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Does this ever happen to you? Your plan is to work on that proposal that is due this week, or finish editing your manuscript or…whatever you need to get done. But instead, something “shiny” catches your eye. You end up starting a new project or just wasting time on the Internet. (Perhaps looking at cute cat pictures, um, not that I would know anything about that.)
It is easy to get distracted from what what you should be doing by something else that looks like more fun or is simply newer. And shinier.
Here are some of the ways you can get your attention focused where it needs to be, and be more productive.
Make an appointment. Schedule time to work on your project. This appointment with yourself should be considered just as important as any other appointment. Keep it.
Prepare. Some distractions come from not having everything you need on hand when you start. You get up to find your pen, then you realize you have to do some research, then you remember something else you didn’t do. Be ready to work when you sit down.
Have a snack. A growling tummy can be a distraction, so don’t start when you are hungry. Have a small snack right before you dig in to your work.
Close the door and turn off the phone. Don’t let other people interrupt you when you need to get something done.
Turn off the Internet. If surfing the Web is a big distraction for you, turn it off. Shut down your wireless connection or keep your browser closed.
Use a timer. When I need to focus on a project, I set a timer and do nothing but work on the project until the timer goes off. It might be 15 or 20 minutes or an hour, but I stay focused on my work the whole time. No answering the phone, no checking email, no “just this one thing.”
Promise yourself a reward. Often when we get distracted it is because we do not want to do the task at hand. Maybe it takes you out of your comfort zone, or you just don’t enjoy it. So bribe yourself. “When I finish this I can __________”…fill in one of your favorite things to do.
Just do it. Sometimes it is not distractions but fear that keeps us from doing what we should be doing. When you finish, your project will be scrutinized by others. You may fail, or you may succeed. Both can be frightening. But doing nothing, or finishing nothing, is not the answer. Just finish and move on to the next project.