It's easy to get psyched up about a new year and new goals. The adrenaline of change is pumping through my veins. I know I can do it. But the trick is feeling that way in February, March, April... heck even by the end of January.
I want to go the distance this year, and not run out of steam because I sprinted out of the gate. Focus is always a problem for me, so I'm determined to sterilize my workspace. To that end, I've decided to:
When my desk is overly cluttered, I see piles of things that need to be done. I'll look up to think of a word, and this happens more than I care to admit, and the checkbook will start screaming at me to pay bills. Now I have a three-tier tray system, and I've organized papers there in order of priority. The checkbook is hiding in the desk drawer.
I always have my water bottle, phone, paper, pens, etc. surrounding me when I sit down to work. Nothing is more distracting than having to get up to get something. As soon as I walk away from my desk, I notice the clothes in the dryer need folding, the dog needs water, etc. I'd ditch the phone, but if it rings, I have to know if it's a child puking at school, and getting up to find out wastes valuable time.
The Internet and social media sites are so provocative. They suck me in. I'm like a small child in a toy store, it's sad. I sit down to write, but tell myself I'll take a quick look at email, Facebook, Twitter, blah, blah, blah. Problem is... there is no such thing as a quick look. I'm trying to stick to a new rule this year: check email/social media for an hour first thing in the morning, mid-day (just before the kids come tearing in the house), and in the evening. I'm currently suffering withdrawal symptoms, so we'll see how this goes.
I'm breaking down work into manageable time chunks. I'll set my phone to beep after an hour on task, and I'll take a break. The break might be lunch or it might be thirty minutes checking social media or switching over to reading/editing. I even time my breaks.
This might all sound a bit overkill, but I know how easily distracted I am from tasks by other tasks. I tend to overcommit myself. Since I'm flitting from obligation to obligation (it's not like I'm rushing off to do something fun), I think I'm accomplishing more. In fact, I accomplish less because I never finish one thing before heading to the other. Some finishing points are obvious: post is done, edited a chapter, paid bills. Others I try to predefine, like write until the scene's done or the chapter's finished.
(Note: more times than I care to admit, my husband comes home from work to find the dishwasher half-emptied, half the groceries put away, half the dry clothes folded, etc.)
If you are a focused individual, I'm jealous. If you are more like me, I hope some of these tips help you with all those freshly made New Year's Resolutions.
What's your best tip for maintaining focus?
Credit Image: toolstop via Flickr
Tia Silverthorne Bach
Co-author, Depression Cookies
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