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Four Ways to Stay Focused on a Task

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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 October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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