How to Stay Focused?

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I drew this rainbow scribble in frustration yesterday. I was trying to work on content for my next book, but I couldn’t stop thinking about all the other projects I have in my head — which are nowhere near as important. I normally write or draw swear words when I’m frustrated with work. But for some reason yesterday I drew this scribble. I sat looking at it while all these ideas flew around my head, and I realised it was a pretty accurate representation of what was going on in my brain.

I’ve tried so many techniques for focusing on one thing at a time that I’ve forgotten most of them. A lot of the techniques I’ve tried haven’t been too helpful, and some have even been a hinderance. But I’ve found a few that have genuinely improved my focus and productivity, for a while anyway. The trouble is that after a little time I forget about even the good techniques. I find picking up habits — especially good habits — really hard. So I’m constantly trying out new techniques to help me refocus, and hopefully one of them will stick eventually.

But I have a deadline approaching, which means I REALLY need to focus right now. So I’m trying to remember and revisit the techniques that have helped most in the past. Something I’ve been doing for the last few months is to really strip back my to-do list. So only essential items make it onto the weekly list, and everything else goes on the EVERYTHING ELSE list. This helps me stay focused on what's important and my productivity has definitely increased since I started using a slimmed down to-do list.

The main technique that’s helped me to keep focus in the past is using a Kanban board. The idea is that you set up a board with columns listing the various stages of your working process, then you add all the projects you’re working on and move them around the board as they progress. It’s a way of quickly and easily seeing what stage your projects are at, and therefore which need your immediate attention. Eventually I’m planning to make myself a nice looking Kanban board, but for now I’m using a piece of beat-up cardboard and some post-its. This is how my columns are set up…

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The “back burner” and “done” columns are the two that help me the most strangely enough. Putting projects into the done column is a surprisingly good motivator, and when I’m using the board I waste much less time thinking about things that I shouldn’t be thinking about.

So if you struggle to focus on your projects or ideas I’d recommend trying out a Kanban board. And if you have any favourite techniques for staying focused I’d genuinely love to hear them. I’m sure it’ll only be a couple of weeks before I’ve forgotten all about this board and am stuck with a rainbow brain again.

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