Tips to regain your daily focus

Usually, I’m very disciplined about writing. After walking my dog in the morning, I’m at my desk at 9 a.m. I turn the sound off so I’m not distracted by the whirr of arriving tweets, or the siren song of e-mail in my in-box. I don’t even listen to music so I can concentrate.

So what the heck happened to me a couple of weeks ago? I hit a spell where I just could not focus. I was distracted by e-mail and spent too much time reading blogs and following alluring URLs posted on Twitter. True, it was high season for vacations and I had a hard time reaching people I had to interview. But really; I had to do the equivalent of grabbing myself by the scruff of the neck to get my own attention.

If you get caught by the same lack of focus, here are some ideas to help:

  1. Write out a list of everything you must accomplish. Rewrite it each night to be ready for the next day.
  2. Don’t even open Twitter until you’ve crossed something off your “to do” list.
  3. Turn off the sound so you don’t hear incoming messages.
  4. If you leave your mail program open, block the view of your in-box so you can’t see incoming messages either.
  5. Only allow yourself certain times to check e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc. and STICK TO THEM.
  6. Get a timer and be disciplined about how much time you spend checking all those online funhouses.
  7. In extreme cases, take your laptop somewhere where you don’t have access to the Internet.
  8. Give yourself a reward for the tiniest of achievements, such as staying focused for a set amount of time, and for bigger successes like finishing an article or submitting a project.
  9. Know that this, too, shall pass.

Having just completed two last-minute projects (quick turnaround of about a day from interview to finished article, something I like to call “pulling a rabbit out of a hat”), I think I’m recovered. At least for now. But if you noticed that I haven’t said much on Twitter lately, this is part of the reason why.

Oh, and I should add, we need to cut ourselves some slack. As long as you are meeting your commitments, it’s OK to work at a slower pace once in a while!

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  1. Posted September 11, 2009 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

    Great tips! I sometimes shut down my Internet link so that I’m not tempted to “just check” my email or Twitter. Often I treat myself at 5 minutes before the hour with 5 minutes on Twitter. Then it’s back to copywriting or audio editing or whatever. It’s too easy to get distracted otherwise!

  2. Posted September 12, 2009 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    It’s that “I’ll just check” that gets you, isn’t it! I’ll have to try your trick of 5 minutes before the hour on Twitter. See you there!

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