Top Ways to Keep Focused
When working on a computer all day, it can be easy to get distracted regardless of location. When you’re on the clock and may have someone looking at websites you visit, though, it can become increasingly more important to stay on task. Keeping to your planned agenda is not always that simple. Today, we’re breaking down some of our favorite ways to fight procrastination and get things done regardless of location.
Find a Work Zone
Find one spot that is your ultimate work zone. If you’re in the office, you may be limited to your desk. Try shifting where your computer is stationed on your desk, or hang important papers on the wall so they are easy to access. For me, I find a mixture of business and personal touches is best for me. I hang our company contact list next to a funny Internet picture, and a vase of gerber daisies sits next to my iMac. My file folders are color-coded in bright hues, and my business card organizer is hot pink. In these ways, I have functionality mixed with my personality, making it an ideal and inviting place for me to work.
If you’re working remotely, you’ve got more options. To find your ultimate work spot, think back to your time in school. Where did you like to study? What was it about that environment that worked for you? Why did other environments not work for you? Take those factors, and think of three places that fit those criteria. For example, when I needed to do serious business in college, I would go to the design studio. There was a lot of open space and desktop surfaces to work on, it was empty, allowing me to play my own music without distracting others, and the large windows let in lots of natural light. In the working world, my ideal remote location is outside on my porch. I can get natural sunlight, it’s usually quiet, and the abundance of trees in my view makes me feel that I have plenty of space to work.
When you’re in your zone, whether in the office or remotely, your mind is at ease, making it easier to concentrate on the task at hand and less likely to stray from your work.
To Do Lists
I don’t know how I would function without them. At the end of each work day, I write down what still needs to be done. If this is a particularly long list, I may number them in order of importance. Next time I’m sitting down to work, I check my emails, then look at the list to see what needs to get done that day. For me, I also find it personally rewarding to be able to cross out (or delete, if I’m using my computer’s sticky notes feature) each task as it’s completed.
For some, to do lists may need more to be effective. In these cases, try setting alarms. For example, if I need to post about a blog by 10AM, I will put an event on my iCal for 9:30AM with an alert attached. Once the time rolls around, my computer notifies me that this needs to be done in 30 minutes, so I can quickly make and schedule or send these posts in plenty of time. I also use an app called Hi Future Self that sends updates straight to my phone. I’ll use these for work tasks or personal reminders, too, such as setting a reminder to ask my dad a question around the time I call him each day.
Bookmark Your Distractions
It’s inevitable: you will probably stumble upon distractions. As part of my job, I am constantly researching articles to post on social media and ideas for blog posts. Sometimes in these searches, one little article suggestion will pop up that is somewhat relevant, which leads to another article with less relevance, and the cycle continues. All of the sudden, it seems, I’m looking at how to make your own ice cream flavors, and I’m lactose intolerant. To stop that (and just for overall organization), I use my bookmarks folder. It’s my best friend in Safari. I have a folder for any topic that might be of interest: Blog Categories, Stock Photo Resources, Design Templates, and For Fun. When I need a five minute break but can’t leave my desk, or even if I’m unwinding after work, I can open this folder, pull out those ice cream flavor recipes, and take a look at them on my own time. Not only does this give me something to look forward to (I get a break at 2:10, I can look at that online sale! Yes!), but it also keeps me focused on what I’m trying to accomplish at that point in my work day.
A much-needed break can be more refreshing than a new pair of socks. I spend about eight hours at a desk each day, so getting to move around is extremely helpful. Sometimes, it’s running to the downstairs water cooler to refill my glass or taking inventory on marketing materials. Other times, I’ll drop off a package on my lunch break or schedule a meeting outside the office. Taking time away from a screen is good to clear your mind, exercise your eyes, get some blood pumping, and improve your overall mood. Getting a change of scenery can also boost creativity and make days fly by faster.
So get up! Get moving! Do some stretches, take a lap around the building, or turn on a fifteen minute workout video from YouTube. Eat lunch in a new room or with a coworker. Clean out your car. Take a few minutes every hour or so to do change up your routine, and see how your mood shifts.
With these tips in mind, you’ll be sure to stay on track. If making this a routine is the hardest part for you, here’s my favorite trick: Print out a calendar, and every day you adopt this practice of eliminating distractions, circle the date on the calendar. After a few days, you’ll get a chain going on your printout. From then on, you won’t want to break the chain, and you’ll strive harder to keep the chain going. After about a week, it will become second nature.