Do you ever have those days where you can’t stay focused to save your life? For me, it’s usually when I have way too much to get done, and my brain thinks I should try to do it all at once. Not a good way to do quality work and also a nightmare when I’m supposed to be tracking time. I’ve toyed with a few different ways to slow myself down and focus on one project at a time, with pretty good success.
Firstly, banish the idea that in order to get everything done you need to do it all at once. I am guilty of this often. You will get way more done if you concentrate on one thing at a time and put all of your energy into it. I recently read an article from Psychology Today that goes into exactly that. Basically, you will get both tasks done a lot faster if you concentrate on one at a time than if you do both at once. Here are a few ways I have found to help myself stay on task.
Set a Timer
I use this one every single day. In fact, I set a timer for half an hour to work as far on this post as I could. It gives you the freedom to work as much as you can on the given project while knowing that you can go to a different task once the timer is up. It’s also really helpful for when you are working hourly.
This one can be used in conjunction with using a timer. While you are working on a specific project, put your phone on do not disturb or silent. That way you won’t be drawn to look at that new twitter update or a text from your friend. Do not disturb is particularly helpful because you can set it to allow a caller through if they call a certain amount of times in a small period, so you won’t miss anything truly important.
Stay Off Email
Getting a notification for every email can be really jarring when you need to concentrate. My worst times are when I’m on a call with a client and feel drawn to checking the new notification from my email. So not professional. I’ve turned off the banner notifications on my phone and minimize my email window when I don’t want to be bothered with it. There are very few emails important enough that they need an immediate reply.
There are two types of people in this world: people who need silence when working and those who don’t. You probably already know where you fall (especially if you’ve worked in an office.) Personally, I find silence extremely distracting, so I always have my Pandora playing in the background. You might like having a TV on in the background on news or the weather channel. Or you might need complete silence. Whatever helps you to concentrate, do it!
There are always distractions that are particular for you. Mine is my cat when she wants to sit directly in front of me on my keyboard, hence the window seat next to my desk. Yours might be your children or Candy Crush or any other number of things. Try thinking outside the box for solutions to limit these distractions.
After all of this, I still have to say there are times when multitasking is beneficial. I found it useful when I had to answer phones at my previous job. If you have young children, it is probably a good thing you have the ability to pop in and out of tasks to address their needs. But when you really need to stay concentrated, use these tips to help guide yourself to limited multitasking.