Monday, October 27, 2014

6 Tips for Staying on Task






Last week's post discussed distractions that keep us from writing and other important tasks. I asked you to share what distracts you and what you do to stay focused. The internet was the biggest offender and solutions ranged from ignoring it to writing elsewhere (on paper, a desktop with no internet access, etc.). Other offenders included chores and phone calls. Thanks for all the input!

It's an ongoing battle, filtering out distractions and defying procrastination. As I considered your comments and insight, I thought about the next step. Even with the best of intentions, writing time isn't always as productive as we'd like. How can we keep writing and life balanced yet stay on task?

1) Prioritize - Everything clamors for attention, so weigh things in order of importance. When in doubt, pick an item, do it, and cross it off the list. Voila! Progress.

2) Set Goals - Daily, weekly, or whatever works best. Without a target, we wander aimlessly and get little done.

3) Deadlines - Even self imposed ones can motivate and build self discipline and productivity. The feeling of accomplishment after meeting one? Priceless.

4) Budget Time Spent on Social Media - Assess where time is spent (Facebook? Twitter? Pinterest?) and set reasonable time limits. Little "deadlines" like this can help us work more efficiently.

5) Utilize Unproductive Time - I heard Roger Palms (author and former editor of Decision Magazine) speak at a conference years ago. He stressed the importance of taking advantage of unused time. We aren't always aware of it - five minutes here, ten minutes there - while waiting for a call or before leaving for an appointment, etc. I call these potentially productive stretches pockets of time, and use them to write a paragraph or two, visit blogs, do internet research, etc. They provide opportunities to chip away at the to-do list.

6) Keep Moving Forward - We reach our destination by taking one step at a time. Meeting a goal provides a sense of satisfaction. This stifles doubts and boosts confidence.

What would you add to the list? How do you stay on task?

Happy writing,

Karen 

 Photo credit: Stock Exchange

32 comments :

  1. Great tips, Karen. Lately I've been writing myself lists and crossing them off to keep track of everything I need to get done.

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  2. I keep a daily list and try to get to the most pressing things first.

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  3. Natalie,
    Thank you! I'm a list maker too, and they usually work pretty well, unless I misplace the list! lol :)

    Diane,
    That really can help, can't it? Staying on track helps get more done. ;)

    Happy writing,
    Karen

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  4. Thanks for the great tips Karen!!!!

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  5. Excellent tips! I've learned how to multitask.

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  6. Great list, Karen :-) I might add "celebrate the small successes." I tell myself even a few words a day is better than none!

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  7. I like your list. I especially like, "Keep moving forward." Now all I need to do is determine what direction that's in. :-)

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  8. Patti,
    You are welcome. Hope they are helpful!:)

    Alex,
    Thank you! Yes, multitasking can be a big help sometimes. :)

    Kenda,
    Thank you. Yes, that is an excellent addition! :) Wise words, indeed!

    Lee,
    I'm glad you agree. Yeah, sometimes the moving forward thing is hard when there are so many things that can be done. I hear you! lol :)

    Happy writing,
    Karen

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  9. Great tips! The moving forward really strikes me today. I've been struggling with making "enough" progress, and I'm trying to remember that some progress is better than none.

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  10. Hi Karen...Those were great tips. I can certainly identify with them. Hope you are doing well. Susan

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  11. For all the non-writing tasks I write jobs on strips of paper ( chopping jobs into bite size bits) and do a ' lucky dip' at least daily. Sometimes the reward is so uplifting that I do a double dip! Gets those ' yuk, do I really have to..' chores out of the way.

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  12. I'm a big-time list maker. I've had three large projects going at once. Each one has its own list, breaking it down into action steps.

