As the busy, lively, and dynamic people we are, our brains are constantly flooded with tasks: Clear through the email inbox at work, organize notes for projects, be sure not to double-book free time with friends and family -- these are all things that require focus and attention to detail. Our brains shoot constant reminders about our internal to-do’s without any sort of organized pattern. One second we are thinking about responding to our boss’ email from two hours ago, the next we are kicking ourselves in the back for not going to the grocery store and having to order take out, again. These things happen on the daily, planned or not, and yet, the recurring guilt about not paying attention to tasks that need to be accomplished lingers.
Why do we get distracted? And why do we feel guilty about it? One contributing factor, which has been both a gift and a menace, has been constant stimulation from the Internet. With the power at our hands, the Internet allows us to incessantly create and consume content and information. With the endless possibilities of information collection and creation and exploration, it is near impossible to not to be distracted while on the Internet.
Feeling guilty about being distracted by and killing time on the Internet stems from our constant need to solve problems, and the worrying that comes along with it -- we worry, so we distract ourselves to not worry, thus heightening our discomfort. Sometimes, taking a step back helps me realize that, when I cannot find a solution to a problem, there simply may just not be one. And if a solution is thought of or comes my way, then that is the solution to take hold of, at that time. It is a strange idea, but one that has helped me get through my problems efficiently. It was like a huge weight had been taken off my shoulders when I realized that there will be times where there is no immediate solution, and that worrying has no effect on creating a solution. Worrying is a huge factor as to why many of us lose focus on our projects. This leads into a “time pressure” trap. We worry that we will not have time for this, and not have time for that, which causes us to put our focus on hold, temporarily. And this, my friends, is not productive. So how do we get focused?
No matter what situation you are looking at -- beginning your work day, a new project, planning a family vacation, or dedicating time to a new hobby -- taking 5 minutes in your day to do one, or all, of the following things will help you get focused and closer to accomplishing your goal.
1) Write a list.
Now, this should be the most obvious. Take those scrambled up things you need to do and write them down. Or make a voice memo. Which ever you believe you will reflect back upon. After you have written all the things you have to do, write the list over again, but in a 1-3-5 method, as prescribed by Alex Cavoulacos on The Muse. She explains that we can reasonably only finish 1 big task, 3 medium tasks, and 5 small tasks in a work day. I believe that assigning a value to each item that is reasonable and not in a ultra-specific order helps us get started and focused easier. If you are a Libra like me, the different options in each of the Medium and Small areas is very appealing and provides some leeway into what to tackle next. Stick to this method of assigning feasibility, not rank order, to your to-do’s, and you’ll be on your way to a focused and productive day.
2. Say your goals aloud.
The days of ridiculing muttering to yourself are over! Why is it that we always see people talking to themselves in the mirror in films? Because it works! Take 5 minutes in the morning, or right after lunch, or whenever is your usual midpoint of your day to say your goals for the rest of the day, aloud. Or if it is a constant project, be sure to remind yourself, audibly, what your goals are. There is nothing like a reality check, in your own voice, to your own self, to get focused. Make a habit of doing this. Keeping thoughts inside your head is just like running away from reality. Tell yourself why you are taking that new yoga class, the purpose of taking on more freelance work, the benefits of fixing up your resume -- all aloud.
3. Concentrate on the facts.
It is incredibly easy to get distracted by the “what-if’s” in a situation, especially when taking on a new venture, or coming into an incredibly stressful situation where you have little control. It is a hard trap to get out of, thinking of all the things that could go haywire, in your head. But to really focus in, and spend proactive time finding solutions or analyzing situations, we must concentrate on the facts. What I find useful is to state the “Who What Where When & Why’s” before I go into a meeting or work session. For example, “I am meeting with so-and-so at 1pm in the lounge to develop a detailed internship listing to post in August.” Saying this aloud and thinking back to it during the task, in this case a meeting, will help you stay focused and get things accomplished efficiently. It is even better if you say this statement to another person who is involved or cares about your well-being! The benefits to this method are incredible, from relieving stress and worry to confirming knowledge and to organizing a goal.
A lot of time on a project is estimating the resources needed to get started. By doing any of the above, getting started and focused will lead to a solid assignment of resources and actions to accomplish our goals. Getting focused is always the hardest part, but realizing the benefits at the end of the road will keep us going.
Sophie Calzada is a California loving Libra who has made her home in the Bay Area. When she's not working on writing projects, you can find her playing board games, disc golfing in Golden Gate Park, grooving to her favorite bands and producers, or biking around the Bay on the search for her new favorite beer. She enjoys curating a life where happiness and lending a helping hand coincide in splendid harmony.
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