Too often, I find myself sitting down to accomplish something only to get sidetracked by something that I feel needs some attention. A perfect example is a site that I’ve accomplished very little on because every time I go there to do something, I find something that needs to be tweaked on the site rather than creating the content that is so vital to the site’s existence. Other times I sit down to write some content, and for some reason I just find myself staring at the screen rather than doing anything useful at all. If you’ve had this happen, trust me, you’re not alone. Come on in to find out some things to help you stay focused and finish your tasks.
Make a List of Items to Complete Before You Start
One of the biggest problems I personally face is that I sit down with a whole head full of things that I need to complete, and ultimately that creates a very scatter-shot approach to completing tasks. When you don’t have a specific thing that you’re sitting down to accomplish, it’s very easy to sidetrack yourself on other items that might be more appealing to you. As a programmer/UI person, I gravitate towards look/feel of things (ironic as I know this site isn’t the most beautiful thing on the web, but stay with me here) and so it’s easy for me to get distracted on trying to create cool looking responsive layouts, or finding new plugins for WordPress, or focusing on ad layouts, etc. You get the point here – I have a ton of things I want to accomplish at any given time and if I don’t have a task list in front of me of what NEEDS to be completed, then I’ll tend to float off onto something that’s more appealing and ultimately less productive as the things that appeal to me are generally more trial and error and research driven.
I’ve listened to several courses in the past and read books on making the most of your time. While every one of them have variations on the basic idea of creating and maintaining a list, the one constant is that most people do suggest you SHOULD have a list and you SHOULD actually use it!
My recommendation is to create a list of specific tasks that can be completed in a sitting – maybe two at the most. The key is, if you create a list that has tasks that can actually be accomplished, chances are you’ll use it. If you create tasks that are too large in scope, you’ll be frustrated and swing back to the days of old where you just take aim at whatever feels best at the time.
Here’s some task management software recommendations to get you started: Free To Do List Software
Mind Mapping Can Free Your Mind
While I recommend using lists, one thing that I find extremely helpful is using something called a mind mapping tool. If you’ve never heard of it, I’ve included a picture of one below.
As you can see, it’s really just a way of extracting your ideas from your head and getting them out in front of you in a visual format. As I mentioned in making your lists, it’s best to break your tasks out into smaller, manageable tasks. A great way of breaking these things into smaller tasks is to mind map them out so that you can visually break them into bite size pieces.
Here’s a great article on mind mapping software – trust me, there’s more than what’s in this article, but at least this is a good start. Recommended Mind Mapping Software.
Don’t Get Hung Up on the Software!
Ok, so this may sound stupid, but I’ve been a victim of this myself. Don’t underestimate the power of the pencil!!! I’ve definitely found myself getting lost trying to figure out software, or trying out 10 different applications just to see which one suits me best. While that’s all fine and good, at the end of the day, if you spend more time screwing with the software than doing the simple task of managing your list, then you might as well break out a pencil and a sheet of paper and just jot down what you need to do, and draw your own mind map! Remember, all this software is rooted in things that people have been doing for decades! Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of applications, especially on things like a smart phone where they’re always accessible and typically pretty good…but my point here is fall in love with the process, and not with the prospect of trying out a gazillion tools!