Dearly Distracted: 7 Practical Ways to Focus

 

If you are like me, I’m sorry. 

 

I’m sorry that, despite your best efforts, focusing on one task at a time is dang near impossible. 

In my former life as a 9-5 administrative assistant, my self esteem took shots everyday. Every Monday at 8 a.m. I’d resolve to go in with a new mindset & a laser focus – ready to conquer every single task on the list I was definitely going to make. By the time I left work for the week  I’d walk out stressed – not sure if I’d actually accomplished anything even though I really, really tried. I was in a consistent state of frustration – wondering what was wrong with me. Wondering if I was lazy, stupid or both.

 

Once I left to pursue the things I loved, I thought focus would magically become my friend. And, while it helps and I can enter into periods of complete creative indulgence without coming up for air – more often than not it’s still a big struggle. I know I’m not a linear thinker. I know my right brain tends to take over while my left brain screams to be listened to to no avail. All of this knowledge about myself gives me an understanding, but no relief.

 

July was the epitome of this. While I did some amazing things – most of July was spent wandering in circles trying to figure out which direction was up – I found down, askew, and yonder instead. So, basically, I was not successful in the least. I truly feel like I didn’t make any headway on personal projects, domestic life, or professional quests at all.

 

This is a whole new month, however. And, also, the last month of the summer. Idk if you had things you saw accomplishing this summer, but I did. I still do. I have high hopes for us you guys.


So, fellow distracted friends (which, if you’re still reading this and haven’t been diverted by something shiny, kudos to you) I have some suggestions.  Let’s get some stuff done (finally): 

Discipline: Set a time on your calendar for tasks and treat it like a meeting. Be careful not to give away your time – this is especially important if you freelance or work from home. People feel like since you’re not working at an office, you can just do anything at any time. I was super guilty of this when I started freelancing. I’m trying to get better at being disciplined. It’s not an easy feat. But you have to start a habit before it can be improved upon, so start small (maybe in intervals or just work for a few minutes at a time). And work your way up.

 

Deadlines: If I don’t have a deadline, it falls out of my brain. Set deadlines for yourself, times by which certain projects need to be done. Put it on your calendar. Put some respec on it. This is difficult to do alone, which brings me to my next point. 

 

People: If you know someone in your life that is good at organizing ask them for help. Ask them to meet with you every so often. I have found my person and it’s been game changing. Having someone to help keep you accountable makes all of the difference. 

 

Good Days: Some days are better than others. Use those days. Squeeze all the juice out of them. Sometimes I feel guilty about having good, focused days because I always anticipate that the next day I will be back to my usual brand of nonsense. So I don’t push as hard as I could because I feel like a fraud who will be exposed sometime in the next 24 hours. This is silly. If you have one good day out of 20 – use that day for all it’s worth.  

 

Get Out: It is soooo hard for me to work at my house. I’m too comfortable and the bed that always looks good for napping is not far away. It’s always there, calling to me. Most of the time I find other places to work if I can. I have sewn a small fortune into Starbucks. If I must work at home – I try to do it at my table (not couch or bedroom) and make the space as work friendly as possible. 

 

Go Analog: Get a planner – a physical one. Digital is dangerous because it’s sooooo easy to get distracted by the various trappings of the cellular box. Go to Target and go offline. It’s easier to focus on & remember things when you write them by hand. 

 

Recall Your Day: When your working day has come to an end, write down all the things you’ve accomplished – even the small things. In my mind I would have some weird standard for what was important, like only certain things were important enough to make it on the “done list” – but making a grocery list counts, returning that text counts, putting the clothes in the dryer counts. Researching the thing you know you need to buy counts. If you did it, it counts. Pat yourself on the back, friend. 

 

Bonus: Know Your Worth:  Even if you don’t accomplish it all, you’re still awesome and smart and dedicated and amazing and creative and wildly capable. 

 

What are your tips & tricks for staying focused?

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