How many times have you opened up your computer to take care of something important, only to get distracted by an email, social media, or something else? If you’re anything like me, this happens to you multiple times a day…er, I mean an hour.
Staying focused is something I constantly battle.
Now I’ll admit that having kids at home (which is where I work) is a huge part of the struggle. A task that should take 5 minutes actually takes 30 because a baby needs to be held or a chatty toddler wants to tell me about the adventure his toy trains are about to take. There’s constant interruption.
But what about kid free time? You’d think that during the 8 hours of alone time I have each week, I’d be able to plow through work. Well, I could…if my mind would focus.
You see, if I don’t plan properly, I’ll get distracted by everything around me, be it the real world or online world.
It took me quite a while to find a system that helps me organize mental clutter and stay focused. But I think I’ve finally landed on one, so I thought I’d share a few tips I’ve learned in the process.
Write it ALL down…in ONE place.
Action items usually come to mind at the most inopportune times. You either aren’t in the right place to work on them or it’s not the right time.
When one item comes to mind, it’s all you can think about so there’s no way you’re going to forget. At least that’s what you think at the time. Unfortunately, as soon as the next ten action items pop into your mind, it becomes increasingly difficult to remember them all. It becomes what’s known as “mental clutter” in the Getting Things Done world.
That why we should write everything down whether big or small. And we should keep it in one place.
My one place is actually a free app that syncs with my computer and phone called Good ToDo. I’ve told you before why it’s my favorite to do list. It keeps my online and offline action items on a calendar and rolls to the next day if I can’t accomplish the full to do list. It took me a while to fully trust this system but I think it’s finally become routine.
I like my system but there are a ton of great tracking devises out there; including the ol’ pen and paper. It doesn’t matter what system you use for your list. However, I highly recommend picking ONE system and sticking with it.
Review & Prioritize the list.
Compiling a to do list is only half the battle. The next step is to actually accomplish some of those action items. But if you get distracted before you actually review your to do list, productivity goes out the window.
I like to review my list at night. I shift and prioritize each action item based on the time I have scheduled on my calendar. By ranking action items and arranging them in order of priority, I don’t have to think about what the most important/urgent task is the next morning. The mental work is done. That means I can open my to do list in a separate window and start cranking out the work.
Focus on the task at hand.
Focusing is the most difficult part…for me at least.
Writing this post was on my to do list for today. But when I turned on the computer to start writing, emails were calling my name, I had been summoned on skype, there were questions on Facebook that needed to be answered, not to mention the 12 things that need to be completed so we can finalize the sale of our house next week. However, I know my work time is limited today. I have to turn off all of the “distractions” and focus on my to do list. I started with the highest priority and I’m working my way down the list methodically.
This isn’t rocket science.
You know how to be productive…at least in theory. But do you practice it?
That’s the hard part.
At least for me.
How do you organize mental clutter?