Hands up if you’re a serial procrastinator.
HA, guilty as charged! I know what it’s like to get distracted when you should be laser-focused on the work at hand. It’s even harder to stay focused when you’re sleep deprived. That late night rush to catch up on work that should’ve been finished sooner is a one-way track to Guilt Central.
Did you know that the average attention span of humans has shortened from 12 seconds to just 8 seconds? Even goldfish have longer attention spans than us. I guess the digital age has some slight downfalls. We’re being fed information left, right and centre and there’s just so much to consume in so little time. It’s hard to focus on one thing.
You’re not alone on the procrastination boat – there’s plenty of procrastinators out there. Heck, I could probably be the captain of the procrastination boat. But in saying this, I’m slowly curbing my bad habits.
Here are some of my simple but effective ways to stay focused and get things done.
1. Hang a quote in front of your workspace that keeps you motivated
Choose a favourite quote of yours. Write it down. Hang it up. Be reminded of why you need to stay focused. I believe it’s always good to keep a reminder close by that helps spur a positive mindset. One of my favourite quotes is “When you wake up in the morning you have two choices: go back to sleep, or wake up and chase those dreams”.
2. Set daily rituals
Setting positive rituals is a great way to create productive habits. Set aside some time for a morning walk or practice mindfulness before you tackle the day. It’s all about starting the day off in a good mood. I also think it’s important to know the times you work the best as this might determine what rituals you set!
3. Multitask less
You can multitask, but you can’t multitask efficiently. Focus on one task at a time. Take the time to sit down and go through your task and once you’ve finished, start on the next one. You’ll save yourself time because you don’t have to go back and forth between tasks.
4. Organise tasks with a daily to-do list
The night before, give yourself some time to write a to-do list for the next day. Give each task a priority and set a time limit to get each of them done. To know how much time to allocate, break down each task into smaller sub-tasks. Importantly, be realistic about it and don’t stretch yourself too thin by adding way too many tasks. It’s all about working smart, not hard.
5. Have someone be accountable for you
Have someone be accountable for you. Tell your parents, your partner or a friend the tasks you’re aiming to get done. Have them ask you at the end of the day whether you’ve accomplished what you set out to do. This way you’ll feel more responsible to get your work done.
6. Work alone
If you’re easily distracted by other people, maybe it’s worthwhile to find a quiet space where you can focus on your work. I find that I’m a lot more productive when I’m by myself. However, you may find that social stimuli may work in your favour! It’s all about finding out what works best for you.
7. Put your phone away
I reach for my phone once every ten minutes to check pointless notifications. It’s such a focus killer. If you find that you reach for your phone several times during the hour… well, it’s time to put it FAR FAR away from your workspace. Only check your phone when you’ve finished a task.
8. Stay hydrated
Your brain needs oxygen and the best way to keep it fresh is to drink plenty of water. I used to go hours without drinking water because I was so invested in my work. Now, taking a sip from my 1.5L bottle acts not only as a nice break from my task, but it also keeps me hydrated so I can slug it out.
9. Make yourself a cup of tea or coffee
Make yourself a cup of tea or coffee to inject yourself with a little caffeine. Stay away from energy drinks – I used to drink RedBull frequently during my high school years and eventually, it just made me burn out quicker and I felt like complete poop.
10. Keep healthy snacks around
Snacking is a great way to keep motivated. Some healthy snack choices include dried fruits, nuts and muesli bars. That being said, I like to treat myself to some lollies now and then! If you don’t want to get your fingers dirty, there’ve been some reports that state that chewing gum can improve concentration… so why not give that a go?
11. Don’t be afraid to take breaks
The trick to productivity is to not burn yourself out. Be sure to give yourself a break between each task. Go for a walk, listen to music, read a book and do something that encourages some self-love!
12. Go for a 20 minute power nap
If you’re drowsy, you’re not going to get any quality work done. Turn off the computer and go find a comfy couch to rest on. Make sure you set your alarm so you don’t oversleep! Studies have shown that 20-30 minute naps are the best to help you stay alert without feeling groggy.
13. Listen to ambient non-lyrical music
Some people work great with music on (I’m one of them). Music really puts me in the mood to work because it inspires me. However, if you find that you’re distracted way too easily, try some ambient music that have no lyrics to them! If you’re looking for good music to help you concentrate, browse through Spotify’s ‘Focus’ playlist options. Seriously, Spotify is LIFE.
14. Schedule yourself ‘distraction’ time
Allocating yourself some distraction time can be a great way to motivate you to get things done. This way, you’ll feel like you’ve actually earned the right to be a little distracted! Make sure it’s towards the end of your daily tasks though. You don’t want to get too carried away and end up binge-watching random TV series. Oh, the horror.
15. Clean up and de-clutter your workspace
If your workspace is in dire need of a clean up, give yourself an hour to de-clutter. I’m one of those people that just can’t work if my workspace is too cluttered and messy. I need a clear space to ensure that my mind is clear and focused on the task at hand. If you’re one of those people that can work in mess, then I am totally envious of you.
16. Keep work and the bedroom separate by setting up your own office
I used to regularly work from my bed. Well, I say “work” from my bed, but nine out of ten times I would fall asleep. To stay productive, you need to optimise your space. So if you have a comfy bed like me, STAY FAR AWAY FROM IT ‘coz dayum it feels way too good to nap.
17. Invest in an hourglass
Pretty things motivate me. An hourglass is a great way to manage your tasks because it pushes you to get things done before the sand hits the bottom. If you’re not much of a commodity person, you can just use a stopwatch (but where’s the fun in that?)
So those are my small but hopefully effective tips to help you stay focused! Of course, everyone is different and some things may work for others but not you specifically. It’s also a great idea to change your routines once in a while to avoid being bored.
But really, the most useful tip I can give is that you should never beat yourself up for wasted time. If you find yourself feeling crappy at the end of the day because you haven’t been productive, DON’T be so hard on yourself! Instead, focus on how you’re going to tackle the next day.
We aren’t robots and sometimes we can suck a little, but we keep moving forward anyway.
Hope you guys have a happy (and productive) day!
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