How do you stay focused?
Learning how to improve your concentration is all about creating the right mindset – something which might require modifying your attitude and environment.
However, you are in control of both of these things – how you look at life and your surroundings can easily be changed with a little bit of willpower.
Whether you’re looking to stay focused while studying, at work, or on your goals, learning to get things done more efficiently is a life changing opportunity.
This guide on how to stay focused offers tips for:
- setting goals
- getting more done in your day
- building healthy habits
- what to do when it’s just not working out
Let’s get started with 10 tips to get it all done every single day!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and I could earn a commission if you use them. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
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How to Stay Focused: 10 Tips to Get It All Done
How can I train myself to stay focused?
Improving your concentration is probably not done the way you think it is.
Way back when I was pursuing a Biochem degree, I had this irrational belief that if I worked for long hours every single day, I’d be able to retain more.
Because hard work means better results, right?
Wrong! Instead, I often felt:
Reading dry textbooks for hours at a time just didn’t work!
Instead of grinding it out, I discovered that balance was the key to success.
Because just like the vehicle that gets you to and from work, your own tank needs to have fuel in order to reach new places.
Use this list of 10 tips for how to stay focused to create more balance in your work day.
1. Write a to-do list
Writing a to-do list every morning is a great way to visualize your day at a glance.
It also makes those goals you have that much more real!
Just the thought of crossing things off my to-do list gets me excited – it’s that combination of achieving something and knowing tomorrow’s list will be full of new potential!
How to Write a To-Do List
To write your to-do list, grab a pen and notebook or your favourite app.
Then, consider the following:
1. How long do you have to get it done?
Is your to-do list task or project based, daily, weekly, monthly?
I personally like to create a monthly to-do list at the start of a new month. From there, I’ll then set weekly goals that are broken down into daily and even task specific ones.
As we’ll talk about more shortly, breaking down huge goals into smaller ones makes them seem less daunting and more manageable!
2. Is it reasonable?
When you start writing your to-do list, consider how long you think each task will take you.
Now, multiply it by three!
We have a tendency to bite off more than we can chew – but writing a massive to-do list will only make it harder to get things done.
You want your list to be completely crossed off at the end of the day, not one-third!
To give you an idea, as a busy mom and business owner, I only schedule three major goals a day – because things come up, plans get changed, and that’s ok.
3. Do tasks range in difficulty?
It’s good to include a variety of work on your to-do list.
Choose things that vary in time, challenge, and enjoyment.
For instance, I like to add a half hour workout to my list!
It’s something I’ve come to love doing because it makes me feel good physically and mentally, and I know I can complete it from start to finish every single day.
Including a few tasks to treat yourself is also a nice way to break up a full day of productivity!
4. Have you prioritized the essentials?
Make a note of any must complete tasks and approach them in an order that’s logical to you.
I usually start with one mundane task or something I enjoy before conquering the worst of my essentials.
Instead of the job you’re dreading most lingering over your head throughout the day, you’ll find freedom and mental clairty in knowing it’s done!
5. Have you estimated how long each task will take?
Consider how long each task on your to-do list will take and then write a note next to it.
If you want to get really specific, you could even do this in hours (i.e. 12:00 – 1:30pm) – set a timer on your phone and when it goes off, pens down!
How much time will your to-do list take? Have you factored in at least 20 minutes between goals and half hour for each meal?
Make sure you give yourself enough time for work and short breaks.
If you’re to-do list takes up more than 24 hours or the amount of time remaining in your day, it’s time to make an adjustment.
2. Set reasonable goals
Are you goals manageable? Have you thought about all of the necessary steps you’ll have to take in order to reach them? Have you set realistic time frames to reach each of your goals?
Your goals should be SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.
This method for goal setting helps create motivation to get things done because the tasks at hand are actionable.
By setting realistic goals and creating a plan for how you’ll get them done, you’re setting yourself up for success.
Because every one needs a road map in order to reach a new and exciting destination!
3. Break down larger tasks
Separating your goals into smaller ones creates a sense of order in new projects!
Instead of approaching a term paper or new blog post as a whole, consider breaking it down in the following components:
- research / evidence
- table of contents
- main arguments / points
- summary / conclusion
Sitting down to write an outline for your latest work provides much more direction than sitting down to stare at a flashing cursor – you have a goal that needs to get done and it can be as simple or comprehensive as you want it to be.
Think of it like a puzzle – you need to break things down into smaller related pieces in order to build the entire picture.
4. Take care of distractions
I don’t know about you but I can’t stay focused with distractions looming over my head!
Whether it’s a messy space or a phone call I’m dreading, I prefer to get distractions out of the way.
