Imagine you wake up early in the morning and sit at your desk because you have something to do today. But…you can’t stay focused.
Your mind shifts whenever you have to face tedious tasks, your eyes can’t resist the notifications popping up on your phone, your hands automatically pick up the phone to reply texts, and bam…hours later, you got nothing done.
You’re frustrated, guilty, and angry at yourself. Don’t worry, I’m here to help. I bring 6 simple tips to help you get your concentration back and increase your productivity:
The Why-s are the core of everything you do. Before you do anything, especially long, big projects, sit down and seriously think about the reasons why you start them. Why do you need to get this thing done? Why do you need to do this? To achieve something for yourself, but no one else?
Whenever you don’t feel like doing anything and want to drop them all, come back to those reasons. The “why” can be as simple as “If I didn’t finish this, I would get low grades” or more complicated “I want to be well-prepared for my future career”.
Have a plan and goals
How many mornings do you wake up and tell yourself “I don’t know what to do today”? That’s the reason why you need a plan – you know what to do and there’s no confusion.
Think and write about your goals. They give you a sense of direction. They can be big things like “Read 3 textbooks this month”, “Lose 3 pounds this month”. If you have goals, you can easily break them down into small tasks and start planning for each day.
Write down your plan the night before or in the early morning so that you know exactly what needs to be done that day. You’ve already worked on your goals, now you break them into small tasks: “Finish assignment 1”, “Read 1 chapter of textbook”, “Go to the gym at 2 pm”, etc.
You don’t need a fancy planner or an expensive app to create a plan. Use a piece of ripped paper, old sticky notes, your Google Calendar, etc. Put them in front of you when you work or study.
Make good use of your flow time
Flow time is the period of time that you find yourself immersed in your work and just forget about everything happening around you. That feels great, yeah?
Every person has their own flow time. Some find themselves focus best at 6 am, some can only concentrate when it’s midnight. Find the time that works for you and schedule the important, prioritized tasks for this period.
Just don’t sleep too late. The lack of sleep might gradually destroy your health.
Get rid of all distractions
This might be one of the most repeated advice from people who care about productivity. Why? Because it’s effective. In this day and age, it’s difficult to stay focused when you’re surrounded with social media, games, and distracting devices. So please, don’t ignore this advice.
Hide your phone under your bed, or put them in another room. As long as it’s far away from your reach. If your work requires the use of digital devices, find apps or extensions that block distracting websites, or simply hide your taskbar.
What I do is that I put my phone (silent mode) on my bookshelf, which is out of my reach; and I hide my taskbar so that I forget to jump between different tabs and I focus only on one thing at a time.
Ask your mom not to sing near the door. Or put on some noise-canceling headphones if you don’t want to get into trouble. For those living with your (noisy) family, I understand that you get distracted by other family members all the time. They watch TV in high volume, talk, offer snacks and they have no idea you’re trying to concentrate. Whenever I find myself in a situation like that, I choose to put on my earphones.
Tell your pets to stay away from you because they’re so cute you might not be able to resist. Silly, I know, but think again about how much time you’ve spent petting and telling them they’re cute and running around foolishly with them.
Enough rambling about pets, what I mean is: don’t keep anything distract you near you.
Use a timer or productivity app
If you’re struggling with managing your time and your attention span is crazily short, you might want to use a timer or a productivity app to assign specific time for work and break.
You can apply the original Pomodoro method (25-minute work, 5-minute break) or 50-minute work and 10-minute break. Whatever works for your attention span and your style.
If you love greenness and trees, Forest can be a good app for you. If you adore animals and cute graphics, you can use Study Bunny. These apps let you grow something so that you feel like you get a reward after every study/work session. I’m sure there’s a bunch of other useful time-tracking, productivity apps out there. Find one that suits you.
If you’re simple, the timer on your phone, or computer, or clock works perfectly fine. I work mostly on my laptop, so most of the time, I use my laptop timer.
Beware – keeping phone or distraction near you might give you the urge to pick them up every 2 minutes (or seconds).
There exist doubts about how sitting still in one place with thoughts rambling in your head can make you more focused. But according to Insider, meditation has been proven to increase human attention.
You can add a 5-min, 10-min meditation session in the morning before you work on your tasks. It clears your mind and you are more focused on the present, which leads to better concentration. Free guided meditation playlists are available on Spotify, and if you want something more structured, try the Headspace app on your phone. I often listen to Meditation Minis Podcast on Spotify.
If you’re struggling to figure out how to stay focused on tasks that really matter to you, and you want to be more focused and get your stuff done, try to apply these tips in your daily routine. You might be surprised to see how much they help.
P.S: If you’re distracted again, don’t be harsh to yourself, be kind to it and you’ll be fine.
P.S.S: Self-discipline is a way of being kind to yourself.
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