5 Powerful Ways to Improve Your Focus

focusMonday morning means back to work, ready or not. It can be difficult to shake off the weekend and get back to the grind, particularly if you’re still tired, overwhelmed with work, or just had a really great weekend that you aren’t thrilled to leave behind.

I’ve found that the harder you push for extra productivity during the first hour or two of back-to-work overwhelm, the easier the rest of the day — and sometimes week — will go. Here are my methods for increasing my focus and zeroing in on what really matters…on Monday morning or any other day.

Write Everything Down

I’m a self-proclaimed list fanatic. I don’t know what I would do without my lists; I would be lost. I know there are anti-listmakers out there who can point out all of the reasons why lists are bad, but my lists are one of the tools I use to keep track of everything, prevent work from falling through the cracks and keep myself moving toward my productivity goals.

These lists come in many different shapes, sizes and formats, and one is my brain dump. When I find I am having difficulty focusing, I write down everything on my mind – distractions, things I’m worried about, high-priority actions I don’t want to forget.

Chunk It

Once I have a clear mind, I move on to my short list of top priorities for the day, which I prepared the day before. I may have 3, 5 or even as many as 10 really important things to do. I take a quick look at this list and create “chunks” based on how long I think it will take me to complete each item.

Then, I use these chunks in one of two ways. I either focus on the smallest (in time) chunks first to clear them from my list. Or, I use the individual tasks within the chunks to break up more complex or time-consuming work. This helps me change up my work process on the fly so I can keep myself focused.

Analyze Time Spent

If you don’t regularly track your time, for both billable and nonbillable activities, I suggest you give it a try. The act of timing my work is two-fold. First, it keeps me focused on the task I’m working on right at that moment – there’s no better concentration reminder than a ticking clock. Second, it gives me a picture of where my time is being spent, day in and day out, over the long term. This helps me figure out where I need to work on my focus.

Think of the Finish Line

When I’m in the midst of a particularly intense task, it always helps me to think of finishing it. Going back to my list obsession, the single act of crossing out an item on my list can do wonders for my concentration and determination to get it done.

Cut Distractions

It’s a challenge, but the only way to get completely focused is by getting rid of distractions. This takes planning in advance and changing your habits to be effective, but once you become aware of all that’s distracting you, you can eliminate it so your focus improves.

See The Ultimate Guide to Killing Work-at-Home Distractions for some suggestions for tackling some of the most common distractions.

What do you to do regain focus when you find your mind straying?

Image credit: chriswoods

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  • Mary@Everyday Baby Steps

    I knew I’d find great motivation from you, Alyssa. These are fabulous tips that I will keep in mind, as I’m working to rehab my workday routine. Thanks!

  • sewa mobil

    Nice article,
    Keep posting stuff like this i really like it.
    God Bless you.

  • Jack M.

    Your tips are horrible, seriously they suck!

  • evileric

    I find writing down a single critical item on a small white-board and working with single-minded focus on that task to be a good way to focus my efforts – when done, the item is erased and replaced with the next item from my list – helps me remember what I’m supposed to be working on :)

  • Jack M.

    Hey, I was just teasing you. Beautifully done :D.

  • Anonymous

    I would have to agree with the lists. I use whiteboards for long term goals, post-its and index cards for short term, daily activities. It seems to be the only way I keep focused on what needs done. Everyday I rewrite and reorganize the lists. Reminds me what of what I need to do, deadlines that are coming and what needs followed up on.

  • moflow

    I’m a big fan of the 50 minute work segments. Set a timer and tune out absolutely everything except for the task at hand for 50 minutes. That includes ignoring e-mails, phone calls and Twitter. It’s amazing what you can accomplish in that relatively short chunk of time.