How to Maintain Focus

How to Maintain Focus

Have you made a really nicely prioritized list and scheduled out your day but you just can’t seem to get it done?  Does your mind wander or do distractions take over?

Here are my top four ways to prepare yourself and your environment that will make a big difference in how well you can focus and get that list done.

1 – Take care of your body

The brain must be the most sensitive organ in the body.  Even small changes in the state of our body affect the brain’s ability to work.  If we want our mind to work we have to take care of our brain and that means taking care of our body.  So if you really want to get stuff done, make sure you ALWAYS cover the basics of being well hydrated, fueled with healthy food and rested with enough sleep.  It matters.

2 – Clear physical clutter

Have you ever noticed that when you get something gift wrapped at the mall they have a huge open counter to wrap it on?  A beautiful wrapped gift is produced almost instantaneously.  Compare that to trying to wrap a bunch of gifts all at once at the kitchen table while looking under wrapping paper tubes to find the tape every other minute. 

Your environment needs to be clear of clutter – only what you need available for the task should be visible.  Taking the time to clear your work area is worth that time!  You will work so much more efficiently. I actually keep my week planner closed during the day so that when I finish a task on my daily list I move to the next one instead of getting distracted by all the other things I have to do that week.

By the way, you just have to clear, you don’t have to decorate!  Don’t get sidetracked 🙂

3 – Clear mental clutter

Now we’re getting down to the nitty gritty!

Plan ahead of time

When you are ready to work you don’t want to waste any of your focus on figuring out what you are going to do.  Have your plan for each day decided the night before.  Just do it. Know your priorities and have a great to do list with a planned schedule to make it happen.  Make sure to work with your energy levels, schedule breaks and have a plan to use those breaks to reward yourself!

Eliminate external distractions – turn everything off!

Before you start a session requiring mental focus make sure you have eliminated as many sources of distraction as you can.  Any distraction that occurs causes you to have to switch focus.  Even if it’s just for a brief period of time it’s still multitasking.  And despite what you think, multitasking is a huge time waster.  Really – read the research! You are not special.  Don’t do it.

Eliminate internal distractions – keep a random thought list

Do you have random thoughts pop into your head as you are trying to work?  I just love how when I’m working away suddenly I think about someone I might want to call or remember some random ‘quick’ task that needs to be done.  I keep a pad of paper out just for these thoughts – my random thought list.  By writing them down I know I don’t have to keep remembering them.  At the end of the day I read them all and add them to my to do list if appropriate. Often I find they really are NOT important.

Do you sometimes get stuck because you can’t figure out one small part of a task?  It’s a problem that you really just need to come back to or someone you need to reach to answer a little question?  If you start spinning your wheels or are just stuck in the mud awaiting a response, write the issue on your random thought list and then just move along!  It won’t get forgotten – it’s on your list!  You are free to move on to the next part of the problem.  Who knows, maybe at the end of the day the solution will be clear!

4 – Start right

When you start each work session, make sure you come to it calm and focused.  Take a few minutes to clear whatever you were thinking about beforehand.  Take a few deep breaths while visualizing yourself doing what you need to do.  Then just get started!  The sooner you start the sooner you will be done.

What has worked for you?

In summary, if you want to be able to maintain focus you need to take care of your body, clear physical clutter, clean mental clutter (plan and eliminate internal and external distractions) and then take the time to start right!

Have you tried any of these tips? How have they worked for you?

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