During this time of the year, my work calendar is filled with reminders of HR conferences, brunching in cafes with industry experts, and the occasional plane ride to interview a thought leader living 3,000 miles away. With daily life ruptured due to the pandemic, and even the most unavoidable work meet-ups falling off the calendar, I am left feeling like my life is rather stagnant.
I don’t know about you, but the quarantine has pushed me in a vortex of Netflix binge and endless emails at work. The distractions seem impossible to avoid. This habit of giving in to constant distractions arises from the psychological discomfort of dealing with intrusive thoughts such as “what if…”. During the lockdown, I often found myself playing the “If” game. I could make some progress on this report if I could just gather enough motivation to work. I could reach my fitness goal if I had all the gym equipment at home. It goes on and on.
So, how do you gain control over your time and learn how to avoid these distractions? Most importantly, how to stay focused on your goals?
Stay Focused on Your Goals
Keep a journal to track how you’re currently spending your time. Are you wasting too many precious hours on social media? How often are you checking Twitter, watching endless YouTube recommendations, or getting sucked in a binge-watching black hole on Netflix? It’s time to maintain a track of the hours spent on unfulfilling habits such as mindless browsing of social media and binge-watching on the Internet.
One you have a brief idea of how you’re spending your waking hours, make a list of goals you wish to accomplish. Each month, pick a set of goals that you would like to achieve for your personal or professional life. Number each one of them in order of importance. Use David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) technique to organize and review your To-Do list.
CREATE A ROADMAP
If you want to learn how to be focused on your goals then you’ll need to set your own due dates. Give yourself a deadline to achieve each goal and set up a review system. Ask a friend or colleague to check in on the progress you’ve made, or come up with a reward for when you achieve a goal by the deadline. Having someone to keep you accountable provides a much stronger motivation than trying to accomplish on your own.
BREAK GOALS INTO MILESTONES
Break goal into smaller, actionable sub-goals with due dates to track progress. This would help you reduce your proclivity to procrastinate or avoid tasks because you simply don’t know where to begin. Instead of writing “create website,” break it into bite-sized sub-goals such as, “create home page, write content for contact us page, etc.”
According to Melissa Gratis, Ph.D., workplace productivity coach and speaker, humans are not good at delayed gratification. We like to see progress, and we want it happening right now. Creating sub-goals means frequent rewards and the satisfaction that you’re working closer to your goal.
You will need to hone self-discipline if you want to learn how to stay focused to achieve your goals. Success doesn’t happen overnight. It’s about constant grinding, day in and day out.
Develop productivity habits, such as learning to prioritize tasks, work efficiency and stay focused at work. This will make it much easier to accomplish your goals.
It’s important to celebrate as you reach each milestone along the way. Give yourself a pat on the back for realizing and actualizing each sub-goal.
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