sans iced coffee overdose, where we just cannot seem to focus on what needs to be done. It usually takes the form of too many internet tabs, checking and then re-checking Twitter and Instagram, then project bouncing until it’s acceptable to end the day. Before you count the entire day as lost, try out these five methods for tuning out the distractions and focusing on the work. Oh, and stay away from the iced coffee…far away.
01 // Set the tone for work to be done
Whether I’m about to schedule blog posts or sit down to work on a design, I have to set a work tone. When I’m blogging, that usually involves some relaxed background music, coffee and a clean work space. All of these things send a signal to my brain that it’s time to get things done.
02 // Have a plan
If I know I have a busy day ahead, I’ll be sure to write out a prioritized to do list the night before. Knowing that you already have a road map for the day will alleviate so much stress once you’re ready to work. Avoid having things scattered in multiple places; you’ll want to be as organized as possible.
03 // Eliminate distractions
This is probably the most important key for tuning out and focusing on the work you need to do. Open a new browser window with no other tabs, go full screen so that you aren’t tempted to open another program, put your phone on “do not disturb” mode (iPhone feature). Be a little unreachable so that once you’re doing working you have actual free time to chat and socialize.
04 // Work in time chunks
The feeling of having 24 hours versus your whole to do list can be pretty overwhelming. Try approaching your tasks by dividing things into set chunks of time. For example, take an hour to schedule blog posts and another hour to work on post graphics with a 30 minute break in between. The break will give you a second to rest your eyes and stretch while still knowing that you have more to be done.
05 // Stop avoiding and procrastinating
If you’ve tried everything else and you still can’t tune out and focus, it may be due to your procrastinating or avoiding another project. Instead of avoiding a daunting task, knock it out first so that it’s over and you have a fresh mind to move on with.