I have a problem with focusing on one thing at a time. My mind is so busy and I get so many ideas and think about things I need to do, several times a day. The kicker is that I never get round to doing any of them. I am always planning to get some things done that I’ve been meaning to do for so long but didn’t because I never had the time.
Whenever I had a free weekend, I would get overwhelmed with thoughts of the tasks I needed to do; got to design some posters, start on that screenplay, and write some blog posts...and so on. I don’t know how to begin; my mind is all over the place and at those moments I feel tired. I’m lucky if I even get one thing done. Now I’m ‘training’ my mind to focus on one thing as a time and I’m actually increasing my productivity levels.
So if you’re currently experiencing the same thing that I did, this post is for you. I’m going to share a few tips with you on how to find your focus and increase productivity right after the jump:
Create a To-Do list
Let me admit that I am terrible at creating to-do lists. I bought a dry-erase board to keep above my desk so I can write down things I needed to do. I ended up using the board for sketches and drawings of smiley faces. However, I am quite good at keeping them. Since I love having a piece of paper or a notebook in front of me while working, I make little lists of things I have to do with as much detail as I want to make the task less daunting.
For example, I’ll add, ‘Update Etsy store’ and right underneath it write, ‘Also set up a promo giving away free stuff. People love free stuff and it’s great to give buyers more than they expect. Yay!’ Writing down an incentive for me to do that particular task makes me eager to do it and complete it.
Extra tip: If you have trouble with to-do lists, try writing the least time consuming and easiest tasks first. It’s better to have 2 or 3 easy tasks out of the way before tackling the most time consuming or challenging one. You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment.
Get rid of distractions
For me, it is my phone. I’d check my twitter between writing paragraphs or between saving artwork. The easiest way for me to not have my phone as a distraction is to switch off my WiFi and/or mobile data, plug in my earphones and listen to music on my phone.
This way I don’t have the need to constantly check my phone because there aren’t any notifications coming in and I always wait in anticipation of the next track that is going to play on shuffle. Or you can just put your phone in the next room if music is also a distraction for you and you can’t help but sing along and do the choreography to songs.
Extra tip: If you use your phone as a music player, set up a playlist so you do not have to skip songs you do not want to listen to. I dedicate different playlists to writing, designing and drawing...even washing the dishes!
Relax more often
Perhaps, this is contradictory but relaxing does wonders for you if you have a heavy workload. By relaxing, you get to get rid of anxiety and stress which really doesn’t make you productive; it’s actually pretty detrimental to your health (I lose my hair when I’m really stressed) and you may find yourself unable to sleep and taking up the next day very tired and unable to complete tasks. Try to not think of tasks you need to complete when relaxing and once you go back to working, hopefully you will feel more refreshed and less stressed.
Extra tip: If what you need to do requires you to spend hours in front of the computer, take breaks from your desk. Get up, walk around and get a snack. By doing this you get to stretch your tired muscles and give your eyes a rest. You can also schedule whole weekends where you don’t touch any work. I did that this past weekend and instead watched movies and series and spent time with my sister. (I watched Empire for the first time and I am now obsessed with the series.)
Do one thing at a time
Since I’m running Allebasi alone, I have to micromanage everything and thus I find myself always multitasking. I’d have a lot of browser tabs open and I would flick between them while I’m writing or I’d be cooking and working at a design at the same time (most of the time, this leads to me burning food, yikes!) My biggest problem lies in things I want to do before a specific time.
I’d have ideas that I need to implement and soon and this drives me crazy (unnecessary head clutter!) because I always think I’m running out of time. I have learned to stop myself and remind myself that there will be time to get started on the other projects or tasks and if I don’t finish the one at hand first, then I will not get to finish anything at all because everything would be half done.
Extra tip: Keep things in one place so you don’t drive yourself crazy looking for them and if needed, make use of a timer so you can focus your attention on one thing at a time. Control time, don’t let time control you. Remember: you are only human. There is just so much you can do at a time. ;)
Other than with breaks, reward yourself for focusing and completing every single task. Help yourself to a cupcake or a fresh cup of coffee (or hot chocolate or tea), play with your pets for a little while, spend time with family, watch a series episode (can I recommend Empire?) or anything enjoyable for you, really. This makes you eager to finish a task because you know a reward is coming and you know it will be a good one.
Extra tip: Make your rewards simple, enjoyable things that will improve your mood and life. When I was still living at home I’d go and play with my nephews and feel like a kid again. They always left me in a good mood and we played outside which means tons of fresh air!
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Oooh, this is a big one if you’re like me and find it difficult to ask people for help (I always want to see if I can do things myself before asking for help). Sometimes you can’t help but be swamped with work and have deadlines fast approaching.
You have friends and family for this exact thing. Don’t be afraid to enlist their help and if your to-do list is packed, delegate the unimportant and least urgent tasks. When I’m too swamped to dedicate time researching how to do something I don’t know how to do, I enlist the help of a friend who does and all the times I’ve asked, they didn’t mind. Be sure to return the favour for them one day!
Extra tip: Kids love helping out so ask your kids or little siblings to help you by delegating little, safe tasks with them. You get to spend time with them while working which is an extra bonus.
Find your personal focus and work style
Some people work better when surrounded by other people and chaos. Some work better when they are sitting in solitude and silence. Which one are you? I am mostly the former. If I’m alone, my room or desk is still in chaos and if I’m with other people (as long as they are not distracting me) I’m able to work, no problem.
Do not force yourself to focus in a situation that you know will not work for you. This will just contribute to your stress levels and frustrate you when you’re unable to focus. Instead make note of the time and situation when you are able to focus the most and build your work hours around that time.
Extra tip: Do try a change of scenery by working in a busy coffee shop if you’re a chaos kind of person and in a quiet library if you’re a silence type of person. This changes things up and refreshes things so work doesn’t become menial and boring.
Aaand that’s the focusing tips that have worked for me. Here’s to you and more increased productivity! *raises cup of tea*
Now I want to hear from you: what do you do to find your focus and be productive? Do you already use the tips I’ve shared above? How do they benefit you?