To conquer frustration,

one must remain intensely focused on the outcome,

not the obstacles.

T.F. Hodge

Unless you happen to be a Buddhist monk, you will encounter distractions from time to time that can work to minimize your effectiveness in getting your work done. The internet is especially disrupting with all of the email, messages, status updates, newsletters and more. But distractions can also include co-workers, family, and your own wandering minds. It seems that we fritter our lives away five minutes at a time. The big question then, is how to defeat this tendency. How can you make use of the Internet constructively without falling victim to its distractive qualities?

Here are a few strategies that I have found effective::

1. Use time limits. When you set a time limit, you improve your ability to focus. It almost becomes a game of ‘beat the clock’. Ideally, you should use a timer and limit your work periods to around 25 or 55 minutes – with a 5-10 minute break in between tasks. This is called the Pomodoro Method. If a task is going to take longer than 55 minutes, break it down into smaller chunks.

  • Having a time limit also forces you to do the most important parts of any work first. If you only have an hour, you will have to decide which are the most important parts. Decide how long it should take, and then set the timer.
  • If you have any sort of attention challenge, using a timer can increase your ability to keep your mind on the task at hand. The time flies by, and you will get more done. You are likely to even find it relaxing, since you will remain be focused on what you are doing instead of thinking about 20 (or more) other things.

Research has shown that the most productive schedule for most people is:

  • 50 minutes of work
  • 10 minute break
  • 50 more minutes of work
  • 30 minute break (You might not be able to get away with a 30-minute break at work, but it is a good time to get up, walk around, and get a drink.)
  • Repeat

Remember to time your breaks as well. If you decide to check your email or do one of those other tasks that seem to magically go from 5 minutes to 30 minutes or more, using a timer will serve as a reminder. It will also force you to only check on the most important things.

2. Close everything that can be closed. Everything on your computer that is not necessary for the task at hand should be closed down. If you do not need the internet, shut it off. That includes all your email, notifications, status updates, games, and blogs. Close your door and unplug the phone, if possible.

  • Nothing is going anywhere. It will all still be there when you are finally done. One of the keys to being more effective is eliminating the things that make you less effective.

3. Insert a pause, as needed. When you first implement these habits, there will be times that you will have an incredible urge to check your email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

  • Before you succumb to the urge, take 10 seconds and pause. Take a long, deep breath and ask yourself if you really want to spend your time going down that rabbit hole and doing something virtually meaningless, or if you would rather accomplish something worthwhile. This of course make the assumption that Internet visiting and traveling are not part of what you do to get paid.

The ability to focus has been largely lost for many. However, these easy habits, which anyone can do, can go a long way toward improving your focus and effectiveness at any task. It will be challenging at first, but you can get through it. You can get more done, in less time, by learning to improve your focus and avoiding the things that waste your precious time.

Try putting these three habits into play beginning today. You will be impressed by how much more you can actually get done if you remain focused!

To your continued success!

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