Staying On Target With Your Tasks

On Target

I can be writing a blog post and then 2 minutes later, I have searched 4 websites looking for a reference, paid an online bill, and ended up surfing on eLance to find a web designer.

Whoa…how did I get here?

It is easy to get distracted from our work.  This is especially true when it comes to the Internet.

How do you keep on task?  Stay on the path to your goals?

Staying On Target

One of the biggest obstacles to getting things done are all the other things that come up.  All of the things that distract us before we complete the task at hand.  In today’s fast paced world, it seems that there are too many things to feed our distraction appetite.  Email.  Text messages.  Websites.  Facebook.  The list goes on.

What happens?  You sit down to finish a very important task and after a short time you find yourself doing everything but the task that you sat down to do.

So, how do you stay on target with your tasks?  Here are a few of my favorite tips and strategies:

  • Eliminate Distractions – To prevent distractions, take them out of the picture. Close your email client.  Shut off your Internet connection if you must.  Find a quiet place to work.  Silence your phone.
  • Written Goals – Writing things down provides tremendous motivation to getting it done.  From your daily todo list to your long term goals, written objectives will help you be clear about what you intend to accomplish.  It also serves as reference point for your progress.
  • Schedule Time – If things keep getting in the way of an important task, sometimes it is best to schedule an appointment on your calendar to complete that item.  Block time to do nothing but work on that task.
  • Keep An Organized Workspace – A clean workspace leads to better work. Some people will argue that they have an organized mess on their desk.  However, the less physical clutter you have to distract you will lead to increased productivity.
  • No Multitasking – You simply cannot give your full attention to two things at the same time.  Multitasking leads to interrupted tasks and lower quality work.  Better to stick to one task and then move on to the next.
  • Finish Things to Done – Resist the urge to start another task before you have closed the one you are working on.  Tasks that are partially done end up creating more work for you later.  They take more effort to complete when you come back to them.  It is often better to complete a few items than to start many.

How do you keep yourself from getting distracted?  What are your best tips for staying on target?

Related Posts:

The Secret of Today Versus Todo

57 Things Started and Nothing Done

Why You Need An Appointment For Tough Tasks

Photo credit

15 thoughts on “Staying On Target With Your Tasks

  1. I do not “disable my email client” nor do i “shut down the internet” which are required.

    For the most, i use multiple desktops (6), having each dedicated for a single activity (emails/code/searches/im clients/file browser/monitor tools and terminals)

    What i find the most effective : disable popup notifications and blinky/swingly widgets in trays (and more generally everystuff that has a moving thingy in it) and everywhere within eyesight
    (it *does* mean switch off the Nabaztag)

    To put it brief, if you cannot really totally avoid multitasking, make sure distractions are away.

  2. Rewrite your major goals down EVERY day. Over time you will be amazed at how many get done.

  3. Setting goals is essential but equally important is once you have decided your goals selecting one to focus on and identify the next step toward it. In preparing for my day I'll limit myself to only 1-2 things that I WILL get done today, no excuses. To help avoid the distractions that abound I will plan time for them once I reach certain milestones toward my chosen goal. Once I reach the milestone I'll check Facebook or look at the sports scores for 15 minutes and then back to achieving my goal.

  4. Make writing down everything you promised or remembered to do a habit. Ive made myself a little notebook that goes everywhere i go, even to bed, so i can immediatly note down everything what comes to my mind. Ive bought an inexpensive notebook for this (i believe 80 eurocent it was) so i can scribble as much as i like in it.
    Personal or work-related, it is going into one place, and that is my little notebook, so i only have to look at one place.

  5. For me, there are multiple things i think are important to ensure that i stay on target with my tasks. If i need to pick one thing then it's the Weekly Review

    A weekly review: You don't need to do everything according GTD, but the Weekly Review is the one thing i highly recommend to everybody out there. Within a normal business job, you have so many project tasks running in parallel that you easily let slight on individual ones. The only chance – at least for me – to keep all in track and get reminded about all my tasks is the Weekly Review. I have scheduled a 2 hour time-frame for that every friday afternoon before i leave the office. I go through all my individual task and project lists and check every single one if it's still valid. I also check my Someday/Maybe list at that time and from time to time i find interesting things i noticed maybe 3 months ago that i can now take some actions on.

    That's my tip for staying on target….and i want a T-Shirt! 🙂

  6. For me what has wroked best is setting a timer when I need the task to be done. That way I will have a deadline to keep.
    But to be honest, it is not foolproof.

  7. “Just five more minutes”

    When I feel I'm losing focus or an email pops up that looks like being a great distraction, I commit to just doing five more minutes on the task I'm working on. I might use a timer or just the clock on the computer to time it.

    At the end of the five minutes, I usually find that I just keep going, not even conscious that the time is up. That commitment to just do a little bit more usually goes a long way as during that time I regain my focus.

    But if I do get to the end of the five minutes and still want a break or a distraction, then I go for it, happy knowing that at least I got that little bit extra done.

    I use this same principal when I'm procrastinating about starting something. It might be a two hour project, so I commit to doing just five minutes on it. 90% of the time once I've started I have no problem keeping on going!! It's just kicking off thats hard.

  8. When I'm working on a specific task, I keep a side list where I jot down thoughts/ideas/tasks that pop into my head but could draw me off focus. Even looking up that reference goes on the side list because I KNOW it will break my work/writing flow. As my fourth grade teacher used to say, call it ” wheelbarrow” and roll on.

  9. Even though the psychological adrenaline rush of finishing a job is a great feeling, I reward myself when I have targeted the goal and achieved it in a set amount of time. It might be little, such as taking the evening off because it all got done, or big, such as buying something- a form of delayed gratification. I'm fairly disciplined but on “weak” mind days this is usually what can give me best focus. I love a completed “to-do” task list!!

  10. I've just discovered your blog via the Dumb Little Man and it's added to my favourites. My tip would be to identify which activities bring you the most income and make sure that you prioritise those before moving onto the ones which might be the most enjoyable but don't bring in the money!

  11. Eric – I like the disabling of pop-up notifications. I think the Outlook “new mail” is my most hated. 🙂

    Good tips!

    I have never been one for multiple desktops. Although I do have them enabled on my iMac.

  12. Mining Man – Love your thought on “five more minutes.”

    One of my early mentors taught me, “You can do *anything* for five minutes.”

    It is a great way to start something you are resisting or to put in the effort to finish something that needs to be done!

    A TMN t-shirt will be on its way to you!

    Thanks for the sharing the great tip!

  13. Love the weekly review. I use it *before* the coming week as a prep session.

    Not only to plan, but to prepare (review materials… lay things out… etc.).

    Great tip!

Comments are closed.