Busy. This word is so used, abused and misused these days. Lately, it seems that everyone is busy with everything – work, life, and everything else in between. Days when one attributes being busy to getting a lot of things done are long gone. So, how to stay focused in a distracted world?
“Busy is good”, we hear this phrase often.
Busy will always be a good thing as long as this means we are being productive. When we are able to make use of our time wisely, hence, at the end of the day feel we have accomplished a number of things that truly mattered to us and everyone around us, and achieved significant results.
But how can we ensure that we do things that matter and produce results when there are a million and one things to do in a day? Start the day checking emails, doing social media, getting breakfast ready, work, preparing lunch, dinner, work, calls, and chores, chores, chores in between!
We live in a globalized world right now, and everything seems to be moving at a much faster pace. Deadlines seem to get shorter and shorter. Tasks insurmountable. It feels as if it’s impossible to stay focused on anything anymore.
Accepting your situation is the most crucial thing you need to do first.
Accept that you have all these things and people to take care of. Mothers need to take care of their children.
An employee has deadline to meet. A businessperson needs to run his business.
This is your life. Either you accept it or change it. But if you can’t, then you just have to face the things you need to accomplish in a day.
If there is nothing happening in your life, might be time to check your pulse, if you still have one! This is the beauty of life. Imagine not having anything or anyone to take care of. Sad, isn’t it? More like depressing!
I know what you’re thinking. But how? Everything in my life is important.
But seriously, they can’t all be your number one, can they?
Make a list of your priorities. We’re talking about simple day-to-day priorities here, not long-term plans or life goals. Don’t list 101 things that need prioritising. Just set realistic goals that you know you will be able to stay focused on and accomplish in a day.
Have clearly defined priorities. You don’t want to just sit at your desk, twiddle your thumbs and wonder what you are going to work on. Plan in advance.
A lot of people is not fit to multi-task. It is actually discouraged. It breaks your focus and takes your mind off focusing your energies on what you need to do with the best of your abilities because your attention is divided. Do one thing at a time to ensure that you are not just pouring your time and energy on a number of things, and end up not really getting the results you are hoping for.
A good thing to try is to list and classify your priorities. Classify them into two: negotiables and non-negotiables.
In the non-negotiables section, list down the things that absolutely must be done on a particular day. They could be time-bound tasks like preparing breakfast for the family, because the kids can’t have their breakfast in the afternoon, right?
If you are employed, you need to be at work at a particular time of the day, then it’s a non-negotiable.
Negotiables on the other hand, are not dependent on a particular time of the day. Say, checking emails? Browsing through social media? You don’t need to check your email inbox as soon as you open your eyes. Your friend’s status post will most probably still be there, even if you see it an hour or so after she posted it. These things, if you are unable to get to them on-the-clock, won’t really cause a chaotic day.
Do things which will actually get you results, no matter the task at hand.
The point here is to be able to recognize what really matters, and to stay focused on the ones that need immediate attention. Setting priorities beforehand helps you to focus. This way you don’t have to switch between tasks.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of being busy.
Make sure you are focused and productive.
When you have set your priorities, you can now set a schedule. You can set a time for each task you listed down. This way, you take your mind off the task of thinking of what to do next, and what you have not done.
Studies show it takes 66 days on average for a new thing to become a habit.
Create a schedule and stick to it.
Creating a dedicated schedule for each task on your list, and remaining consistent will help you stay focused and on- track.
Time blocking is one effective time management technique. The way to do it is for you to divide up your day into multiple segments or blocks. Each block is dedicated to focusing on a particular task, or a group of tasks.
This way you don’t have to make choices about what you are supposed to do which can lead to you being less effective and wasting your time wondering what you should do instead of actually doing it.
Visual aids can help you stay focused and on track plus this makes you see how much you’re actually getting done. Small milestones when you’re able to cross out a scheduled task, will give you the mental boost you need to know that you are getting results.
Get a traditional planner, digital calendar, or a whiteboard to help you stick to your schedule.
