My Number One Trick to Staying Focused at Work

I currently work from home and I seriously struggle with staying focused. I get so distracted by my stinking iPhone and my adult coloring book and Spotify and podcasts and mostly food.  It gets ridiculous and my brain goes crazy.

This week I knew I needed to buckle down though because I have a lot to do.

I had a list of 20 big things to do within the week. I did the whole “write down all the things I need to do and organize it into the different time slots” thing. And naturally the moment I start working I get a notification pop up on my phone and suddenly it’s been 20 minutes down the rabbit hole and I am running way behind.

Desperate, I decided to turn off all distractions. I turn my phone on silent and turn it over, (the metaphorical ostrich-head-in-the-sand). I turn off all of my music. I hide my adult coloring book. I set a timer for 20 minutes with the goal to finish responding to all of my emails in that amount of time. After 3 minutes I had already, quite mindlessly picked up my phone and was scrolling Twitter. I caught myself and realized that ,”oh my gosh I really am the worst”. So I committed. I had 17 minutes and darn it I was going to finish this before the timer. I’m like a 5 year old saying to myself, “I’ll time ya!”. I started racing myself.

Set a timer, turn off all music, and ready, set, GO!

Once I’ve turned this into a game my competitiveness is coming out. I can beat my time!! (I really am a 5 year old).

With this tactic  I was able to finish in 45 minutes what I had planned 2 hours for! The pattern is: focus for 30 minutes, scroll for 2 minutes. (This is what a millennial phone addict has to do, like any addict.) Then I set the timer again and try to beat the clock. What I normally thought would take me an entire work day to finish only took me 3 hours. 3 HOURS! Seriously. If you work 8 hours a day and can squeeze that into 3 hours, then really you would only have to work ~2 days a week to do the same amount of work that you would do in a typical 40 hour work week.

My husband would say that it’s 100% built into my DNA. For example the moment he asks me to do the dishes, I have the sudden urge to go to the bathroom. Like not, “go hide in the bathroom”, but actually GO to the bathroom, like I’m about to do something that’s making me nervous. And by the time I get out of the bathroom (1 minute later) I’ve completely forgotten about the dishes and wander off to do something else, until my husband grabs me around my waist, kisses me sweetly and asks, “where do you think you’re going lazy butt?” It’s amazing and a real gift.

(I also forgot an entire half eaten peach behind the couch cushion yesterday and my husband found it this morning.) Anyway back to the work side of this.

I challenge you to do this if you struggle with staying focused. If it’s especially difficult – start in smaller increments. Just focus on a single task for 10 minutes and see what happens. Then reward yourself with 2 minutes of phone time. I’m telling you, your productivity will increase. You are welcome.

What do you do to stay productive? I can get all of the help I can get.


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