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  13. Tyrean,
    Thanks so much! I know, I try to look at even little steps as something, otherwise some days progress is nearly nil. ;)

    Susan,
    Thank you! I am sure you already do these. Hope you are doing well too. :)

    Anita,
    I like that idea! That's something I have to try. Sounds like it could be a good motivator. :)

    Susan R.,
    I like that - action steps. Makes you feel like you are making progress with each step! :)

    Happy writing,
    Karen

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  14. Hi Karen! I make lists in my head or on paper. Then I go about my day, checking as I go. It really does feel good to strike one out. As I commented in your last post, I get distracted by the internet, and mindlessly checking emails. I think 'step away and no one gets hurt!' is the way to go there. It's my friend, but it's also my enemy.
    These are some really concrete ways to bust through and use my time better!
    Ceil

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  15. Unproductive time, hah! I don't have any of that. I've even learned how to read while stopped at traffic lights. I've decided the only true solution goes with #1, cutting the excess in life and only working on what really matters. There's so much good, but really, when you get to the end of this life, what is it you're going to really wish you'd done? At least, that's the focus I'm trying to take. And occasionally succeeding.

    Unleashing the Dreamworld

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  16. Unfortunately, I don't always stay on task. I use a Franklin Planner and do my best to prioritize, but sometimes life (usually in the form of hubby or kids) interferes. No doubt at all that I need to improve my focus and productivity.

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  17. Ceil,
    I am a list maker too. And I use post it notes. Sometimes my laptop is nearly covered with them. :) We are works in progress, aren't we?

    Crystal,
    I guess you don't! A busy mom, author, homeschool parent, to name a few...I haven't tried reading at a stop light just yet, but maybe you have something there! :) I agree, what is going to matter in the end? Working on readjusting my priorities in that respect.

    Lisa,
    Me either! I need to improve my focus and productivity around all those things (like family) that pop up. Like I told Ceil, we are works in progress! :)

    Happy writing,
    Karen

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  18. Great list Karen! For me it is also the mindset, the believe daily in myself to accomplish my goals regardless of the obstacles.

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  19. I think that setting limits on time spent on social media is a GREAT idea!!

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  20. Lynn,
    Thanks so much. Good to see you! Hope you've been doing well. :) I agree, the mindset is a big part of it.

    Keith,
    Yes! You can get lost in social media, can't you? I think a stunt double on occasion to handle that stuff might be nice too...:)

    Happy writing,
    Karen

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  21. I'd admit it, I use some of the unused time to vegetate. Sometimes we need to do that too. Self imposed deadlines are good. The only thing I accomplished this year are the things I did that with.

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  22. Wonderful list. I believe I do all of this.

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  23. Good points all, Karen. Really got me thinking. I love the pockets of time idea.

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  24. Holly,
    This is an excellent point! We need the down time just as much as the productive time. Striking the right balance is key. Glad you brought that up! :)

    Medeia,
    For as productive as you are, I would have guessed you do! You are an amazing example for us all. :)

    Susan,
    Thanks a bunch! :) I try to use them too when I can. If I am not vegging as Holly mentioned!

    Happy writing,
    Karen

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  25. Great tips, amigo. I think I do most of them. I need to watch time spent socializing. That's my downfall. I know it's a release, but it can take too much time away from the writing. Hug, hug, hug, amigo.

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  26. This comes at the right time for me! I am overwhelmed with a million things I have to do. If I prioritize I think it will help me feel more focused. Thanks. :)
    ~Jess

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  27. Exactly what I needed! Thanks, Karen. :)

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  28. Robyn,
    We can get drawn in and distracted so easily, can't we? You're right, it can be part of our down time too. Balance, right? xo :)

    Jess,
    I know how you feel. Have dozens of things clamoring for attention now too. Cheering you on in the journey! :)

    Carrie,
    Oh, I am so glad! It's good to see you. Working on keeping a balance with this myself. :)

    Happy writing,
    Karen

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  29. As a nonfiction writer, that weekly column deadline sure keeps me on track. And Mr. Schrock says, "You've already written your book!"

    Well, now. That, I believe I can handle. :)

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  30. Rhonda,
    I imagine that it would! And you do such a wonderful job with it. Always enjoy reading your column. :)
    Hugs my friend,
    Karen

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  31. good list, Karen. I know all these, but I don't always follow through. My folks probably distract me the most - they are 91 and 94, and I'm their part time caretaker. I'm not complaining...I know it's important work, but on bad days, I just think I'll never get my book done or published!

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  32. Mare,
    I don't always follow through either. Matter of fact, I can be pretty lousy about it! lol You are doing important work by taking care of your parents, but I do understand about the writing. It can be a challenge sometimes. Happy Thanksgiving!
    Karen :)

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Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate your input. Have a blessed day!