Is a lack of focus costing you?
Focus can be difficult in this distraction-driven world. Who can afford all of that precious time to be wasted?
Here are 20 tips to help you maintain focus on writing great articles that will build your credibility in your niche, increase exposure to readers, and help you save time to do the things you want to do.
- Eat Breakfast: As they say, (a healthy) breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Not only does it prevent hunger pangs, it helps your brain function. Don’t skip it – eat it!
- Drink More Water: Dehydration will make you feel tired, irritable, slow, or sick. If your brain doesn’t have enough fluid, then it can’t operate at peak performance and you’ll struggle to remain focused. Stay hydrated.
- Improve Your Environment: Make your environment work for you. If you concentrate better with music or ambient noise, then plug in those headphones. If noisy coworkers or family are beyond “disturbing” your concentration, then address it with them or request help.
- Make a Master Road Map: At the beginning of the day, create a master list of tasks that you want to complete, including both personal and professional goals. This will be your map from the start to the end of your day. Committing to one list will prevent confusion and unnecessary distractions as well as help you visualize achieving each goal for added momentum.
- Prioritize Your Tasks: If you’re not sure which tasks to start with or which are more important, take 10 or 15 minutes to prioritize your road map. Ideally, plan to do your most important tasks first to prevent procrastination and also plan your hardest tasks when you’re most alert so you can charge through it.
- One Thing at a Time: Ideally, only focus on one task at a time. In a number of studies, the human brain has shown that it cannot execute two complicated tasks simultaneously. Perform two at a time and a distraction can easily derail your progress. Add a third and the brain simply can’t keep up. You’ll lose track of one of the original tasks and begin making errors.
- Write it Down: Thought of something that’s unrelated to your current task? Don’t jump into it (see #6). Write it down to remind yourself later. Similarly, this applies to good discussion and meeting etiquette. If an idea strikes you and you don’t want to butt in, write down a simple keyword as a reminder!
- Take Care of It: Bills, sick kids, relationship issues, oil changes, etc. – address these things ASAP or create a plan of action (such as add it to your road map – see #4). The key is to get it off your mind and don’t let it pass the threshold when you set out to write.
- Balance Work & Life: Don’t sacrifice your personal or home life for your work life – the value and creativity you contribute in your writing will only suffer. Make time for yourself in order to boost performance and satisfaction!
- Don’t Get Bored: If you feel your attention waning, regroup by taking a short break. A quick walk to get a glass of water or getting up to stretch can help. Don’t be tempted to take a longer break and let your well-intentioned regrouping session slip into procrastination.
- Set Alarms: If you’re constantly late or rushing, figure how much time it takes to get routine tasks done. Set the alarm on your phone to alert you when it’s time to move on to the next task or get going. Don’t have unlimited alarms on your smartphone? Download an app that does! Don’t have a smartphone? Get a simple kitchen/egg timer!
- Know Your Limits: Unless it’s to improve your skill set, allow tasks that are over your head to go to someone who can do it. Alternately, just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should – that’s how bottlenecks are made if anyone is waiting on you and that’s how you will risk burnout.* Delegate where you can so you can dedicate your time to more valuable tasks.
- Time-Chunk Tasks: If you have trouble estimating time or shifting gears from one activity to another, approach tasks for limited periods of time. For example, give yourself two 30-minute periods to work on something with a break in between.
- Reward Yourself: Plan time to do something you enjoy as a reward for yourself every day so you have something to look forward to – play a game, have a coffee date, read a book, etc.
- Keep Reminder Lists: Whether with pen and paper or using your smartphone, maintain reminder lists to input to-dos, appointments, and upcoming events to help remind yourself of what you have coming up. Keep these congruent with your Master Road Map (see #4).
- Build Mental Endurance: In strength training, you don’t give up because you’re too tired – you push yourself. Do the same with frustrating tasks – get a second wind by giving it five more minutes of your entire focus before you put it away.
- Play Brain Games: If you do need a break, play “brain fitness” games against the clock rather than hopping onto Facebook for the umpteenth time. Try Sudoku, crossword puzzles, or memory and attention training programs such as Luminosity’s personalized training program.
- Do Not Disturb: Let your email and voice mail do its job. Close email, instant messengers (on your computer AND your mobile devices), and put your status on “Busy.” Turn off your phone. Close the door. Put up a “Do Not Disturb” sign to let others know you need to focus.
- Give Yourself a Message: Post a note within view to remind yourself to stay focused. It will help you tell yourself: “This isn’t the time to check messages. I’ll do it later.”
- Just Breathe: Frustration or lack of focus can be a result of loss of oxygen to your brain. Ensure you’re sitting comfortably at your desk and rest your hands on your lap or thighs. Slowly, take a deep breath, letting your belly and ribs expand. Don’t let it all out right away; hold your breath for a few seconds and then let it all out, allowing your ribs and belly to contract. Repeat for 5 breaths to recharge and clear your head.
Use these tips to improve your focus, your performance, your value, your confidence, and even your overall happiness. Did I miss any? What’s your tip to stay focused? Let us know – we’d love to hear from you!
* Feeling burnt out? Check out our previous post, How to Avoid Article Writing Burnout, here.
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