I don’t know if I mentioned it before, but I have the attention span of a… did you see the Celtics beat LeBron by 30 points on Tuesday in Cleveland? Sorry. Over the last 3 years, I’ve spent about a year and half working at home. While that doesn’t make me an expert, I have learned a few tricks of the trade to keep focused. I thought I’d share a few things that worked well for me.
- Plan the Day… the Night Before – Create a short guideline of what you want to get to done the next day. Getting this done the night before means that you hit the ground running the next morning.
- Wear Pants – I never thought I’d find myself writing about the basic need to wear pants… but I am. It’s very tempting to just roll out of bed and get working. For me that’s a recipe for failure. For some reason, I subconsciously associate pajamas with “Time to check out stats in my fantasy baseball league.”
- Eat Breakfast – Eating breakfast is like putting on pants above… it just gets you in a good rhythm. When I didn’t have breakfast, I’d find that I’d attempt to get to work, get about 5 minutes in and then decide, “It’s a good time to have breakfast.” I’d then spend 5 minutes after breakfast trying to get back to where I was before breakfast
- Organize Tasks – When your tasks aren’t organized, chaos ensues. It’s hard to stay focused when your brain is juggling too much data. So I try to use tools like Evernote, Google Calendar, mind maps, and even a simple text editor create order of any information in my head. Then I try create tasks that can be broken into 15-20 minute slices.
- Grab a Kitchen Timer – While there are many software programs that you can download (or even web based ones that will the do the job), I prefer the old fashioned kitchen timer. I then set the kitchen timer and the race to complete the first task begins. It’s extremely hard to get distracted in the middle of a race.
- Schedule Some Small Breaks – All focus and no breaks make Lazy a dull Man. To avoid chopping up your family during a blizzard (or just to reset your internal clock and get back to productivity) take a break. That break might be something productive like fold some laundry or unload a dishwasher – or it might be getting to that fantasy league. I like to switch it up – one productive break for one fun break. Always make use of that kitchen timer while on the break.
- Plan a Halftime – Similar to scheduling the small breaks above, I try to divide my day into two halves. That halftime usually consists of a quick lunch and something really mindless activity like taking my dog to the dog park or going for a swim (whether permitting of course). During these mindless activities, I reflect a little on what I accomplished in the first half and what the game plan is for the second half of the day. Reflection may or may not include imagining your favorite football coach berate your performance… that’s entirely optional.
- Limit Your Web Browsing – I created separate Firefox profiles for increased productivity and I suggest you do to. When I’m in the work profile, I don’t have the quick auto-complete to my “fun” sites. During breaks I can load up my fun Firefox profile and quickly get to what I want.
What do you use to stay on track? Let me know in the comments.