How often have you sat in front of your computer and stared blankly at the screen. Not knowing where on your to do list to start, what to focus on? I lost count of the times this happened to me.
I would look ahead at my day, filled with excited of all the things I was going to get done, only to be left feeling disheartened at the end of the day when only half the items on my list were scored with the pretty pink highlighter of joy.
I would feel like i' wasted the day, I had failed. But on reflection, all I'd failed at was being realistic about my expectations as a mere human. My to do lists were also entirely unrealistic and were actually more of a brain dump of all the magical things I wanted to achieve in my entire week!
So whatever precious time you have allocated to your business this week ( make sure you set your intentions and keep referring to them! ), you need to make it count.
Here are just a few ways you can maintain focus and nail that to do list!
ALLOCATE YOUR TIME
This only works if you are completely realistic about what you can achieve and the time you have. So whether that's a full 6 hour day or 2 hours whilst baby is napping, really think about how long tasks should take you and chunk off that time in your diary. This creates your to do list for you and because you are only filling in the slots you have available, your to do list starts to look more manageable.
Practice this, we're not all great at estimating how long tasks take and some of us ( erm, yep me too!) can get distracted by shining things ( see later tip )
You will soon feel the benefits of doing this and feel much more motivated by all you are achieving in your time blocks.
You can use apps to do this but you can also use a good old paper and pen, whatever works for you.
THE RIGHT ENVIRONMENT
Not everyone has the luxury of a dedicated workspace. But whether you do or don't, it's important to work in a place where you can focus. Free from immediate distraction, like a pile of washing or the breakfast pots.
Natural light is great as is some kind of background music. It's been proven that a certain level of background ambient noise is great for creative cognition.
There are playlists on spotify compiled specifically for concentration or create your own playlist of songs that chill you our rather than get your heart pumping and luring you to a dance around the office!
TIME YOUR TASKS
There are so many techniques and apps you can use for timing blocking and focusing on tasks but the Pomodoro concept is one I use often and see great results. Developed in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo, the pomodoro technique breaks down your work into limited, focused bursts of work followed by a short break – typically 25 minutes of work, then 5 minutes of rest. It got its name from the Italian word for “tomato”, after the tomato-shaped timer Cirillo used to track his work.
Practice the technique and see the difference in your productivity
Here’s how it works:
· Choose a task from your time block
· Set your timer, 20-25 mins - I use my alarm but there are load of apps you can use.
· Get to work
· When the timer goes off, stop and take a short 5 minute break.
· After four of these cycles (or pomodoros), take a longer break (15–30 minutes), then start the process over again.
PRIORITISING YOUR TASKS
This one goes without saying really but as a creative, I know how hard it is not to want to work on that brilliant new idea that's just popped into your head right now this second! But there is time for this kind of activity, you could even time block a section for 'New ideas & thinking' into your day or week. But the rest of the time, focus on whats going to drive you business forward today.
Ask yourself if your tasks are in the right and logical order. Again, not always easy to do and can take some practice but there should be a natural flow to your tasks and planning. For example you wouldn't work on the visual design of a new product launch campaign until you had got a brief together on the benefits or features of that product and what problem it solves for your customer.
REMOVE THE DISTRACTIONS
Get rid of those distractions. Whether it's Pinterest, Instagram, cats doing stupid things videos on YourTube, put them at arms length. If you must have your phone next to you or you are working on your phone, restrict the apps for the timeblock you are working on,then if the draw of Insta is just too much, have a scroll on your 5 minute break from your pomodoro technique.
Before you know it you'll be a focus pro, flying through your to do list at record speed and productivity.
Have fun - but not too much!
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