Before sitting down to work, consider the things that are bothering you.
Messy desk? Tidy it up.
Hungry? Eat something!
Sometimes the littlest things can make the biggest difference – instead of your mind wandering to something you’ve put off, you’ll have a clear head to focus on your dreams.
5. Accomplish something else before you start
Consider one of the less difficult things on your to-do list and get it done!
Accomplishing another small task from start to finish always makes me feel in control of my day.
For me, this is usually tidying up my kitchen – unloading and reloading the dishwasher, cleaning the counters, and table.
Admiring the space we worked so hard to renovate gives me joy as do the clutter-free counters.
Clear space, clear mind, after all!
Getting 30 minutes of exercise is another way to get motivated before you sit down to work – that’s just 2% of the time in your day to get it done from start to finish. No exceptions!
Consider turning off notifications on your phone, computer, and/or tablet since devices have the potential to eat up valuable that that’s better spent!
I also use the Do Not Disturb feature on my iPhone to eliminate distractions while I work.
If it’s feasible, kicking it old school with a pen and paper also feels good – I personally do this when I’m writing blog post outlines or meal planning in order to give my eyes a break from screens!
Unless you’re conducting research online or using a web-based tool, logging off feels refreshing, and if you want to do even better than that, take your work outdoors!
According to research, getting outside can:
- improve short-term memory
- relieve stress
- restore energy
- increase concentration
- reduce risk of myopia (nearsightedness)
- encourage creativity
- improve mental health
Visit mother nature to see how she can teach you how to you stay focused!
7. Do the worst first
Getting the thing you are dreading most out of your way feels liberating.
And it’s even better when you’ve finished it at the start of your day – there is still so much room for potential!
Your worst task may be the most dull or challenging one on your list. And in the back of your mind, you’ll know exactly which one it is when you glance over it on your to-do list.
The one that makes you feel UGH!
As a blogger, the thing I hate doing most every day is creating and launching new Pinterest pins – I know they have to go out to give me results but I just don’t like doing it.
To clear my mind, I have to get this task out of the way first otherwise it lingers all day long.
The thing I love doing most is writing so, I save that one as a treat for the end of my work day.
Many people, myself included, experience a mid-afternoon slump – better known as the 2:30 feeling.
A few reasons for this might be:
- eating a carb-heavy lunch
- sitting for long hours
- drop in body temperature
I find that accomplishing my most dreaded goal before this time helps me stay energetic throughout my day – because the last thing you want to do when you actually feel like doing nothing is something you’ve been procrastinating!
Accept the challenge to get it all done and start with the worst first.
8. Take breaks
Even just a 5 minute break between tasks can help reenergize you.
Research shows that taking frequent breaks can also:
- prevent negative physical health effects
- prevent decision fatigue
- restore motivation
- increase creativity
- promote productivity
- improve learning and memory
Not used to taking time off in your day?
The Pomodoro Technique is a great way to build a new habit!
This process consists of six steps:
- Choose a task to accomplish
- Set a timer for a 25 minute interval or “Pomodoro” (or “tomato” in Italian, after the shape of popular kitchen timers)
- Work on the task until the timer rings
- Put a checkmark on a piece of paper after the timer rings
- Take a short 5-minute break
- Take a longer 15-minute break after every four Pomodoros
Learning when it’s time to take a break can be a challenge but it’s absolutely essential in keeping your energy level high throughout the day.
Be sure to take small breaks between tasks and don’t forget to schedule time for lunch!
Taking frequent breaks in your day is fantastic way to balance productivity and well-being.
9. Get enough rest
Your body needs at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
A 2018 study of over 10,000 people found that when individuals get less than this recommendation, cognitive performance declines in:
All of these skills are crucial for staying focused.
When you don’t get enough rest, you’re also putting yourself at risk of:
- difficulty concentrating
- weakened immunity
10. Walk away and try again later
If you’re having a rough day or just can’t seem to find the will, come back at another time – this could be in 15 minutes from now or even tomorrow.
Have a cup of coffee or move onto something else if this project isn’t going your way.
Sometimes a clear head and a fresh set of eyes make all the difference – you’ll be less likely to make mistakes and more likely to retain new knowledge.
10 ways you can learn how to stay focused include:
- writing a to do list
- setting reasonable goals
- breaking down large tasks into smaller ones
- eliminating distractions
- accomplishing something unrelated before you begin work
- turning off unnecessary devices
- doing the job your dread most first
- taking breaks frequently
- getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night
- knowing when it’s time to try again later
Which tips on how to stay focused did you need most? How do you set yourself up to have a productive day? Share your ideas in the comments below!