You can also use organizational tools and apps to help you get more organized. These apps can be customized according to your preference.
You can create separate boards for morning, afternoon, night tasks and create cards for each task with a dedicated time slot.
Why would you want to take everything on by yourself and potentially cause yourself to lose out on doing the things that you really want to accomplish?
Listen, this is not about filling your calendar with tons of stuff to accomplish every day. This is about getting yourself to find a balance, and help you be more productive. Learn to delegate!
If you have a baking business, get help from someone to do your other tasks like scheduling and arranging of deliveries. This would free up some time for you, which you can use to do some research and development, or market your baked goods, or maybe just to do your yoga exercise. There’s always something they can help with.
Ask the kids to help around the house. Give them age-appropriate tasks to do every day. This will also be good life skills training for them. Loading the laundry, folding clothes, preparing meals, cleaning. Imagine the time you spend on washing the dishes, you can use this time to actually smell your coffee!
Delegate work related tasks too. Whether you work in an office environment or have your own home based business, there are a lot of freelancers like virtual assistants who can help take some load off of you.
If you know there are things that someone else can do, allow them to do. Most often, we take everything on because we fear it might not go the way we want it to. It’s not easy entrusting something to someone, I understand. But you have to look at the bigger picture, you can’t do everything yourself all the time. With proper training, some patience, and a whole lot of trust, letting someone help you out will help you have laser-sharp focus on the tasks that truly need your utmost attention.
Learn to unplug
Don’t be on your phone, gadget or laptop if it doesn’t require you to use them. Shut them off or at least move away from them for a little while.
Turn off notifications for emails, social media, etc. if these are not actually vital to finishing the thing you are working on. If you are doing your regular workout, would it make you break out a sweat more or burn more calories if you’re watching your friends’ stories at the same time?
You can say you need your phone nearby because you’re using an exercise app or Spotify as workout music, but hey, there’s an option to mute your IG notifications in case you didn’t know.
As much as technology the internet, specifically, is part of our lives. This is one of, if not the biggest, things that make us lose our focus. There is so much going on in the world. Being notified every minute is not going to help us achieve our goals. Disconnect to connect to what’s happening to you…at the moment.
Breaktime Is Important
In fact, give yourself regular scheduled breaks.
Some people like going straight on tasks for hours on end without stopping for breaks. They claim that they lose focus when they stop at any point.
On the contrary, a study reported by the National Academy of Sciences discovered that taking breaks can prevent “decision fatigue.” This study included the case of this group of Israeli judges. It was found out that the judges grant parole to prisoners more often after they had a break.
They made the easiest and safest decision when they were tired: Saying NO.
When we have full schedules, our mind gets overworked. We lose focus.
When we’re tired, we succumb to distractions like checking out social media more often.
And before you know it, you’ve been on it for thirty minutes. And then when you try to get back to your task you find it so hard to focus on what you need to do. You stare blankly at your computer screen for a good ten or twenty minutes before you get your game back on. Worse, you’ll just give up and call it a day!
So, schedule your breaks as well. There are many strategies you can use to manage your time effectively like the Pomodoro Technique . No, this is not the pasta dish, silly! I know what you’re thinking! Hahahaha
(Incidentally, The Bailiwick Academy has an awesome pasta masterclass! Check it out!)
This is one where you work for twenty-five25 minutes and take a break for five minutes and then repeat. Some people swear by this technique as it apparently allows them to be supremely effective and work in short bursts but also take the necessary breaks in the middle.
The key thing here is to avoid distractions while you are in your 25-minute work schedule, so you only take your breaks as scheduled.
And lastly, yes, give yourself a break overall. If you fall off from any of these, it’s okay.
If you weren’t able to stick to your schedule or follow your list of priorities, it’s okay.
The most important thing to focus on is yourself. Focus on what you need to do to make yourself feel good, feel happy, or just plain sane.
Staying focused in our crazy world isn’t easy. But it is achievable.
Take it one step at a time, you’ll be fine.
You can do it!
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