Staying Focused To Do Your Best Work

Distractions can come from anywhere. I stay focused in my work by following these simple rules.

I have too many responsibilities. It’s difficult to keep track of the laundry list of requests handed to me by clients, account managers, co-workers needing help with their work, etc. And that’s just at work. At home I have things that need done around the house, bills to pay, family to visit, kids to play with, a wife to enjoy life with… you get the idea. When you put it all together, it can be hectic to keep track of it all.

So, how do I manage all of the tasks I need to complete in a given day? One at a time. Ok, you were expecting something more profound; I know. I actually have a set of rules I like to follow. Following them can be a struggle and sometimes impossible.

Rule #1 – Make a list

A list helps you remember what you were supposed to do that you didn’t do. The best part about a list is that you get to cross things off. You get to see that you have actually accomplished something. Now, I like to make daily lists but I’m usually very bad at it if I’m really busy. If you can’t make a daily list, keep a weekly list.

Rule #2 – Avoid being derailed

There are a lot of things that can interrupt your daily activity. Avoid distractions by wearing headphones if you work in an office where conversations take place outside your cubicle. Only respond to e-mail once per hour if possible. In my experience, clients will send e-mail hoping to get an immediate response. In some cases that’s good customer service, but it really limits how much work you get done.

Rule #3 – Take breaks

I don’t follow this rule as much as I’d like to. It’s important to take a break from your work to let your mind relax. I have found that when I’m presented with a difficult problem that I can’t solve, it’s best to take a short 10-15 minutes away from the desk. A lot of times I have a revelation about the design or programming issue and I come back to work inspired to solve something that I was agonizing over just minutes before.

Rule #4 – Talk to others

Yeah, I know this goes against rule #2. But it goes hand-in-hand with rule #3. Sometimes just having a conversation will spark an idea. It’s weird where ideas come from. Your co-workers are your inspiration. A lot of times I’ll hear about a website they like to visit or they’ll ask a question about how to do something. Moments like these are the foundation of creativity.

There you have it. Being the best you can be at work and at home can be difficult. But, if you follow these simple rules, you’ll be headed in the right direction.