It happens to the best of us: we have a job to do, we get ready to do it. . .in some cases, even starting it. . . and then we get a phone call.
Or our favorite show comes on.
Or someone knocks on the door.
We get hungry, sleepy, tired or any one combination of the three.
For whatever reason, we are more prone to distractions when we most need to focus. I don't know of anyone more susceptible to this phenomenon than I am.
So I've put together a list of the methods I have used that have proven effective in keeping me focused on my assignments and on the tasks that need to get done. Some may seem a bit unorthodox, but believe me, they work!
1. Make a list
I used to never make lists. I thought they took up time and were pointless. Then I made my first list.
I found that once the things I needed to do went from being abstract to concrete, the sense of urgency turned itself up a notch and I found myself much more pressed to do what I needed to do.
It's a technique that still works in keeping me from getting sidetracked. Plus, crossing things off my list always makes me feel very accomplished.
2. Take a cool shower
I don't know if it's because I live in a generally warm climate or if it's just because I like the cold, but nothing helps me focus more than taking a cool shower before I start anything.
The cold water will wake your body up, making it more alert and helping you to focus on the task that follows.
I always do this right after I write my list. I take a shower and while letting the cool water hit me, I think about the list and how best to tackle it.
3. DO ONE THING AT A TIME!
Do NOT move on to something else until you have finished what you started. Period. The moment you do that, you are doomed to get distracted and, at that point, you might as well get up and go get yourself a sandwich.
Which brings me to my next point. . .
4. Have everything you can possibly need at your fingertips
That means EVERYTHING, including food and water if necessary.
If you're cleaning your house and you need a drink of water or something to eat, don't go into the kitchen until you are done with the task you are undertaking.
If you're at work and you're doing something for your boss, whether you work in an office or in a store, make sure you have a drink and a snack close by; if you have a desk, keep healthy snacks in your desk drawer. If you need a drink, have one at your desk.
That way, you don't have an excuse to wander off.
5. Turn off your phone or put it on silent
Your cell phone can be both your best friend and your worst enemy. If you have a cell, turn it off. If you can't turn it off because of family, work, etc. , then put it on silent or ask people to text you instead of calling you.
If you simply can't deal, then turn it off or have it go straight to voicemail. Ditto for work phones.
If you absolutely cannot turn the ringer off, have some take your calls or send calls to voicemail. Check the voicemail when you are done.
6. Away Messages are your best friends
Use them a lot! For e-mails, for social networking and for instant messengers.
Don't be afraid to set up automatic messages that tell someone emailing you that you are busy, or doing the same for IM. Believe me, people understand.
While you're at it, set them and. . .
7. GET AWAY FROM THE INTERNET!
Unless you need to use it for a project for work, you don't need to be online. You just don't.
The kitchen won't clean itself while you check your Yahoo. Your car won't wash itself or your work won't do itself. You get the picture.
And finally. . .
8. Develop a focus ritual; eliminate any and all distractions and get to work.
Some people use music or turn on the television to give them some background noise to work with. Frankly, with me, that only works when I'm doing something mundane or repetitive, like typing something onto a spreadsheet or washing dishes.
But if I'm doing something that required concentration or focus, I cannot have any distractions. So I shut anything off that may be noisy or distracting and I get to work.
Everyone is different, so use whatever you can from this list of helpful tips, create your own ritual for getting things done, eliminate anything at all that doesn't work into that ritual and get to work.
Once you're finished with your tasks you will feel so much more accomplished and proud that you didn't let anything stand in the way of getting it all done.
Peter Murphy is a peak performance expert. He recently produced a very popular free report that reveals how to crush procrastination and sustain lasting motivation. Apply now because it is available for a limited time only at: stay motivated