The other morning, I woke up early with intentions to eat breakfast and write a new blog post. I grabbed my little blue laptop, and my cell phone then sat down at my desk. Before I opened Scrivener, the program I use to create all my rough drafts, I decided to break one of my cardinal rules and check my email on my phone. (If you have read my book Intentional Mornings, you know I advise against this before you have taken action towards your most important personal goal.)
Before I knew it an hour and a half had passed and I had yet to even open my laptop, much less my writing program. One little email had led me to check my website analytics, which in turn resulted in a web (no pun intended) of other issues that seemed pertinent at the time, but were in essence not all that important. In addition to having wasted my valuable writing time, I was now feeling stressed and not very motivated to sit in front of a computer any longer.
After taking a long break, and finally getting my shoulders to relax, I decided to evaluate what went wrong and how I could remedy the problem in the future. I came up with the following five ideas to stay on task in the future and get more done.
Name the objective.
To be productive in any endeavor, you must always be clear on what your objective is. What is it you are setting out to accomplish? In my case, it was to write and publish a new blog that is at least seven hundred words long.
The is true if you’re having a meeting at work, having a date with your spouse, meeting with an important client or sitting down to work on a project. You must first be clear on what you want to accomplish right now.
To discover your primary objective, ask yourself, “When I am done with the following activity, what will I have accomplished?”
Perhaps the meeting’s purpose is to find out where your employees are struggling at work. When you are on a date, maybe your main thing is to enjoy one another’s company while catching up on each other’s week. Whatever it is it will always be unique to the situation and must be clear and obtainable. Without this clarity, it can become incredibly easy for the important to get hijacked by the less important.
2. Eliminate distractions.
The reason I do all my writing on my little blue laptop is that I only use it for writing. If I am going to surf the internet, check Facebook or my email, I use my desktop computer or my smartphone. This simple act of separation allows me to eliminate distractions and has conditioned me to focus on my writing when I open it up.
As I stated earlier, I broke my own rule when I checked my email before sitting down to write which led to an hour and a half of distraction. If you want to be successful, you must learn to focus and block out the little things that can pull you off course. If you know that Facebook is your nemesis, then limit your access to it by putting it on only one device. Next, leave that device somewhere far away from you while you are working on your main objective.
Ask yourself, “What do I allow to keep me from achieving my objectives?” Then find a way to remove it from your presence when you are working. Make it harder to engage in the distracting behavior and easy to perform the task at hand.
One of the reasons I get up at 4 a.m. to write is because it limits my distractions. With everyone else still asleep, I find it is easier to focus on my task and in turn get more done in less time.
3. Put a time limit on what you are doing.
For me, nothing helps to reduce distractions like putting a time limit on what I am doing. If I know I only have an hour to write, then my mind perks up. I focus better, and I just get more done. Without a time limit, my attention begins to wander, and I find myself over thinking everything I am doing. As a result, I have little results to show for all my time working.
Before you begin, decide on how much time you are going to devote to your task at hand. Even if you don’t finish in that period, the simple act of knowing there is a limit to how long you will spend on this task today will help you to focus and be more productive.
4. Just begin.
This one is simple but is also commonly overlooked. Telling yourself, “I don’t know where to start,” leads you to not knowing where to begin. And you end up wasting a lot of time trying to figure out what to do. Instead, just begin.
Many times when I start a project, whether it is writing a blog or just cleaning up the yard, I don’t know where to begin. Staring at the job at hand usually leads to just more staring. But by opening my computer and writing down whatever comes to me, I start to get ideas I can work with. I can always go back and edit, but with nothing being written editing is impossible.
Waiting for inspiration to hit you might leave you waiting for a very long time. So instead of hoping to be inspired, just begin. Remember the words of Goethe, “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.”
Question: Have you ever experienced a time when you just began and were amazed by your results? You can leave a comment by clicking here.