How to Focus Your Mind on the Project


September 6, 2007   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

Woman Working

When working on a major project, do you ever find yourself procrastinating? Of course you do! We all do! Whether you have attention deficit disorder or you are a polychrone or you simply suffer from information overload, it can be difficult to keep your mind focused on one project.

What follows is a guide to help you gain control of your focus so that you can make productive progress on your project.

How to Focus

  1. Eliminate Distractions. Even one distraction can bring your house of cards down, so be complete about this. This means:
  • Clear your desk. If you need to, clear it all off into a pile on the floor to deal with after you are done.
  • No internet or computer programs open that are unnecessary for your project.
  • No TV or Radio unless it is instrumental or unless you are doing art work and you work best with music.
  • No noise. If you have other people nearby that make noise on a regular basis, consider getting a pair of noise canceling headphones.
  • No phone. That’s what voice mail and caller id are for. Don’t answer it. If you think it might be important you can listen to the voicemail and decide when will be the best time to call back. Imagine that you are in a meeting and can’t be interrupted.
  • No email or feed reader.
  • Just you and your project. 
  • Visualize 

Take 5-10 minutes to visualize your project and what you need to do overall and today.

  • Planning 

Write out the plan for your project whether it is to clean the house, design a website, complete a writing assignment, create art, complete a day of errands, studying for an exam, or whatever. Write out the major steps from start to finish in a basic outline format.

  • Today Plan 

Write out the action steps you will take today and the approximate time you will be working on each step. Be as granular in your outline as need to keep yourself on task, but not any more than is necessary.

  • Breaks & Rewards 

Build in breaks into your Today Plan. Write in the times and use a timer to stay on track. Here is a free online timer. Plan a reward for the end of the day.

  • Take Action 

Work your plan. Use your Today Plan as your guide. Keep moving forward. When you find yourself getting distracted go back to your Today Plan. Be strict with yourself about keeping distractions from creeping into your project time.

  • Creative Projects 

If your project requires creativity, staying focused can be extra challenging. Here are some tips specifically for this:

    • Writing: Write your outline and then just start writing. Don’t be afraid of a bad first draft. Once you have that then you can edit into a masterpiece. The first draft is most difficult. The editing is much easier. If you get totally stuck then you probably need either more time, more information, or a break. Figure out which. You may also need to re-examine the assignment. Walking and/or meditation breaks (with closed eyes) are very helpful. 
  • Arts: Get your “rough draft” in place: sketching, outlines, basic form, etc. For certain types of art such as logo design, it is good to do many iterations to get the right one. Make sure you understand the assignment well. Look at it from different angles to help get your creativity flowing. 
  • General: Remember to slow down. Nothing stifles creativity more than trying to rush it. And remember to have fun. Even if it is not a “fun” project, find ways to make it fun and things will move along easier for you. 
  • Savor a Reward 

When the day is over and you’ve done your best, look back and recognize your accomplishments. Plan for tomorrow and then let it go for the rest of the day. Enjoy the reward you promised to yourself even if it is as small as a nice cup of tea while you relax quietly for 15 minutes before dinner.

What are your favorite ways to keep your mind focused? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

Written for Dumb Little Man by K. Stone, author of Life Learning Today, a blog about daily life improvements. Popular articles are Building a Smarter, Stronger Brain – Part 1 and Top 10 Yoga Videos + Bonus Pilates Too.


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