Do you ever wonder if you're losing it? You know what needs to be done, you have your to-do list. And yet you find yourself starting a task, getting sidetracked to another item on the list, and going back and forth to a few more until you actually complete one.
I was in that place recently. One of my 6 roomers gave notice. I found that a book I wanted from the county library was a very long bus ride away. I couldn't concentrate on pulling together my income tax receipts any better than I could on changing an appointment that I couldn't make tomorrow.
Since it's not that unusual for me to multitask, I was sure I could come up with a working plan if I could get away from all the reminders on my desk. So I went to my writers' group at a coffee shop, for the sole purpose of finding a way toward focus!
- First step is to get to a place where it's easier to focus. Even bringing my papers to the dining room table, away from my office desk, helped me work on my IRS preparations so I wouldn't need to file an extension. How about the porch on a sunny day? Leaning back against pillows in your bed? The den? The TV room with the TV off? A coffee shop you can walk or ride to? A friend's house where she knows you want to concentrate? The library? A picnic table? Figure out the best one for you, gather what you'll need, and GO!
- OK, you're settled in there now. You may be fearing you'll get sidetracked again. One thing at a time. Commit yourself to 30-60 minutes on what you've decided is most important. If you find your attention wandering, set a timer and don't move to any other project till it goes off. Then take a short break. Maybe a walk around the block, 10 deep breaths, reading for 15 minutes, watching YouTube videos, or whatever feels rewarding to you. Repeat for as many 30-60 minute sessions (followed by breaks) as you can.
- When you've reached your limit of productivity—even though there may be a lot left undone—get out your notebook. Put each category of work that needs to be done on a separate page. You might have one for household, away, calls, gratitudes, events, finances, health, legal, career, friends and family. The point is to be so aware of what you need to do that you don't have to worry about forgetting something. For instance, when there's a fun experience you don't want to miss, it will be on your calendar and/or events page.
When I have a sense of order, without piles of loose paper on my desk, I'm much less likely to drift into confusion. Even though some things may seem more important than filing, clarity will win every time. If you want to file in the evening, set your alarm so you'll have that tangible reminder. Do whatever serves your goal of accomplishing your intentions for the day.
- When you have noted the important To Dos in the categories you listed, take the time choose one to five items on the list that you intend to complete that day. If you find yourself doing something on the list that is not one of those items, you should get up, do some stretching, remind yourself you're making good progress, distract yourself with a trip to the fridge for fruit, or to the yard to pick a bouquet, or any other brief break. Then come back to those one to five items, which are the only things on your desk to grab your attention. If you manage to finish the five, you might check out the other categories for something else to do, or consider yourself finished for the day.
- Use folders to store and find items in your filing cabinet. For me, I like printing out or saving notes and clippings about personal growth. I'm more satisfied when I can easily separate and access notes from Abraham Hicks, Wayne Dyer, Byron Katie, meditation, webinars, quotes and related categories. Those same folders make it easy to file when I have the paper in my hands OR when I find it on my desk. I haven't completely mastered the habit of filing each piece of paper as I handle it. I'm doing better, and I'm usually closer to focused than to scattered.
So, what do you need to do?
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