Three Steps to Better Focus

Do you ever beat yourself up because you don’t get as much done as you think you should? I do. I do it all the time and I do mean literally. My self-voice is a monster, very abusive to me. She never rarely the good things and hardly ever takes satisfaction when something does go well. But even worse, she is always focusing on the stuff I should be doing at the same time that I’m doing what I am doing, rather than staying focused on the task at hand. If that makes any sense at all? 

Over the years I’ve found the only thing that will shut her up is me diving into a book. If I’m in someone else’s world she can’t distract me, but that’s also a problem because then I’m not getting anything done in my world. 


I was talking to a friend about mindfulness today, and decided to share some of the ways I try to remain in the moment. Rather than running around like a chicken without a head. Since I’m thinking about this today, here are three tricks I use to gain some focus and stick to a task.

Use a planner

I use a planner to capture everywhere I need to be and everything I need to do. A paper planner because I just don’t keep up with an electronic version. Also, there is a greater sense of urgency when I see the dates and time slots fly by. And while everyone must figure this out for themselves, I’ve been using a Planner Pad for about 18 months. I like that there are three sections per week. The top is for all the things you need to do this week. The middle is for your 5 minute planning session before the day begins or the Sunday evening appointment with your calendar to plan – in addition to scheduled things like going to work or doctor appointments, you bring down the 3-5 things you want to do from the top.

And the bottom third is an hourly schedule. I block out work, drive time, and then schedule when I want to do each of the items that I pulled down from the top into the middle. The three step approach helps me better funnel tasks and really helps me prioritize.

Pomodoro Technique

I used to use an app for this but now I just ask Siri to give me a timer. Love the voice command! The Pomodoro Technique is training yourself to work in short bursts of energy and focus. It was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s and named after the little kitchen timers that look like tomatoes. So far, this post has taken me two 15-minute sessions. In between them, I will take a break – I should get up and move around but instead I went to see what was over on FB. Five notifications in 15 minutes!! Was it a game? A political alert? Had to go find out…

Speaking of FaceBook – it is not conducive to focusing on important work, now, is it? I know it but it sure is hard to stay away.

Reward yourself

This is a technique I found several years ago, and while I can’t find the source quickly, I use it often and can paraphrase it. Here goes…

I am procrastinating doing something I want to get done. Cannot get started. So…I want a cookie. Or maybe to read…actually, I want to eat lots of cookies and I want to read all afternoon. But I’m an adult and know I shouldn’t do that. But if I do the thing, I will reward myself with that cookie or that 15 minutes of reading.

Truth be told, I would read anyway. And before Keto, I would do so while eating the cookies. But by giving it to myself as a reward, I am rewarding good behavior, giving myself a reward of something I know I’m going to do anyway. And this works for me.

Sometimes just the thinking about the reward is enough. I’ve a friend that has pulled her small trailer down to Texas this week and I am anticipating the fun we are going to have next summer. And confession time! I was not all that enthusiastic about writing today. But when I get this thing posted – I’m going to spend a few minutes just plotting how I’m going to glamp up a pop-up canopy as my part of the contribution to the camping fun. If she has the camper, I can have the outdoor living room, right?

That is enough of a reward for me, for this situation.

What works for you? How do you stay focused so you complete your work?

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