I sat down to write this blog approximately 3 hours ago. But then I remembered something I needed to research for my photography business. Oh look! Someone commented on the picture I posted on Facebook this morning. Definitely need to check that out. And while I’m at it, I’ll go ahead and peruse the news feed – oh geez, another political article. There are so many out there, but it’s my civic duty, so I will read it to be well-informed. And I’d better check out the related links under the article as well, because why not? Ugh, taking forever to load. Anything good on the DVR? Yes, new How To Get Away With Murder! PLAY! …15 minutes later… commercial. Instead of fast-forwarding, I will use this time wisely to get back to work. Oh look, video loaded. I waited this long, may as well watch it. Commercial’s over! Time for more murder. Oh, speaking of murder, I have so many true crime books I want to read. Maybe I’ll just pop on my library’s website and see if they have any new ebooks available. Uh-oh. Boys are awake. Has it really been that long since they fell asleep? Did I really waste an entire naptime? WHEN BOTH BOYS WERE NAPPING AT THE SAME TIME, I.E. THE HOLY GRAIL?????????
Most days are not this bad. Typically I manage to finish my work whether the boys are awake or asleep, and at the very least I can wait until Boy #2 is sleeping and give Boy #1 my pho – I mean, a very educational puzzle to put together while I’m working. But for some reason, today was bad. Which made me wonder, what super awesome tips can I find online that will help me focus on days when it is hard? So I put on my blinders, and hopped online with the goal of ONLY looking at focus techniques, and here are the best of the best that I found. I hope this helps you as much as I hope it helps me!
- Practice – this is actually a tip from my very own brain* & **, so I have no idea if it works. I earned my master’s degree in elementary education a couple of years ago. One thing that I learned about helping young children focus on a book for a longer period of time is that they need to practice, and build up to it. For example, start by asking them to read for three minutes at a time. Then increase to five, then seven, then ten over the course of several weeks. If this is something we had to learn, then surely we could use a refresher course every now and then! This is not a quick fix by any means, but maybe start by focusing on one thing for 20 minutes. That means no email, no phone, no TV, no anything except for what you need to accomplish. Increase this time gradually until you no longer have to think about it, you can just sit down for an hour and accomplish the task at hand. Just like most of us are able to read a book or article without stopping every time we hear a noise, surely this practice will help us to finish a task without getting completely off-track every time our email pings.
- Creativity first – sometimes I really dread having to come up with ideas out of my own head, and would much prefer doing a simple, mind-numbing task that would still allow me to feel accomplished at the end of the day. Typically, this feeling of dread happens at the end of the day, when I have already dealt with full plates of food being thrown across the room, nap-time tantrums and most importantly, coming up with creative ideas to entertain my gloriously energetic boys! Therefore, I would be better suited to handle the creative works at the beginning of the day, when my mind is fresh and full of ideas, and leave the menial tasks to the afternoon when I will inevitably be in a sluggish daze.
- Set goals – I found a great tip for drinking your required ounces of water per day, which is to use a dry-erase marker and section off your bottle by times. This way, you will look down and know how much water you need to drink by 11am, 2pm, etc. It makes it seem much more manageable, and the same can be done for the tasks you need to accomplish at work each day. This article suggests making your goals concrete, and determining which ones you will finish by a certain time of the day. Breaking your goals up is a great way to trick your mind into thinking they’re nbd.
- Designate a space – this is more for people like me, working from home. The main thing that pulls me from my tasks is – well everything. Every single thing around me. The boys. The TV. My phone. Crumbs. Noises. Colors. Crumbs. So it might suit me to create a space for work purposes. I just so happen to have a kitchen desk, which is also fittingly called a “mother’s desk,” as I’m sure many of you have as well. And what do you use yours for? Mine is displaying our wine. So while the follow-up tip to this is to add pictures and “make it pretty,” I will be leaving mine as-is, thank you. Just plop the laptop down and I’ll be having a far better time than people without wine at their desk! (the only problem with using the kitchen desk is that the kitchen is where most of the crumbs are…)
- Stay off the internet – no, that isn’t a joke. In fact, I think it’s the single most important tip I have listed. Yes, we rely on email to communicate about work things. And yes, we often need to get on the internet for work related reasons. So my personal suggestion is to open the pages you often use, like your email and your work website, and try as much as possible to avoid all others. There are billions of distractions online if we open ourselves up to them. So do what you can to avoid them at all costs! If it means actually blocking facebook (or whichever social media is your kryptonite) from your own computer, do it. Leave that as your reward once you’ve clocked out.
I hope this helped, I know I learned a lot and I will certainly write an update in a month or two to let you know how it worked!
And if you’re so distracted by other things at work that you can’t manage to, oh, fix that leaky toilet? These are your guys. Give them a call and find out how much you can delegate and what important things can be moved to the top of your list!
*After writing this tip, I found the entrepreneur article and saw that number three was all about brain-training! So I guess it’s a legitimate idea, thanks Entrepreneur! Note they suggest starting at 5 minutes, instead of 20, so just see what works best for you!
** I swear I really, really did write this tip before starting my online search. I am so much smarter than I thought I was. Again, notice the time margins are much smaller to begin with than I suggested. I mean, I’m not a doctor, so probably trust this guy.