Thursday, August 27, 2009

Day 12 - The Art of Staying Focused

As employees, students - adults - we must be self-motivating. The bulk of the real work necessary to succeed in school or in business must be done on our own. These days, it is likely you are spending many hours at a keyboard. For me, going back to school after a decades-long break, made it difficult to get almost anything accomplished - at first. The Internet simply comes with too many distractions! Every time I would sit down to research or write, I would run across a new opportunity, be tempted to visit some website, watch a video post, check my email, attend a webinar, browse Google, or participate in anything other than the work - not to mention the offline distractions.

Consider these steps to help maintain better focus.

1. Work alone in a quiet space

If you live in a noisy complex, or have young children, roommates, even a needy spouse, you already know it's absolutely crucial to work in a space where others don't distract you. Does it ever seem like just when you're ready to start something, you're suddenly barraged by requests to help others out? Go to your work space with a solid amount of time carved out for you to be productive.

2. Get Rid of Internet Distractions

While it may be fun to surf online for the latest videos, shop, read the news, check email or a favorite social networking site, you can literally waste hours on these activities. They won't get you closer to your goal, unless of course, your goal involves Internet research. Save your favorite Internet time wasters for after you get some real work done. When you see results, then reward yourself with a limited amount of time on a favorite activity.

3. Turn off the TV / Stereo / iPod/ Cell phone

I know, even I am surprised to hear this from me (I used to be the queen of multi-tasking). I spent my early school years studying with a TV blaring in the background at all times. I won't bore you with own my life lessons, but let's face it, the noise can make it tough to concentrate.

4. Use a list to keep track of tasks

A daily to-do list really does work. Today, you can replace your old paper list with a calendar program, an online scheduler application or generate a typed list at the end of each day using your favorite word processing program. The bottom line is to write down what you hope to accomplish the next day, then forget it for the rest of the evening. This leaves you free to relax, and you'll even sleep better. Having the list ready the next morning makes it easier to dive right in.

5. Break big jobs into smaller pieces, then prioritize the parts

It sounds simplistic, but tackling one small item at a time is so much easier than looking the larger job. Break a report into several sections, then break the sections into smaller sections. Tackle one bite at a time. You'll stay focused and finish quicker.

By implementing even one of these strategies, you might find your productivity up and attaining your goals closer than you thought.

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