Wouldn’t it be great if you could just magic up the focus and energy you need so you can get things done? I’ve been wishing for this ability my whole life, because getting things done as and when they need doing has always been a bit of a struggle for me.
I’d noticed over the past week that my list of tasks had been getting longer, and that I’d been migrating my unfinished to-dos with every new “today”, leaving behind a pitifully long list of unchecked boxes behind them. So this week, I’ve decided to be a bit more proactive about getting these tasks done (including this very post), and have finally started getting through them all.
This doesn’t come easily, and for as long as I can remember I’d been quite desperately searching for some kind of magic solution to actually getting things done when they need doing. While I realise everyone is different and these tips might just work for me, I thought I’d share them anyway:
1. Get rid of distractions
Distractions… It is so incredibly easy to succumb to one of these bad boys when you’re already struggling to get something done. And however fleetingly distracted you may be, once your attention’s wavered from the task at hand it’s hard bringing it back.
If this is something you tend to fall victim to when trying to be productive, then the best thing you can do to avoid this is to try and get rid of them. Turn off your second monitor, put your laptop away if you don’t need it, turn off your phone, keep your desk clear.
If you need your laptop but don’t need internet, you can try turning off your wi-fi: not having access to internet will mean you have less access to online distractions such as social media or Netflix. And if you do need internet access for the task at hand, try looking into getting a browser extension that acts as a website blocker.
2. Start on the most important tasks first
I’m a big sucker for checklists: I like to write every minute thing that needs doing and then cross them all off as quickly as I can. What seems to be my pitfall is that I tend to start with the easier tasks, then I lose steam, give myself a break, meaning I leave the more important ones/harder ones for another day.
I then noticed a pattern had arisen in that these important tasks were being put off – that I was using the smaller, easier tasks as a buffer for not actually starting the harder ones. So now, I make a conscious effort to start off with the most important tasks, or the hardest tasks if there are no pressing tasks, so that when I get to the easier ones I can attempt the easier ones more effortlessly and in effect, get more done.
3. Take a break when you find yourself flagging
It sounds pretty counterintuitive. I mean to get more done, how would it help to take time away from your task list? I’ve been guilty of ignoring this advice before because I didn’t really see what the benefit would be: my assumption was that once I turned my attention away, I wouldn’t be able to get it back again. But over the past couple of years I’ve come to find that this is quite a valuable piece of advice.
Sometimes you can burn yourself out by working for hours on end, where sitting at your desk for hours on end just staring at a screen with nothing to show for it.
So go for a walk, get up and make a coffee or a tea, or walk up and down the stairs a couple of times – get some air flowing into you. It gives you time away from the task to refresh and gives you a better chance of focusing when you return.
4. Put on some easy listening music
This is something I started doing when I was on an intensive coding course. The work was hard-going, and because there was so much to learn a lot in a short timeframe I found it harder to concentrate due to the added stress. One of my friends on the course was having the same problem and recommended I start listening to meditation music as I work.
So I tried it, and… It really helped. I found it helped smooth out the background noise of a busy office, and when I was studying at home, it helped to provide a relaxing atmosphere without being too distracting. At work when I’m faced with a difficult issue that I can’t figure out or when I’m doing some repetitive testing of a feature where I keep distracting myself, switching on some meditative music puts in a better mindset for concentrating.
5. Reduce the sugary snacks
This is my least favourite tip because I have the biggest sweet tooth, but it’s an effective one. The reasoning is pretty basic: you have a lot of sugar, and you get the buzz of a sugar high where you’re so jittery you can’t concentrate on anything. Then comes the crash, where you start flagging and feeling lethargic, and you can’t concentrate on anything. Having a balanced diet in general is one of the (many) keys to being able to focus more, which is why I bring it up in this post. Having the odd sweet treat is absolutely fine, but it helped to be mindful of what you’re eating when you’re trying to focus.
This was a list of things I do to help me work more efficiently and be more productive with my time. I hope you’ve found it useful! If you have any tips, please share below! ♥