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Four Ways to Stay Focused on a Task

Four Ways to Stay Focused on a Task

It can be difficult to stay focused on a task. If you are like me, I oftentimes find my mind wandering to far away places. It is also hard not to procrastinate, and to start a task when you are supposed to start it. With the technology and social media that is readily available to us, we can get easily distracted.

If you are finding it hard to get motivated to start working on a task, think of these tips to help get you started:

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1.) Think beyond the task to the outcome.

To get started on a task, you should have in mind why you need to finish that task. Here is an example. To book your summer trip, you need to start saving now and continue to do so in the next few months so that you can buy tickets during winter season when fares are lower.  It can save you a lot of money that you can use as a down payment to buy a car!

If you have an end goal in mind, the greater the chance that you will start and stick to the task. If a goal is not in sight for a task, create one. Such an example is in cleaning the house. You need to start cleaning the whole house now because your dog walks around the house and then sleeps on the bed with you. The dirtier the floors are, the more dirt your dog will bring to your bed. Your goal is to not to have your dog bring dirt to your bed.

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2.) If you finish it, it’s done and you can move on to another task.

The faster that you get a task done, the sooner that you can work on other things. Prioritizing and doing what needs to be done first is something that a mature adult should do. When the task is done, you do not have to worry about it anymore. If you keep a task waiting or if you take a lot of time completing it, you are not getting out of doing it. Taking a long time to finish a task only prevents you from doing other things that you would rather be doing. Also, when you stay on a task, there will be a smooth flow of energy, effort, and creativity.

3.) Look at it as a challenge.

Think of how good it will feel once you have accomplished a task through your own personal efforts. Won’t that make you feel more confident and strengthen your faith in yourself? If the great challenge of finishing a task is too daunting for you, make up a simple challenge for the task. Make a list of tasks that you need to do, then check off each task as you finish it. Let the crossing out of each completed task on your list be the challenge that you need to get it done.

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4.) Know that if others can do it so can you.

You probably have not started a task because you are scared. What you should do is to think of all the other people in the world that have finished the task successfully. Every day, we are faced with some challenging tasks and while some people can do them, some do not. Be one of those that do their tasks. Think about a little child who can hike up and down that steep trail. If he can do it, so can you.

Face the fear and know that you are not the only person that is needing to finish a task in front of you. In the end, it all starts by getting ourselves motivated, and that motivation comes from how we perceive the task ahead of us.

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Sarah Bonander

Writer, Human Resources Professional

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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