In a modern age of constant computers, electronics and social media, we are forever playing catch up. It can seem that our task list never goes down and we often get distracted by other things instead of concentrating on the task at hand. I am often guilty of this and I really want to make a more conscious effort to try and focus on one task at a time. This isn’t an easy task and as someone who gets easily distracted, I often find myself daydreaming or switching tasks mid flow. I’ve therefore tried to incorporate some methods that I feel help me to avoid unnecessary distractions and it has really helped. I hope you find these hacks useful too!
Don’t add things to your task list that won’t get done
If you are like me, you will always be thinking of things to do. However, there is never enough time to accomplish everything in life. Rather than being over ambitious and adding things to my task list that I will not get done immediately, I’ve tried to avoid putting it on the list in the first place. This is the same for tasks I will never forget so I don’t need reminding about them. For instance, whenever I get in my car I am reminded that I should clean it and I will very soon, but I won’t forget about it. This helps me not get overwhelmed by my task list and helps me focus on the tasks that are actually priority, for example writing a blog.
Only reply to messages and emails at certain times of the day
Emails, messages, tweets, blog comments etc. can be constant and you can’t decide when you are going to get few or many of them. By focusing on them at a set time of day, this will help reduce the disruption of flow during the working day. People will then not expect an immediate reply when it is not urgent. When is an email absolutely urgent anyway? When people realise that you check your messages at certain times, they will also get used to knowing when is best to contact you. When you reply less this also means you get less replies back, so the correspondence is more manageable!
Take off sound notifications for all things that aren’t urgent
This is something I have recently done, and I have taken off sound notifications for Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and Emails. I still keep texts and calls on sound, but this really helps me not to get stressed when I hear constant reminders that I should be replying. I always reply to messages but knowing that I don’t have to immediately helps me focus on the task at hand. I’ve also started taking off the picture/number of notifications attached to some apps too.
Put your emails and less used social media apps on a separate page of your phone
You can drag an app to another screen on your phone if you hold the app down and swipe across. I have moved all my social media and email apps (except text messages and phone calls) to a second page of my phone. This means if I just want to quickly check if I have received any missed calls or texts I can do so without getting stressed by the other less so urgent items. This has helped me SO much and makes me feel more at ease when looking at my phone. If I want to scroll across at a time separate to my “email time” during the day I can.
Having a separate email address for work emails
This is something that can be a great idea if you get a lot of work emails. I have a separate email address for my blog but I have lately been considering opening a violin teaching email address. At the moment, emails regarding private violin teaching go straight to my personal email address and this can be annoying at the weekends when I get a work-related email that stresses me out if I don’t reply to it. Having a separate email address would help me not to look at the weekend. You could even only look at those emails on your laptop so that means you don’t have emails all the time.
Change up your routine
Sometimes we can get unmotivated and don’t work as fresh when we stick to the same routine. Try to change it up every so often to experiment if different timings work better than others. For instance, I always practise my violin first thing, so I know I will get it done as the afternoons are harder for motivation for me.
Set a timer on certain tasks
Setting a timer on tasks like admin or blog post writing can force you to work harder to achieve that goal within the time limit. Once the time is up stop and move onto the next task, unless you really have to finish it. You will find you get more done this way and your brain stays fresh and motivated.
Put your phone on silent or aeroplane mode for an hour, no more in case of emergencies
Putting your phone on silent for a bit can be necessary sometimes. I never like to not look at my phone for too long in case of an emergency so if I leave my phone on silent I check it occasionally. What I’ve found really works for me is putting my phone in a different room. I can still hear whether I have received a text or phone call. If it is a text I leave it (as moving rooms is too much effort) but if it is a call I will be able to answer it, in case there is an emergency.
Make separate lists for home and work
Sometimes being self-employed, the lines can get blurred between home tasks and work tasks. I have had an idea of creating two lists (one for each) so that you can choose the hours to focus on which one. This makes work life become more productive. This way you can focus on the work tasks during the working day and do home tasks in the evenings and weekends.
Make sure you get a lunch break
Breaks are so important to refresh the mindset. Lunch is essential, and it really bothers me when people skip their lunch break because that is “expected of them”. It is a legal entitlement to have a lunch break and actually research shows that people are more productive by having one.
Get outside for a walk and get some fresh air
Getting outside and walking is great for helping with motivation, but it is also great for circulation of blood flow throughout the body. I suffer from a nerve irritation in my lower back which affects my leg if I sit down for too long. By getting up and stretching every so often, this helps me work a bit longer without being in pain or becoming distracted by it. Exercise is also great for resetting the mind and aiding creativeness.
I hope you enjoyed these hacks. What are your tips for focusing whilst working?