Do you ever have a hard time trying to stay on task? Sometimes you try to focus your mind, but it seems to wander off despite your best attempts? Does your concentration need improvement? Mine does sometimes. I want to share 5 quick tips to help you stay on task and focus. These focus techniques can be applied whether you are looking for ways to stay focused at work, ways to stay focused while studying, or how to stay focused on a paticular task. I’ll share my favorite one at the end, but first, let’s address a few common questions.
What Does Staying Focused Mean?
The dictionary definition of focused says that when a person is focused on something they are paying attention to it. When you focus your camera on something, you have made adjustments so that you can clearly see something. A beam of light can be focused, or concentrated, on one thing, like a spotlight.
So what do you need to shine your “spotlight” (attention) on? This can be in life in general, your goals, or a specific task, such as work or studying. Notice that staying focused is limited. You can’t focus on 10 different things at once and be effective. Pick one thing to concentrate on. That’s how you stay on task.
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Why Do I Lose Focus and Get Off Task?
If staying on task is as easy as picking one thing to concentrate on, then why do we lose focus and get off task? There are actually things that happen in our brain that stop our thinking when a distraction or unexpected event pops up. The unexpected event clears our thinking. It lets us focus on the new thing that just happened or popped up.
That’s great if a tiger just jumped out at you – not so great in today’s modern world where distractions are everywhere! We have to train our brains to focus better. We can learn to recover from distractions faster so that we can get better at staying on task.
What Causes Lack of Concentration?
If you can’t concentrate, you can’t stay on task. So what causes lack of concentration? There are some medical conditions that can cause it, as well as lack of sleep, hunger, anxiety, and excess stress. You could also be trying to work in an environment that’s full of distractions. If you are having trouble staying on task because of a lack of concentration, then stop and reflect to try to pinpoint what the problem is. It might be something that’s easily remedied, such as leaving your phone in another room or turning off notifications.
How Do You Stay Focused on the Task at Hand?
When I need to stay on task, I follow all 5 of the tips below. I sit at the desk that I use for work. Then, I make sure it is clean and clutter-free. I pick a time to work that I have scheduled. When I sit down, I know exactly which task I need to stay focused on because I have planned and set it as a priority. I make sure that my environment is free of distractions. My phone is on silent, and I ignore any notifications that pop up. I also pick a time that I know that I can be alone to work because that’s my optimal work environment.
I do not have anything scheduled immediately afterward and make sure that I have blocked off all the time that I need to see the task to completion. I often have a glass of water close by. If I need a break, then I will take a 5-10 minute break, and then get back to work. By following this process, I set myself up for success.
How Do I Stay Focused Throughout The Day?
Sometimes staying on task means managing many tasks at once. I plan the day, I have a to-do list and I make sure that I have everything that I need ready to go to accomplish my tasks. I usually have a loose time frame and have sorted my tasks in order of priority. Having a written to-do list and crossing off the tasks helps me to get them done. I also plan a reward for myself after I accomplish big tasks. That also helps to keep me motivated.
See Also: Build Your Motivational Skills
5 Quick Ways To Stay On Task and Focused
If you are needing ways to stay on task and focused, take a look through these 5 quick tips to help you focus, concentrate, and stay on task.
Tip #1 To Stay on Task and Focused: Sharpen the Saw
I heard a story about 2 men trying to cut down large trees while listening to Jim Kwik’s podcast on this subject. The story goes that the first man worked without stopping, pulling his saw back and forth over the trunk of the tree. He worked for an hour and made minimal progress, but he kept going. The day dragged on and his arms ached, but still, he moved his saw back and forth. While he worked, he noticed another man, taking breaks every 30 minutes and sitting down for 10 minutes at a time.
Feeling superior, he was sure that with continued hard work and perseverance he would get his tree down first. However, much to his dismay, when he stopped for lunch, he was halfway through the tree, but his competitor was 3/4 of the way through! He determinedly redoubled his efforts and worked even harder through aching arms. He heard a cry of “Timber!” around mid-afternoon when his competitor’s tree crashed to the ground.
Nearing exhaustion, and 3/4 of the way through his own tree, he walked over. With frustration, he asked the man, “How did you get done so soon?! I’ve been working on this tree all day, but you’ve been taking breaks and sitting down every 30 minutes. How did you get through your tree first?”
“Awww, you just didn’t see what I was doing while I was sitting,” his competitor replied. I kept stopping to sharpen my saw.
What do you need to do to sharpen the saw for your own task? How can you work smarter instead of harder?
Tip #2 To Stay on Task and Focused: Self Care
If I am tired, or worn to a frazzle, my mind will wander. I will not be able to focus on the task at hand. If you are tired, hungry, or upset, then your focus will not be very good. It’s ok to stop and take care of yourself. Self-care is not a selfish thing to do. It enables you to take care of those you love better because it refills your own “cup” and gives you something to pour from.
My focus is better when I have a full “cup” than when it is running empty. To me, this is one way that I can “sharpen the saw” when I am trying to complete a task.
Tip #3 To Stay on Task and Focused: Fix Your Environment
Believe it or not, our environment has an impact on how focused we are. Clutter is distracting. I am not a naturally neat person. However, I keep my desk that I usually work at free of clutter. Before I start to work, I will tidy it. That’s the place that I work most efficiently at with the most focus.
In addition to tidying your work environment for more focus, keep in mind what kind of environment you prefer to work in. Some people work better alone, others work better with other people around.
When I was a kid I always went to my room at my desk to do my homework. I work best in a quiet environment by myself. My brother, however, always did his homework at the kitchen table while our Mom was fixing supper. He worked better in the presence of people. What type of environment are you most productive in?
Tip #4 To Stay on Task and Focused: Decrease Distractions
The reason that I went to my room to do my homework was to decrease distractions. I will confess that distractions still bother me. If the tv is on, it’s hard for me to focus. I get very little work done if I am in the same room with a tv blaring. You can do other things to decrease distractions, like leaving your phone in a separate room, or turning off the notifications on your pc while you are working.
But what if you are in an environment that you don’t have as much control over? I realize that you can’t control everything, so if you have to work in a distracting environment, one thing that helps me to block out distractions is to put on some concentration or study music. What are some ways you can think of to minimize distractions?
Tip #5 To Stay on Task and Focused: Plan and Prioritize
I am guilty of trying to chase too many “rabbits” at once sometimes. When I do this, nothing gets done to completion. If you have several things that you need to do, plan and prioritize each one. Focus on only one thing at a time. You can also try time blocking to increase your productivity. Some people also have success with what they call “batch tasking” where they do all of their tasks that are alike at once.
Choose whatever system works the best for you, or a combination of systems. However you do it, see each task through to completion. It’s better to have 3 completed tasks than 6 that are halfway done. Forget multi-tasking. Focus on doing the most important thing first.
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The Last Thing You Need to Know About How to Stay On Task and Focused
The ability to stay on task and focused is actually a skill that we build. If you do not seem very good at it right now, then keep trying. Make sure that you take care of yourself. It’s hard to focus on anything if you are tired, hungry, anxious, or upset. Taking care of those things is one way that you can “sharpen the saw” to make you more productive. Make sure that your environment is clutter-free and distraction-free. Take short breaks when you need them, but remember that staying on task is a priority.
My favorite tip is “Sharpening the saw.” I love the story that goes with it, and often times I am guilty of trying to do things the hard way for a while instead of sharpening the saw at the beginning. What’s your favorite tip for how to stay on task and focused? Leave me a comment below!