It is so easy to become distracted and lose focus these days. We're expected to be connected 24/7 and it makes it hard to actually stop and get work done without distractions. Focusing on the task at hand has become a lot harder than it should be.
I hear from people all the time who are frustrated at their inability to focus on getting the important stuff done. There are so many things clamouring for our attention, especially for those of us who work online. "Shiny Object Syndrome" -- the inability to ignore all the new and interesting stuff that comes our way daily -- has become a real problem.
So what's the answer? How do we set everything else aside and really focus on what we know we need to do?
Be committed to the task at hand
When you sit down to work, are you 100 percent committed to the task you are working on? Be honest now.
I know from my own experience, if it's a task I'm not really committed to, it's much more easy to become distracted. I let myself be distracted as I look for ways to procrastinate.
On the flip side, when I'm working on something I really love nothing can stop me. I will work until I'm literally feeling sick from hunger or falling asleep at the keyboard when I'm completely committed to the project at hand.
The best place to be is a happy medium between the two. Focus on the task at hand for 30-50 minutes and then get up and take a break. You'll find it easier to work for extended periods when you give your eyes and your body a break from being at your desk.
Set a deadline
When you set a deadline, something happens inside. You know you have things that have to be done. Even if it's a deadline you set for yourself and not one that a client has set for you, you'll work harder, be more committed and less distracted if you know you're on the clock.
A good example of this is writing sprints. You can set your own time limits, but you write to a timer and when the timer goes off, you stop, take a break, and then start again. I've gotten out of the habit of doing this, but it's on my list to start doing again. Because, I can tell you from experience that when I write to a timer, I get three to four times as much done as I do on days when I can take my time and work at a nice, leisurely pace.
Ditch all the distractions
Now that you're committed to the project, and know how much time you have to get it done, it's time to get rid of all the distractions.
Close your facebook page, your twitter client and your email. If you can, disconnect your computer from the internet completely while you work. I find it so much easier to get things done when I work on my laptop and just shut the wireless off while I'm writing.
Shut off the phone, the television, and the radio. Hang a "do not disturb" sign on your door if you have to. Explain to your family and friends that you need this time to work uninterrupted.
Make sure you take breaks
Have you noticed that the longer you sit at your desk, the harder it becomes to focus? Taking breaks helps to stave off fatigue for both your body and your mind.
Experts suggest working anywhere from 40 to 50 minutes at a time and then taking a 10 or 15 minute break to stretch, get something to eat or drink, and general recharge your batteries.
My personal favorite is to break the hour into 45 minutes of work with a 15 minute break. I like to use at least 10 minutes of my break to do a little bit of exercise and have both a cycling trainer and a walking video set up in the next room so that I can get up and move. And sometimes I do the easy thing... put on some music and just dance.
Keep a to-do list handy
I know that there are people out there who say that to-do lists are a bad thing, but I would be lost without mine. If you have a list of what you're going to work on you know exactly what you have to do and that's one less distraction.
For example, I have a writing list that's filled in for the whole month. Every day I know exactly what I have to work on when I sit down to write. It's so much easier to focus on getting content created when I don't have to wonder what I'm going to work on each day.
These are just a few ideas to help you stay focused. Just like any other habit, staying focused takes practice. The more you practice using these tips as a guide, the less distracted you will become, and the easier it will be for you to keep your mind focused on what you need to do.