I am often asked how do I stay so focused and productive. To be honest most of the time I wing it, like any other normal mummy. I do have different methods in which to keep myself focused and productive at work and at home. I do also love researching new methods to incorporate to make my life that little easier. Here is a list of 10 ways I stay focused and productive and hopefully some may also help yourself…please remember it is about finding your own way, all what I do may not work for everyone. But then this is also the fun of trying new methods.
Emptying all the ideas and tasks out of my head means a clear space for concentrating and staying focused. Clearing your mind means you aren’t thinking of other tasks. Ways of doing this is just make a simple list, literally empty all the jobs you know need doing that are stored. Even if they seem minimal, leaving the tasks in your head means they take up valuable focus space. I personally do this digitally but will also sometimes produce a long paper list of a million tasks or thoughts I am trying to remember. This really does help and only takes a few minutes of your time. Try getting in the habit of doing this once a week.
I seriously geek out on all things productivity and personal growth and am constantly researching and reading books on the subjects. I thrive from learning and it is one way I love to keep my brain active. There are a few different ways which can help you stay focused and boost productivity. I will be doing posts on all of these soon in more detail.
One method is the Pomodoro Technique which is where you work in short bursts of Pomodoros which is 25 minutes non-stop on your task. After this time is up, then have a 5 minute break away from the task in hand. Repeat this and after every four pomodoros take a longer break of 20-30 minutes. This may seem a strange way to stay productive, but the breaks away from the task give you breathing space to stay focused when retutrning to the original task. I tend to use this if doing blogging tasks or work at home.
Focus timers are brilliant for stopping yourself use your phone, even though in a weird way you can use your phone to use them if using a focus timer app. I use an app called Forest for when I don’t want to be distracted with my phone. The more you leave your phone the more you can eventually build an arboretum. There have been many times I will think ‘oh, I will just check this’ and the reminder that if I carry on opening the phone my tree will die, and reminds me I am not meant to be distracted.
Another timer I use for when applying the Pomodoro Technique above is the Bear Focus Timer (BFT) which will count in Pomodoros. I love the graphics on this one. There are many other timer apps, but these are the ones I prefer.
If you would prefer to use a manual timer, then this still works. I use a cube timer for making myself stay alert and on time. Plus this is great for a time out for the kids. Being mindful of the time took for a task means you will be more focused on the task itself and this will eliminate procrastination.
This has made the hugest difference to keeping myself focused and staying off my phone. I have removed all notifications off most of my apps. My email and social media apps have no notifications, which means I just need to go in them to view. Rather than focusing on an important task and then you spot a notification has popped up that Sandra has uploaded a new photo of her lunch, straight away you have broken that focus. Plus most of us are guilty of the vortex of social media, just having an innocent scroll through can lead you on to a trail and then before you know it you lost valuable time deviating away from your work.
Not only eliminating notifications keeps you focused, this means those pesky red dots appear in the corner of your apps. This may just be me that hates them, but for those of you that are on the same wave length as me here… it is a game changer.
I personally prefer to work listening to music, I always have done and have varied playlists for certain tasks. You can make your own or search for focus playlists and there is a large number for you to listen too. It is finding a happy medium for what makes you more productive. One great playlist was mentioned by the lovely Alex Gladwin over at Bump To Baby, which was Fearless Motivation Instrumentals on Spotify. Honestly have a listen and see if you feel slightly pumped (you will).
Listening to your favourite playlist whether soft piano or drum and bass, also has the advantage to drown out background noise. For example I forgot my earphones when having a sneaky latte whilst blogging in Starbucks….obviously taking the standard blogger photo of my keyboard and coffee cup. I found myself listening to every conversation going, it was impossible to focus.
I admire the people who can watch Netflix and work. I tried and failed. Finding the best way for you to stay focused and also be aware of time again. Yes you may have worked whilst watching the latest episode in a new series you are binging on, but could you have done that job quicker if you wasn’t watching a TV at the same time. Again this is a personal preference and do what works for you. Hey, you may even like total peace and quiet… in my house this simply is non existent.
Early or Late
This method means playing to your strengths. Back in my twenties I could stay up until the early hours and have a lie in to restore my sleep. Then came kids and my body clock changed. Gone are the days of watching the budget films on after midnight on a Saturday night on BBC One then waking to record the Top 40 on cassette. Instead up early enough to watch the promo loop on CBeebies, desperately waiting for it to start to have a sneaky snooze whilst the kids are engrossed on Teletubbies.
