After all, who really couldn't use more time?
Despite their efforts to stay informed on the best productivity methods, many people find staying focused to be an uphill battle.
If you feel defeated and unable to focus, two things will help you feel more in control. The first is to accept where you are and have compassion for yourself. When you admit to yourself, “I’m stuck. This feels awful,” the admission loses its power to derail you.
Then move forward by experimenting and reflecting.
Check in with how your work process feels at different points throughout the day and make adjustments to improve the quality of your work experience.
Being flexible helps.
If one approach isn’t working, try another rather than continuing to hammer away fruitlessly.
Frustrated sitting at your desk? Take your work outside or to a coffee shop for a couple of hours.
Leveraging the connection between mind and body is key to knowing when to make a change. For instance, you might need to get out of you chair to stretch several times a day.
Some people like to keep track of what they plan to accomplish by when. On the other hand, focusing on the process of work rather than the output is a powerfully facilitative perspective shift for many.
For instance, if you frame your main goal for the day as “finish project,” you might feel increasingly stressed as time goes by. You are much better served by an intention to “work on project” or “make progress on project.”
It also makes sense to engineer your workflow for ease and progress. What can you do to set conditions such that you need only lift your foot from the brake to get moving?
Clear off your desk before you start a new task? Write down your two top priorities for the next day before leaving in the evening?
“Many people fall prey to distractions, both internal and external, in their quest to focus.”
If someone else’s productivity strategy feels artificial to you, it probably won’t motivate you. For instance, some people can increase their productivity by setting a series of deadlines for themselves.
For others, a deadline only promotes focus when it’s real, interpersonally relevant and has serious consequences attached. Productivity strategies also lose their potential to motivate when they don’t feel meaningful.
Try reframing something you have to do in terms of your core values for stronger and more sustained focus.
Many people fall prey to distractions, both internal and external, in their quest to focus. A useful tool to fend off distraction is an inquiry into the costs of giving in to it.
Surrendering to distraction, while temporarily soothing, will later generate feelings of regret and even incompetence.
On the other hand, making progress boosts the wonderfully self-affirming sense of mastery.
Finally, accept that focus is dynamic, a work in progress. There’s no single tool that will help you develop laserlike focus.
The best response to a few hours given over to distraction is self-compassion paired with curiosity.
This article first appeared on Harvard Business Review and was republished with permission.
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