And if all of this background noise weren’t enough, there’s also the distractions inherent to working online: websurfing, social media, email, online games, and so on.
Does all this sound familiar?
It should. This is just a typical day at the office for many freelancers.
With all of these distractions going on, how can a busy freelancer make sure to get everything done?
In this post, I share over twelve easy ways to stay focused and stay on task.
How to Stay on Task
Distraction is the enemy of productivity. If you’ve ever taken a “minute” to surf the web and lost a good part of an entire day, then you know what I mean.
It’s no secret that freelancers battle distractions. Since we don’t have a boss looking over our shoulder and telling us to get back to work, it’s up to us to learn to manage distractions.
Here are thirteen tips you can use to fight distraction.
- Use time saving tools. Some apps help you block out online distractions by eliminating your access to certain sites for a specified period of time each day. Rescue Time and Freedom are two such apps. If your main distractions are online, these apps may help you.
- Keep regular office hours. It’s hard to stay on task and get things done if you’re never sure when you are actually going to be working. Irregular hours make it too easy to procrastinate. Instead, schedule regular working hours for yourself and keep them. When you are “at work,” don’t let yourself do anything else.
- Have a serious talk. If others keep interrupting you with phone calls, text messages, or by dropping by it may be time to have a serious talk. Unfortunately, because many freelancers are at home all day, friends and family tend to think we are available. Sit them down and explain that while you are at home you must work.
- Review at your debt. Debt be a huge motivator for getting things done. When the reality of your bills sinks in and you realize that you won’t be able to pay those bills unless you get your work done, it can help you to avoid distractions. Some freelancers keep major bills by their desk for added “inspiration.”
- Maintain a separate machine for work and play. In extreme cases of Internet distraction, you may find it helpful to own a work machine that has no access to the Internet. While this method can be expensive, if you can get your daily work done without accessing the Internet, the method can also be effective.
- Turn it off. A lot of interruptions come from things that could be turned off. So, turn the ringer on your phone off. Turn off any background distractions such as television or radio. Put your cell phone in another room to keep yourself from checking text messages. Unplug yourself now and check messages later.
- Hire a sitter. If noisy kids are your main distraction, try hiring a sitter to keep them occupied during your working hours. You don’t necessarily have to ship them off to day care, you may able to hire someone to watch them in your own home for a few hours each day while you do your work that requires the most concentration.
- Avoid too much multi-tasking. We are so proud of our ability to multi-task. But sometimes multi-tasking can backfire and become over scheduling. If you’re a serial multi-tasker, watch out for over scheduling. Learn to say “no” to those tasks that don’t improve your bottom line.
- Keep a schedule. Put all of your work on a schedule, so that you don’t forget to do something important. Review and update your schedule on a regular basis. Cross out the tasks that you’ve completed and add any new tasks that have come in since the last time you reviewed your schedule.
- Declutter. A messy office or home can be a huge distraction. It can also keep you from finding things that you need to get your work done. Take some time now to establish a system for minimizing the clutter. Find a place for everything and keep your workspace picked up.
- Practice healthy habits. It’s hard to focus properly on work if you’re not feeling well. Keep illness at bay by practicing healthy habits on a daily basis. Eat healthy foods. Exercise. Get enough sleep. Visit your doctor regularly for the recommended checkups.
- Picture the project completed. If you’re working on a very large project and the end doesn’t seem to be anywhere in sight, imagine what it will be like when you have already completed the project. Picture yourself getting a “thank-you” email from the client or cashing in on your payment for the project.
- Bribe yourself. If you really need to stay on task and nothing else seems to work, consider offering yourself a bribe. The bribe could be anything you enjoy but normally wouldn’t get–a special meal, a day off, the purchase of something you’ve wanted to buy for a long time…
How Do You Stay on Task?
Now that I’ve shared my best tips for staying on task, it’s your turn. What works for you? How do you stay on task?
Image by EvelynGiggles