How to Stay Focused on a Task or Activity

9 Jan

“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.”

Alexander Graham Bell


Photo Credit: ihtatho's Photostream on Flickr

You need to write that article today but there’s a really good show on the tube you’ve been dying to watch.  You tell yourself you’ll do the article after the show.

The show’s over and you’re in front of your computer about to start but your instant messenger window pops up – a friend asking you how you are.  You reply and you get into a comfortable conversation.  After a couple of minutes, you tell your friend you have to go because you need something done.

So you go back to your document and start typing but you see a notification of a new mail. You decide to check it out and see that a long time relative has posted something on your Facebook wall and a colleague posted a tweet of some juicy office gossip.  By the time you’re done sending a comment on Facebook and Twitter, it’s lunch time and your stomach is grumbling, demanding to be fed.

Sounds familiar?  Don’t feel bad, you are not alone.  Countless of people (including the wifey 🙂 ) go through this day after day, both at home and at work.  Technology backfires in the form of counter-productivity.  From mobile phones, the television, the mp3 player to the internet.  There are just myriad of ways that keep us from being productive.

Distractions, one after the other, so, how can you stay focused on a task?  Here are a few tips to help you: 

Find an ideal place where you can work. Stay as far from the TV or the kitchen/pantry as possible.  Staying away will keep you from getting distracted by the shows or the temptation of food.

Turn off your mobile phones or put them on silent mode. This way you won’t be bothered by incoming SMS or calls.

Avoid connecting to the internet unless it is crucial to the task at hand. Unplug your computer from your modems.  Turn off your routers   so you won’t get sidetracked by checking on Facebook, Twitter and other social media websites. You can also block these sites temporarily.

If you are connected to the internet, turn off email notifications and avoid signing in to your instant messengers. This way you won’t get distracted by the constant beeps and window pop ups from your email and chat windows.

List down your tasks by priority. Having this list can help you concentrate on the most important task.

Give each task a realistic deadline and stick to it. Say you need to write an article, give yourself an hour to do that.  Then another 30 minutes to review and edit what you’ve written.  Having a task list with a deadline enables you to do one list at a time which can result in more quality work.

Cross out finished tasks. Seeing the actual crossed out tasks on paper instead of ticking them in your head gives you more control because you can easily forget things if you do the math in your head.  You also get a higher sense of fulfillment when you see what you’ve accomplished.

Give yourself a pat on the back! Reward yourself for each task done! Unless your tasks are time constrained, a small reward after every task is helpful (say, getting a snack if you’re hungry).  Leave the bigger rewards after all your task list has been crossed out.  This will enforce positive feedback and will help you look forward to finishing another task.

In the end, discipline will play an important part in being successfully focused.   If we make this a habit, meeting our goals will not be so hard.


2 Responses to “How to Stay Focused on a Task or Activity”

  1. Young Wifey January 9, 2011 at 9:28 pm #

    I also keep a notepad by my bed incase I awake with a though, I can jot it down and not worry about forgetting…

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