Did you ever wonder why you are more productive on some days than on others?
A lot of the time it’s focus. Many of us are more focused on some days than on others. When we lack focus, we tend to work more slowly.
You may think that you can’t do anything about how focused you are. You may think that you just have to live with however focused you happen to be at any given time.
That’s a wrong assumption. You can make some fundamental changes in how you work and improve your ability to focus. In this post, I explain why focus is important. I also provide five tips for improving your focus.
If you liked this post, you’ll find even more tips about focus in this post, 9 Tips for Staying Focused.
Why Focus Is Important
Focus is important. It helps you accomplish things. It keeps you on task.
Without focus, our attention tends to drift. Without even realizing it, we may find our thoughts drifting away from our project. Day dreaming is one common result of a lack of focus.
If you find yourself drifting from one task to another during the course of a day, without finishing any of the tasks, a lack of focus is probably the culprit.
Fortunately, there are some things you can do to become more focused. That’s what this post is all about.
Tip #1. Don’t Try to Do Too Much at Once
In our efforts to get everything done, we consistently over schedule ourselves. Unfortunately, the result of scheduling too many activities into too little time is the exact opposite of what we want.
Rather than helping us to get many things done, over scheduling can keep us from getting from getting things done. It seems counter-intuitive–but to get more accomplished, plan on doing less.
Many productivity experts recommend scheduling no more than three important tasks in a day. And if the tasks are very large, even three tasks may be too many.
Tip #2. Protect Your Health
Here’s a news flash. Sick days are not productive days. If you’ve ever tried to work when you were sick, I’m sure you’d agree that it’s very hard to focus on work.
Yet, the things we do when we are trying to get a lot done–working extra hours, grabbing junk food, and not getting enough sleep–are the very things that can make us sick.
If you want to maximize your productivity, here are some good health habits you’ll want to adopt:
- Eat a balanced diet.
- Exercise regularly.
- Get enough sleep.
- Take regular breaks.
- See your doctor for regular physicals.
Of course, your health is just one aspect of improving your focus.
Tip #3. Work Smart
Focusing on your projects doesn’t mean you have to do everything the hard way. In fact, smart shortcuts are a good way to improve your productivity.
After all, what’s more frustrating than spending extra time on project that you really don’t need spend. If that frustration doesn’t make you lose your focus, I don’t know what will.
Here are a few tips for working smart:
- Automate. There are some great tools out there that can help you with routine tasks like creating proposals, bookkeeping, and more. Find out what can be easily automated and do it.
- Delegate. If a lot of your time is taken up with low level routine tasks, it may be time to get some help. Consider outsourcing or hiring a virtual assistant.
- Stick to a routine. If you have good routine, you are less likely to forget important parts of a project. Checklists are a great way to make sure that your routine includes everything it should include.
- Don’t reinvent. Many freelancers get stuck and struggle through a project problem when they don’t have to. If you’re having trouble, chances are someone else has already solved your problem. Search for it on the Internet or query your contacts for a solution.
- Know what you’re doing. No, this isn’t a commentary on your skills. Rather, it’s a plea for you to get a specific project scope so that you can know for sure that the project you are working on is the project the client wants.
Tip # 4. Fix Your Work Environment
Look around you. Are you working in a place that allows you to fully focus on your web design work, or is your work space full of distractions?
Freelance web designers and other freelancers are famous for the ability to work anywhere. But just because we can work anywhere, doesn’t necessarily mean that we should. If your workspace is keeping you from working because of too many distractions, take steps to change it.
While you may not have enough space in your home to dedicate an extra room to your web design business, many freelancers have gone to creative lengths to create a quiet place where they can focus. I’ve seen the following spaces adapted for freelancers:
- A small, unused closet converted to freelance office.
- Corner of a room. Separated from main room by divider or bookshelves.
- Little used dining room converted to freelance office.
- Basement space turned into freelance office.
- Storage building or garage (with electricity, of course) converted into freelance office.
Tip #5. Make Use of Technology
Sometimes, the Internet itself can keep us from focusing on our work. Fortunately, there are apps to help with that problem.
If you struggle with online distractions, consider these seven apps (in alphabetical order):
- Anti-Social.. This app blocks social media so you can get more done. It runs on Windows, Mac, and Ubuntu. ($15)
- Focus Booster. This is timer that is based on the Pomodoro Technique. It runs on Mac machines or Windows. (free)
- Focus Me. With this PC app, you can choose what you want to block. (Prices start at $18.)
- Isolator. This Mac app covers all the icons on your desktop when you are busy. (free)
- RescueTime. Track how much time you spend on various activities on your computer. It’s available for Mac, PC, Android, or Linux. (There is a free and a premium version.)
- Time Out. This handy tool reminds you to take regular breaks. You can run it on the iPad, iPhone, or Mac. (free)
(Note: The prices were current when the post was written. Prices may change at any time.)
How do you stay focused? Share your tips (and any apps you use) in the comments.