Is it not annoying when- and here’s a situation you might be familiar with- you have a job to do- whether it be at work, revising, or a task you’ve set yourself… and you can’t do it. Because every time you start, every time you even begin to get focused on it… your phone notifications go off, or you sneak a peek at your Instagram account and that peek turns into… something more than a peek. Or you spot something pretty on your desk, or you find you can’t take your eyes off the view outside your window…
Or anything really. Because the problem with distractions is that it’s so easy to get carried away, and sometimes certain tasks we have to do are so boring or so difficult that it’s only too easy to just get too excited about just about anything that you see. When I’m writing at home, I’ve even taken to leaving all other electronics in the most difficult places- up many flights of steps, in any one of the rooms I really can’t be bothered to have to run up to to retrieve it- really anywhere that might stop me from finding it easily. It’s just that something is always happening online, on chats, on social networks and the blogosphere and it never actually ends. If my phone is within my reach, you can pretty much bet that reach it I will.
Often though you don’t have to go to such crazy lengths to stop yourself from getting distracted. Besides, it’s not even always electronics which distract us from our work. I’ve noticed myself increasing the number of times I take tea each day- going up from once, to now 4 or 5 times- simply because I have to leave my desk- and whatever it is I’m working on on my computer- in order to choose which variety I want each time!
The fact is, even if you absolutely love everything you’re doing (and I really do!) there are going to be parts of it that are less enjoyable, be it having to make difficult decisions, revise for a topic you’re less than thrilled about, write a chapter of a book which requires research of more difficult texts or complete a task that takes extra effort. The good news is that you can overcome many of the barriers that are preventing you from enjoying distracted-free work time. Today I’ll be giving you some of my suggestions as to how 🙂
Don’t spread breaks out. I find breaks are a really fantastic thing- great for getting refreshed, reapproaching my work with a new mind, and planning my next move, but the problem with too many of them is that each time I take a break, I lose my focus. So even when I return to my work, chances are it is going to take me some time to regain that focus. If, for example, it takes you 20 minutes to do that, and you take 5 breaks, you’re spending 100 minutes of your day regaining focus.
That precious time could be put to much better uses. What I find is usually useful to do is to give myself a certain task/s to accomplish that day, and to just go through and do my best to complete as much/many of them as possible, taking breaks only when I feel I really need it. It’s meant I spend more time being fully focused on my task than having to regain that focus again and again.
Eating well, keeping hydrated and sleeping well. These are three key things that I find are especially helpful in keeping myself at my most productive state. Something true throughout my life in schools, continuing even through universiity- that I’ve noticed is that students often don’t give themselves enough sleep. I know a countless amount of people who are constantly up until 2-3am doing last minute studies and revision. It’s something they tell me never to do- you’re more likely to perform well in exams or under pressure if you’ve had enough sleep and you’re well and rested 🙂 Take that from experience 😛
I’ve found that eating good meals and keeping hydrated throughout the day (not on coffee and sugary drinks though! :D) is really helpful in keeping me focused. Many of my friends swear by fresh smoothies, but there are so many other foods that give you great energy which are wonderful too, if that’s not for you. I try to steer away from anything that makes me feel sleepy or drained. Everyone’s different, so I’m not going to be specific, but I personally find good protein, vitamin rich foods and Vitamin D are perfect pick-me-ups 🙂
Try making your work fun. So I can imagine this sounds so much easier to do than it really is, so I’ll give some examples: If your work is repetitive, try to vary the tasks you have to do each day. In between working, input tasks which are different to break the routine, and yet relevant to your work. E.g. If I’m writing short stories, I can’t really change the fact that I’m writing, but what I can do is occasionally read and consult advice on writing, read other short stories- anything to differentiate each day from the previous one. It adds meaning to them.
I’ve found that for revision, highlighting, ilustrating your work in grids or brainstorms, watching videos and recording yourself reading out your notes are just some of the many ways you can be creative with the tasks you have to do. Even changing your environment can be helpful- try completing your work in a different area- a café, or a library, for example. Changing the way you work may well make it more enjoyable.
Rewards. In other words, find out what motivates you. This could be what you need to be less likely to get distracted.
It could be…
- Material items: I know many people who find that promising themselves something tangible encourages them to accomplish things, thus making them less likely to get distracted- depending on your interests, your reward for yourself is different. With this it’s best to think of something you want, can get/buy, but just haven’t yet- in other words, something achievable. I know a coffee lover who buys themself a different variety of coffee each time they are able to complete a week productively, i.e. without getting too distracted, but it does not need to entail buying anything- it could be as simple as treating yourself to homemade cupcakes/ time at the end of the week to decorate cookies at home.
- People. Family members, friends, colleagues, teachers, celebrities- all of these and more are for many people important figureheads/inspirations/role models that motivate them to get through their task. Especially if you know the person well, they can be a great inspiration to resist the temptation of constantly getting distracted.
- Other- I find this final point to have been more relevant to me persoanlly throughout my life, especially during exams. Being a competetive person, I don’t enjoy not doing as well as I could have. The feeling you get when you achieve something big- that is the feeling I live for. So I try to remind myself of how rewarding it is to complete all the tasks I set for myself- it is surprisingly effective in keeping me focused 🙂
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these suggestions 🙂 What are your top tips and techniques for staying focused? I’d love to ear them! Simply comment below.