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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 November 15, 2019

How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology)

How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology)

Habits are hard to kill, and rightly so. They are a part and parcel of your personality traits and mold your character.

However, habits are not always something over-the-top and quirky enough to get noticed. Think of subtle habits like tapping fingers when you are nervous and humming songs while you drive. These are nothing but ingrained habits that you may not realize easily.

Just take a few minutes and think of something specific that you do all the time. You will notice how it has become a habit for you without any explicit realization. Everything you do on a daily basis starting with your morning routine, lunch preferences to exercise routines are all habits.

Habits mostly form from life experiences and certain observed behaviors, not all of them are healthy. Habitual smoking can be dangerous to your health. Similarly, a habit could also make you lose out on enjoying something to its best – like how some people just cannot stop swaying their bodies when delivering a speech.

Thus, there could be a few habits that you would want to change about yourself. But changing habits is not as easy as it seems, why?

What Makes It Hard To Change A Habit?

To want to change a particular habit means to change something very fundamental about your behavior.[1] Hence, it’s necessary to understand how habits actually form and why they are so difficult to actually get out of.

The Biology

Habits form in a place what we call the subconscious mind in our brain.[2]

Our brains have two modes of operation. The first one is an automatic pilot kind of system that is fast and works on reflexes often. It is what we call the subconscious part. This is the part that is associated with everything that comes naturally to you.

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The second mode is the conscious mode where every action and decision is well thought out and follows a controlled way of thinking.

A fine example to distinguish both would be to consider yourself learning to drive or play an instrument. For the first time you try learning, you think before every movement you make. But once you have got the hang of it, you might drive without applying much thought into it.

Both systems work together in our brains at all times. When a habit is formed, it moves from the conscious part to the subconscious making it difficult to control.

So, the key idea in deconstructing a habit is to go from the subconscious to the conscious.

Another thing you have to understand about habits is that they can be conscious or hidden.

Conscious habits are those that require active input from your side. For instance, if you stop setting your alarm in the morning, you will stop waking up at the same time.

Hidden habits, on the other hand, are habits that we do without realizing. These make up the majority of our habits and we wouldn’t even know them until someone pointed them out. So the first difficulty in breaking these habits is to actually identify them. As they are internalized, they need a lot of attention to detail for self-identification. That’s not all.

Habits can be physical, social, and mental, energy-based and even be particular to productivity. Understanding them is necessary to know why they are difficult to break and what can be done about them.

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The Psychology

Habits get engraved into our memories depending on the way we think, feel and act over a particular period of time. The procedural part of memory deals with habit formation and studies have observed that various types of conditioning of behavior could affect your habit formations.

Classical conditioning or pavlovian conditioning is when you start associating a memory with reality.[3] A dog that associates ringing bell to food will start salivating. The same external stimuli such as the sound of church bells can make a person want to pray.

Operant conditioning is when experience and the feelings associated with it form a habit.[4] By encouraging or discouraging an act, individuals could either make it a habit or stop doing it.

Observational learning is another way habits could take form. A child may start walking the same way their parent does.

What Can You Do To Change a Habit?

Sure, habits are hard to control but it is not impossible. With a few tips and hard-driven dedication, you can surely get over your nasty habits.

Here are some ways that make use of psychological findings to help you:

1. Identify Your Habits

As mentioned earlier, habits can be quite subtle and hidden from your view. You have to bring your subconscious habits to an aware state of mind. You could do it by self-observation or by asking your friends or family to point out the habit for your sake.

2. Find out the Impact of Your Habit

Every habit produces an effect – either physical or mental. Find out what exactly it is doing to you. Does it help you relieve stress or does it give you some pain relief?

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It could be anything simple. Sometimes biting your nails could be calming your nerves. Understanding the effect of a habit is necessary to control it.

3. Apply Logic

You don’t need to be force-fed with wisdom and advice to know what an unhealthy habit could do to you.

Late-night binge-watching just before an important presentation is not going to help you. Take a moment and apply your own wisdom and logic to control your seemingly nastily habits.

4. Choose an Alternative

As I said, every habit induces some feeling. So, it could be quite difficult to get over it unless you find something else that can replace it. It can be a simple non-harming new habit that you can cultivate to get over a bad habit.

Say you have the habit of banging your head hard when you are angry. That’s going to be bad for you. Instead, the next time you are angry, just take a deep breath and count to 10. Or maybe start imagining yourself on a luxury yacht. Just think of something that will work for you.

5. Remove Triggers

Get rid of items and situations that can trigger your bad habit.

Stay away from smoke breaks if you are trying to quit it. Remove all those candy bars from the fridge if you want to control your sweet cravings.

6. Visualize Change

Our brains can be trained to forget a habit if we start visualizing the change. Serious visualization is retained and helps as a motivator in breaking the habit loop.

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For instance, to replace your habit of waking up late, visualize yourself waking up early and enjoying the early morning jog every day. By continuing this, you would naturally feel better to wake up early and do your new hobby.

7. Avoid Negative Talks and Thinking

Just as how our brain is trained to accept a change in habit, continuous negative talk and thinking could hamper your efforts put into breaking a habit.

Believe you can get out of it and assert yourself the same.

Final Thoughts

Changing habits isn’t easy, so do not expect an overnight change!

Habits took a long time to form. It could take a while to completely break out of it. You will have to accept that sometimes you may falter in your efforts. Don’t let negativity seep in when it seems hard. Keep going at it slowly and steadily.

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Featured photo credit: Mel via unsplash.com

Reference

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