Focus: Doing what you’re doing while you’re doing it

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I don’t know about you, but I can sometimes get overwhelmed with everything I have to do. Currently, I am freelancing to earn a living and working on multiple projects generally, writing a novel, promoting novels I have already published, blogging, trying to get some reading in and if possible a little social media. Not to mention life in the real world.

And I have a tendency to wake up with thoughts of all the things I must get done in the day. My desk is littered with index cards of notes on projects, to do lists, changes in the novel, blogging topics, things I must remember to do. And I can’t remember the last time when I didn’t eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at my desk. Sometimes it seems like so much that I rapidly fall into apathy and opt to play computer Mahjong instead.

The trick is to only do what you’re doing right now

Somewhere along the path of my life, somebody told me the way to get things done was to do what you’re doing while you’re doing it. Meaning, whatever you are working on, give it your full attention. This of course, flies in the face of the multi-tasking mindset, which we all seem to believe is a more productive approach. Actually, it isn’t. Multitasking only enables you to do a bunch of things poorly and nothing well.
In these computer oriented, instant access times we live in, we have things coming at us at the speed of light. So many shiny objects, so little time. Right? So easy to get distracted. So easy to forget what you were doing.

And time management is a struggle for most of us, but I think especially self-employed individuals who must hustle and put in a lot of time to support themselves. And while there is nobody who has figured out how to make time stand still or stretch the length of a day, there are little tricks you can use to keep yourself on track:

Focus. Obvious, right? But that means turning off your email, possibly unplugging from the Internet and turning off your phone. Not quite so easy. Before you start your day, go for a walk, do yoga, meditate – or something that you find calming and takes you away from the noise. Even deep breathing will help. Decide what you’re going to do when you get to your desk. And then do it. Period. Do it until it’s finished. Don’t do anything else.

One thing at a time. Multitasking has created a whole generation of mediocre, dispersed people with the attention span of a gnat. Just say no to multitasking. Select your next project, task, job and do it. When that is done. Move onto the next. You will be amazed how much more you get done by not trying to do everything at once.

Lists. Lists are good. A lot of people swear by them. Some people don’t like then. Perhaps a calendar where you write it each task you will do within a specific time frame, works better for you. Or a series of rainbow colored post-it’s stuck to the wall next to your desk. When the task is finished the post-it is pulled and tossed in the trash. You could probably even get your phone to prompt you when it’s time to do a task. Me, I like index cards. When I think of something, I jot it down. Then I don’t have to carry it around in my already overstuffed head. When I’m done. I tear up the card and trash it. Easy Peasy.

Work by your own clock. Not everybody is a morning person. Some people function much better at night or late afternoon. Build your schedule and task list around your own body clock.

Reasonable expectations. One of the things that trips us up and can send even the calmest person into a tailspin is assuming we can do more than we actually can. You write a list with 50 items on it, then grit your teeth and swear you are not getting up from your desk until they are all done. At midnight, you’re still working on item 5. Try to make your lists/expectations reasonable. If you want to push yourself aim to do just a little bit more than you think you can. This will help motivate you to be more productive. But a list that even Super Man couldn’t do won’t motivate anyone.

Don’t beat yourself up – you’re only human

Everybody has their own process and preferences in how to approach their work. And it might take you a while to find what works for you. So don’t beat yourself up, if you feel you’re falling behind. Just do the turtle routine, right? Slow and steady wins the race. Do what you’re doing while you’re doing it and I promise that you’ll find you are actually getting more done.

How about you? Is time management an issue? Are you overwhelmed by all the things you need to get done in a day, a week, a month? How do you handle the problem. Feel free to give us your tips and tricks in the comments.

Annie