It’s so easy to put off essential work tasks!
Here’s how to stay focused and get the job done
Even though I’ve been self-employed for a good seven years now, I still find it extremely difficult to explain to people who ask what it is that I do! I know that might sound a bit strange but I have so many different hats and do such a variety of things every day that I find it hard to actually put myself under one single umbrella and come up with an all-encompassing job title for myself! I mean – what am I?
A business consultant, an eBay Top Rated Powerseller, an owner of multiple websites, a mentor, a product sourcer, a writer, an editor, an author, a company director…
So, you can see why it’s difficult for me. It’s not like I can just say “Oh yes, I’m a nurse” for example! Everyone knows what a nurse does so it’s all very straightforward.
Me, on the other hand, I get asked ‘So, what do you do?” and I immediately start procrastinating, try to change the subject, become tongue-tied, my pulse starts racing and I end up saying “Oh, I do a bit of this and a bit of that – websites, online that sort of thing…” which makes me sound like Del Boy and I’m sure conjures up images of me selling knock off handbags from the back of a car!
It happened to me earlier this week actually. I’m a regular at the gym, but such is the environment there that it’s rare I actually talk to anyone – I’m plugged into my iPod as are most people and everyone is very focused, so there’s not usually any chit chat. But this week I got chatting with a couple of other gym-goers and during the course of the conversation, the inevitable question was asked. I stumbled my way through a vaguely acceptable answer ending up giving the usual not very flattering image of myself to which the response was:
“Oh, so you work from home. Isn’t that really difficult with so many other things to distract you? I’ve tried that and I just couldn’t make it work.. “
And then someone else piped up: “I’d love to work from home but I don’t think I’ve got the discipline or the motivation…”
Strangely, I find it fairly easy these days – job title or not – but I think that comes with practice and of course I am by no means perfect!
Anyway, the conversation got me thinking. If you run your own business then you’ll probably have heard similar rumblings to the ones above at some point! There’s a reason why some people struggle to imagine keeping their full focus on work with the cleaning, laundry, television, games console, books, magazines and everything else all vying for attention.
To be honest, staying focused with all of those distractions around is of course going to be genuinely difficult! I’ve been there myself – I have days when I just can’t concentrate because I’m worrying about getting the girls’ PE kits ready or I’m almost at the end of a really good book and want to just read that last chapter.
But do you know what’s one of the biggest killers of the home business?
It’s so easy to put off essential work tasks that need doing to focus on something else, even if that something else is ‘the housework’.
The problem is, a bout of procrastination is commonly followed by a bout of negative thoughts, which in turn can lead to more procrastination, and more negativity, until we’re left thinking that it’s not only impossible to keep our minds on the task in hand, but that we’re not even capable of completing those tasks at all. It’s a vicious cycle, and one that can be very difficult to overcome even with a positive mindset in place.
So, whether procrastination is something that you suffer from regularly, or just something that hits now and then when a particularly boring task needs doing, these tips that I have found really helpful in the past, will help you.
Please don’t beat yourself up!
If you do find yourself drifting away from a job that needs doing to take care of something less important, or even if you find yourself staring into space for a few minutes, don’t beat yourself up about it.
Making yourself feel guilty will just make it harder to get back into what you need to be doing, so instead smile and put the moment behind you. What just happened doesn’t matter, it’s in the past, what matters now is getting back into the work that needs doing in the present.
Stop trying to do everything
I am guilty of this! My ‘To Do’ list is usually as long as my arm, but if I’m really honest with myself then it’s doubtful everything on it is absolutely essential.
When you have a multitude of tasks to do you can often start to feel confused as to where to start, or overwhelmed with a feeling of being unable to complete everything that needs to be completed. If this sounds familiar, here’s what to do.
Look through your ‘To Do’ list and put stars by the tasks that really do need doing and choose just a few of them. I highlight the most important tasks on my list.
The ‘To Do’ list for your day should consist of around five items to save you from the feeling of drowning under a mountain of work. If you then complete those five tasks with time to spare then you can go back to your longer list and choose another couple of tasks.
Manage your distractions
Unfortunately this step isn’t always possible, but you should try your very best to remove any distractions from your area:
If you’re in the middle of a good book make sure it’s removed from your sight. Not sat on the desk next to you!
If you’re working on your computer on a task that doesn’t need the internet then disconnect it otherwise every time you hear the ping of an email you’ll be tempted to have a look!
Clear the clutter from your desk so that you don’t start fiddling around with stuff instead of working. I’m sure this will sound familiar, but you’ll know the triggers that tend to distract you, so banish them from your presence as much as possible.
Also if you feel the familiar sensation of your attention starting to wander then stop everything, remind yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing and draw your focus back to the task in hand.
Celebrate your success
It’s often the tasks that we really don’t enjoy that are the ones we procrastinate most about, so how about offering yourself a reward when you complete a task. “If I finish this task I’ll take 20 minutes off to read a chapter or two of my book.” “As soon as this is done I’ll treat myself to a bar of chocolate.” You know the type of thing.
Use a reward that’s relevant to you and is something that you actually desire; this will keep you striving to finish the task to earn your treat.
You’ll need to be disciplined so as not to allow yourself your reward prior to completion of the task, but if you can get into the habit of rewarding yourself for particularly big challenges or tasks that you really don’t want to do, you’ll soon find yourself more able to deal with them and get them done.
Set yourself some deadlines
Tasks can tend to slip when there isn’t a specified date for their completion. To me, deadlines are everything because I work so much better that way. The thing is, deadlines create a sense of urgency that makes us work on those tasks sooner than those that don’t have deadlines.
Some tasks such as posting items or answering emails will come with their own intuitive deadlines, but make sure you also put deadlines on jobs such as researching new stock or getting your accounts in order. You might want to create a calendar using a program such as Google Calendars to keep track of your deadlines, so that you can see at a glance what you need to be working on and what can wait for a day or two.
Whatever happens, it is essential that you don’t let procrastination be a force that stops you achieving all that you would like to achieve within your business. Remember to manage your mind and you will find yourself able to stay on track of even the most mundane tasks that need doing!