6 Ways to Improve Your Focus (And Beat Procrastination)

Easy steps to stop procrastinating

If you’re like me, you may find it difficult to get things done due to a combination of procrastination and distractions.

Here are six ways to improve your focus so that you can accomplish the things you want to get done.

1. Prepare

Pick a time each day to plan out the things you need to accomplish the next day. Get into the habit of looking through your planner & adding things at a certain time each day, with a final flip through the planner after you complete your work for the day. (I use Google Calendar as my “planner”.) If you have a project coming up soon that requires lots of preparation, add pre-preparation time to your planner so that you can get organized before it’s time to actually do the work. That way when it comes time to start, the things you need will be ready.

2. Set a mini-goal

Setting a mini-goal such as “I will work on this project for 20 minutes at 10am” can help you stay on task. It’s easier to focus intently for smaller time periods. You may even find yourself so engrossed in what you’re doing that you put in extra time on the project.

3. Do nothing (briefly!)

Before you begin getting ready for the day, take a few minutes to just do nothing. Sit and breathe deeply. Notice the weather, how good your breakfast tastes, or how soft your sheets are if you’re still in bed. If you find stray thoughts coming in about the work you need to do or something that you’ve forgotten, tell yourself that right now you are relaxing. Taking time to clear your mind of random busyness will make space for what you really do want to focus on later.

4. Turn off technology

This is the biggie. Turn your cell phone off, turn off the ringer on your home phone, set your work phone to go directly to voice mail without ringing, and put the iPod away. If you must work on a computer to accomplish your task, vow to keep your email program, instant messengers, and web browsers CLOSED until you’ve reached your goal for the day. If you don’t need the computer, turn it off as well.

5. Eliminate interruptions

Turning off technology eliminates electronic interruptions, but go a step further and eliminate people-based ones as well. If you’re working from home, tell the others in the house that you’re going to be working on a particular project for the next 20 minutes, and that they should not interrupt you unless blood loss is involved. If you’re working from an office and have a door, close it for 20 minutes while you focus. If you don’t have a door, put on a pair of headphones so that you appear to be listening to music, which will make people less likely to interrupt you. (Don’t actually listen unless music does in fact help you focus.) Respond to anyone that still does interrupt by saying that you’ve got to get this done, but will be able to help them in 20 minutes unless it is an emergency. Don’t make eye contact while you’re telling them this. Most things can wait for 20 minutes and it is not rude to ask someone that has interrupted YOU to wait until you have time.

6. Work during your most productive time

Everyone has a time of day in which they’re the most productive — and it may not be when you think it is. For example, I am not a morning person. No way, no how. But my most productive time of day is very early in the morning. If I get up just 15 minutes early, I can get more done in those 15 minutes than I would have in an hour at a different time of the day. I know, it makes no sense. But it works, so that’s what I do. Experiment with different times of day to see what time works best for you.

Then, sit back and reap the benefits

Take it from a (reforming) procrastinator — it’s much less exhausting to focus for brief periods of time on specific projects than it is to spend your time stressing about all that you’ve left undone. And remember, being more productive in less time leaves you more time for enjoyable activities so you can sit back and reap the benefits.