Ways to Improve Focus at Work

I am really struggling today to get focused on work. I'm juggling a few different projects with similar deadlines, and I'm finding that I quiickly lose interest in all of them as soon as I start working on them. So what happens? I switch between projects repeatedly, which means I have about 30 windows open on my desktop, including Facebook and my personal email (tsk, tsk). 

Result? 

Ummm…nothing.

If you ever have days (or weeks) like this, try using some of the following ideas to get focused at work. As soon as I'm done writing this (giving myself a 7-minute time limit to finish it), I'm going to do #1. 

#1 – Set the timer for 45-minutes & turn off EVERY unrelated distraction

I set the alarm on my phone for 45 minutes from now and I turn off every distraction. For me, that means closing every window and tab on my computer that is not DIRECTLY related to the task at hand. I tell myself, when that alarm goes off, I can reward myself. Until then, all I can do is the project at hand.

This method usually results in the same amount of work as a 3-hour chunk of time with all those distractions. 

#2 – Measure your tasks & time to deadline

Make a list of all of the tasks you need to complete to finish said project. Now make a time estimate for each of those tasks. How many working days until your deadline? Divide those days by the total amount of time. That's how much you need to spend each day before your project is due. It's a good idea to add a couple extra hours in there for when things go wrong, too. 

Put your time in at the beginning of the days so that if you want (or are able to), you can spend some more time on your project as needed. Don't save it all up for the end of the day when you're liking ot push it all off. The key is distributing tasks and times evenly. 

EXAMPLE: 

Project: Computer-Based Training Development
Deadline: 6 working days

Tasks:

  • Create Training Binder & Need of Training Verification (.5)
  • Complete training analysis & summary (.5)
  • Determine & justify delivery method (.5)
  • Identify existing material to re-use or adapt (.5)
  • Review flip chart & suggest edits or updates (2)
  • Collect visual media, finalize layouts, design CBT activity (4)
  • Storyboards, Action Maps, Scenario Branches (2)
  • Create facilitator guide (3)
  • Create Knowledge Check (2) 
  • Collect attachment info & URLs (1)
  • Complete CBT scenes with text and visual media (8)
  • Write narration (2)
  • Record Narration (4)
  • Add animations, annotations (3)
  • Develop participant handouts and guides (2)
  • Subject Matter Expert review (2)
  • Test and Edit (2)
  • Test and Edit (2)
  • Test and Edit (2)
  • Publish for Pilot (1)

TOTAL HOURS: 44

RESULT: 44/6 = 7.3 hours per day

Suddenly a project that seemed pretty simple and straight forward just became real. I need to work on this baby for 7+ hours per day to hit my deadline? And this is only 1 of 3 projects that are coming due. 

As you can see, this exercise can be a big wake-up call. It only takes about 5 or 10 minutes to complete, but I feel incredibly motivated (and a tad stressed) to get VERY focused today. I really don't want to be spending time at home working on these projects. Perhaps if I focus intently, I can shave some of that estimated time off!

#3 – No time! 

Would love to make this list long, but I REALLY need to get focused on deadline-oriented tasks right now! :)

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