Easily Distracted?! Six Ways To Focus on Focusing
I’ve been freelancing for over 6 months now and, boy, has it been one hell of a rollercoaster. Some things are as I imagined they would be, but there are some things that no amount of books or blogs can prepare you for. I hope to post more about my freelancing experiences over the foreseeable future, however I thought I’d start with something that everyone can relate to.
One of the things that I’ve had to learn/force myself to do is to stay focused, and not get distracted during the working day. When at home on your own it can be all too easy to just watch a bit of TV, play on the PlayStation for 5 minutes. Heck, I’ve even done housework before to get out of doing work.
Guess what though?! That 5 minutes turns into 30 minutes, 30 minutes turns into 2 hours, and before you know it your whole morning has gone.
Below I give my tips that I now use to keep me on track and focused:
1. Look at your environment
This is my numero uno for a reason. To me the environment in which you work in makes the biggest difference to how you approach work. If you’re to spend 9+ hours in a room, make sure it’s a place you don’t mind being. There’s nothing worse than being trapped in a room you don’t want to be in.
Try and get as much natural light in the room, get a comfortable chair, wear clothes that you feel comfortable in, and try to block out any distractions that might be going on elsewhere in the house or outside the room.
Ideally you’d be in a room that doesn’t contain any distractions but, if you do have to be in the same room as a console or similar, try moving the temptation out of view as to not tempt you.
2. Assign allocated times for emails, social etc
Put your hand up if you open your inbox to read an email as soon as you see one drop in, or hop onto Facebook the instant you hear the notification sound. Yep… me too. Even if you don’t, that new email or notification will be sitting at the back of your mind until you check it.
All this does is distract you from what you’re doing and, depending on the content of the email, could cause you to go off on a complete tangent from what you’re doing.
“But what if it’s urgent” I hear you say. Well, if it was that urgent wouldn’t they call you? I’m not saying to completely blank out whoever is trying to contact you. Just deal with incoming correspondence at regular intervals when you’re not in the middle of something else.
For me, depending on workload, I check emails every 1-2 hours, and social networking only at lunch. I’m also logged into Skype 24/7 but regularly keep my status as ‘Away’ or ‘Busy’ when working on something.
3. Reward yourself
With hard work comes reward, or at least it should. This is a personal favourite tip of my mine and one I feel is important in keeping oneself focused. This tip involves setting yourself targets and giving yourself rewards when you’ve reached them. Without a boss there’s nobody to hand out rewards so you need to do it yourself.
We’re not talking about giving yourself a £1,000 pay rise because you sent a single email. Think smaller, for example, grab a coffee when you’ve done the first five items on your to-do list, or allow yourself 30 minutes watching TV after a project has been completed.
4. Make lists
I would say that the majority of my days revolve around lists. Even now I’m working through a list and have come across the ‘Write Blog’ task. At the beginning of each day, or even better the night before, write a list of what you hope to achieve in that day and stick to it.
By having a list you can prioritise what’s important and stop the smaller, less significant, tasks jumping to the top.
Be realistic too, don’t put 20 items on the list if you know you can only do 10 of them. This will just make you more stressed, and will probably result in a half-arsed job being done on 20 items, rather than a top-notch job being done on 10 of them.
5. Visualise the big picture
Why do you go to work? Because you have to? To pay the bills? Both are indeed completely true. Short of living off benefits, or moving to a money-less economy, we do have to go to work. However, going to work is also a way to pay for nice things that we want, to allow us to do things that are fun.
Being self-employed you don’t get the regular fixed income each month that you would get from full-time employment. The only way to get money is to park your behind on a chair and do some work.
Take a look at these snippets of my whiteboard:
Ok, they’re only quick sketches, but what it does do is allow me to see my goals, my wants. If you can’t tell from the drawings mine include a new bike, a dog, a campervan, a house, and holidays to Norway and DisneyLand. Each time the thought of cutting a corner, or taking a day off comes into my mind I can take a look at these drawings and get a little morale boost.
You’ll notice that the items I’ve picked are of different values. Some achievable in a few months, some over many years. I think it’s important to do it in this way so you can cross an item off every so often.
6. Get a playlist together
Ok, last but not least… music. I know some people prefer to work in silence but I recommend you pick a couple of albums a day, or choose a radio station you enjoy and just have it on in the background. It definitely keeps me more focussed and gives me another reason to stay at my desk.
I’d love to know how you stay focused in your day-to-day lives. Please leave a comment if you have any that you’d like to share and I might even try them out myself.