Now I am way more productive earlier in the morning and often wake early to get jobs done in peace and also to fit them in. For example on a working day, by the time we are home the last thing is you want to go on a screen and start typing your next blog post or scheduling tweets. So to fit in my blog/life admin I will get up early.
For me getting up early means, the earlier the better for any main tasks. These will get most of my focus energy as I am more alert. Rather than at 4pm where I am slightly flagging and needing caffeine. Use the time you feel most alert and awake to get your best work done. You will notice you are more focused in this time frame and then getting more jobs, even the ones that you have been putting off means you will feel more productive.
Plan Your Day
Planning your day will help you stay on plan as much as it can. There is always things to pop up and break your focus, but overall this works for me. I know planning and calendar blocking my day how many tasks I can do, rather than compiling a huge list and feeling overwhelmed which looses your focus. Also this helps you not procrastinate inbetween tasks and projects as you know what you have planned. Plus similar to the brain dump all of your other jobs are out of your head, which means you can focus solely on the current task.
Another tip is take 10 minutes at the end of your work day or session to plan the next day. One you will go to bed minus the thoughts of the next days plans as you have already planned your day. Plus you will feel much more refreshed in the morning and motivated to be productive, knowing you already have planned your day ahead.
Create a happy work space wether this is at work, in a coffee shop, at the kitchen table or if you have the room for a desk…. create a space where you feel comfortable. This is all about making your happy place, this will encourage you to work.
One of my favourite things to do to boost productivity vibes is to clear my workspace. With the highlighters neatly in a line and a fresh new notepad at the ready, I feel at my most productive. Those who follow myself, know I have a day job and am able to work from home during school holidays, plus doing my blogging as a side hustle means I am constantly on a device of some sort.
I started working from the sofa and bedroom but couldn’t get comfortable and then the husband is constantly watching TV so then I was distracted and could not focus. I have tried so may different little desk areas, one being an Ikea Kallax unit, but this was not comfortable for all day working from home. Then we tried a little desk in our built in cupboard in the bedroom. I loved this little space but without sounding like Goldilocks this was too little and is now a fabulous dressing table.
Then came the idea of a home office which you can see and read more here. I am so focused in my office and everything is perfect to stop distractions. Work wise for my day job I like to keep my desk clear and personalised with little touches from home, pictures of the kiddies and a fake plant… the normal really. But all of this makes me feel like I am in my own little space and again when not distracted by people I can focus and really get productive.
Break Everything Down
If you are like myself you can get overwhelmed with huge or many tasks. Again this is where brain dumping is fantastic. Clear your head and break everything down, make notes before hand and get your head round the task ahead. The key is to stay focused at this point as this is when procrastination can slip in. Having the feeling of being overwhelmed can mean you openly look for distractions and welcome them.
I always have had the issue of starting a project, even now in my mid 30’s I doubt myself and then start googling, similar to searching medical symptoms. You can go on a trail and again waste precious focused time. I have got better by making the note and having a brain dump before starting a project. If you can break each section down as once you start you should find the rest flows.
Also I have found do not doubt yourself, you can do it. Do not compare yourself to anyone else in anything you do. One this saves you precious time trawling through google. Also if you feel more confident you will feel more focused.
The big projects can be the ones that break any focus and productivity. These are the ones that you need to do at your most alert and use all of your focus superpowers to eliminate distractions as honestly once you complete a mammoth task or project you will be ready to tackle anything.
Another tip is for tasks wise, if you have a huge To Do List you again may feel overwhelmed. Similar to the Ivy Lee Method of choosing a number of tasks to complete as goals can eliminate this. I prefer to choose a power three tasks and these I will get done first when most focused and most alert.
As mentioned in Early or Late, I get up early which most mornings is between 5-6am. One non-negotiable is the fact that you need sleep. Ideally you need to aim for 7-8 hours and I will plan this when planning my day. If I know I want to draft a blog post in the morning before everyone is up i will add this to my calendar. Then work out which time I need to aim to go to bed for. This is where my calendar blocking comes in handy, again I will do a post on this soon.
Getting enough sleep will leave you feeling refreshed and ready for the day ahead. Not getting enough sleep can impact your productivity, focus and more importantly your health. Again this depends on your day and personal circumstances but aim for a good sleep if you can and this will help you stay focused and alert.
I hope some of these come in handy and motivate you to try some of these methods. I would love to know if you do try them and also if you have any other methods you would like to share. Just remember there will be off days, there will be days nothing goes to plan but each day is a new day. Scrap the previous day and focus on the next one. This is not about achieving as near perfection as you can, but making a part of your life easier with some simple methods.