In today’s hectic, multi-tasking society it can be difficult to maintain your focus on a project. We become easily distracted by many things – co-workers, the telephone, e-mail, or the television. We also lose our focus as we try to juggle several projects at once, finding ourselves pulled in many directions.
In order to accomplish more during your day, you must learn the technique of focusing your attention on one thing at a time. The more thought you can dedicate to one project, the quicker you will be able to complete it. Honing your ability to focus as a time management technique will translate directly into greater success completing your projects, and a greater amount of free time once you are finished.
Keep a Calendar
Schedule time to work on projects, then make sure nothing interrupts you. This may mean turning off your email program, your instant messenger, etc. Every time you switch your thoughts away from your project to answer an e-mail, take a phone call, chat with a co-worker, or watch something on television, it takes your mind time to readjust to the project and regroup the necessary information. If you have 100 such distractions each day – which is entirely possible in a busy office – you could easily lose ½ to one hour of productive time. That adds up to between 10 and 20 hours a month – enough for an extra day or two off!
One Thing at a Time
Do not switch back and forth between tasks or projects. Each time you move away from a project and then return to it later, it takes your brain a certain amount of time to dig around for all of the information it needs to focus on your goal. You will greatly increase your productivity if you can work one project through to completion before moving on to another project. This allows your brain to compile all of the necessary information, then hang onto it until you are through without losing time switching back and forth.
Have a Plan:
Some people work blindly, without any idea of where they are going with a project. Formulate a set of goals or a roadmap to a particular objective before you sit down to work on a project. Stabbing at it blindly will get you nowhere, and you may even find yourself making mistakes that need to be corrected later. Having an idea of where you want to take your project will help you work more efficiently.
Control Your Thoughts
Intrusions from the telephone, from friends, and from co-workers are not the only distractions that can derail your efficiency. Your own mind can sabotage your efforts to work quickly, quietly, and concisely.
As you notice unrelated thoughts invading your head, acknowledge them and then consciously remove them from your mind. Put them to bed for the moment and return to the task at hand. Occupy your mind by musing about your project, keeping the thoughts related to it at the forefront of your mind. As you practice quieting your mind, you will notice it becomes easier and easier. Eventually you will be able to wipe your mind of all irrelevant thoughts and keep them at bay without ever making a conscious effort to do so.
When preparing to begin work on a project or task, prepare the area so it is free of distractions. Have your secretary answer the phone or allow the machine to pick up, close your e-mail accounts, and turn off the radio or television. Some people like the background noise from the television or radio, but the noise from it can be more distracting than helpful. The mind was not designed to think in parallel realms, and if it finds something on the radio more interesting than your project, your efficiency is going to suffer.
Try to employ these tips for successful time management. Once you have developed your concentration skills, you may feel like you suddenly have been given more hours in your workday. The truth is, you will have given yourself the gift of time. Who knows, maybe you can spend that well deserved hour at the local spa after work, letting a nimble fingered masseuse erase the stresses of the day from your memory.