So you’ve chosen your New Year’s Resolutions
, you’ve broken it down into long-term and short-term goals, and now you’re ready to oh, hey, look, there’s a new series on Netflix! Let’s go watch a movie at the cinema! What was I doing again?
Often, our good intentions get derailed because we lose focus. It’s something that happens to all of us, and can seriously impact creativity and productivity. If your brain regularly goes off for a wander in the middle of a crucial task, these tips to help you focus will get you back on track.
(P.S.: Not sure what your resolutions should be? Here are some tips for New Year’s Resolutions worth making
Use the “Zeigarnik Effect”
This principle basically means that unfinished tasks are harder to get out of your brain than tasks you haven’t started yet.
If you’re struggling to get started, set a timer for ten minutes and then start working on an aspect of your task or goal for those ten minutes. Once you start, it turns the big, scary project or goal into just another unfinished task, which means your brain will start working to figure out how to get it done.
Create a daily “focus list”
A daily focus list is not like a regular “To Do” list – it’s a shorter, bulleted outline of three major and three secondary priorities for the day. Create it first thing every morning, and put it where you can see it (a post-it note on your mirror or computer, a note in your diary, an alert on your phone), and use it to keep you focused on what’s really important during the day.
Create a “Parking Lot”
If you tend to daydream a lot or have a hyperactive imagination, you can easily be distracted by passing thoughts or ideas that have nothing to do with your work or goals. “Park” these thoughts and ideas in a “parking lot”: an easily accessible place where you can dump these thoughts until a more appropriate time. Your “parking lot” could be a notebook you carry in your backpack or a private chat thread on your phone, for example.
Identify your “overwhelm” triggers
We all have triggers that make us feel overwhelmed. Perhaps yours is getting hungry, experiencing really noisy environments or just having too many conflicting priorities. Try to identify the triggers that cause you to feel overwhelmed: this will help you to anticipate their arrival and plan accordingly.
Go with your flow
It’s important to get to know your brain and to figure out when you’re working productively or when you need a time out. When your brain is “in the zone”, tackle tasks and challenges that require attention and focus. When your brain is foggy, shift your attention to less important tasks. You might find that the time of day influences your focus and motivation, for example. Getting to know yourself (such. as whether you’re an early bird or night owl) is one good way to start figuring out your flow.
Find positive distractions
If you really just can’t focus anymore, then get distracted – but in a positive way. Going for a run or a walk might be the best type of procrastination you can do! Physical activity boosts the brain and can help you operate more efficiently. Other positive distractions include meditating, having a quick dance break or working on a creative art project. Set a timer to make sure you don’t get lost in the distraction.
Make time for planning
As the saying goes, “those who fail to plan, plan to fail” – a lack of planning drains your focus, and it’s hard to be productive if you don’t know exactly what you’re supposed to be doing. Schedule regular, short planning sessions to sketch out priorities and deadlines for the upcoming days or weeks.
Obsessing over small, unimportant details can kill productivity, and keep you from reaching your goals. Work on letting go of perfectionism and settling for “good enough”. You can only do what you can do – the trick is to start, and to keep on trying: not to give up if you think you can’t become “perfect” at it.
Acknowledge negative thoughts...
And then let them go. Dwelling on recent failures or troubles can block out other important thoughts, kill your motivation and make it impossible to get stuff done. But don’t block your negative thoughts entirely: rather acknowledge their validity, and plan a time later when you can give them the attention they deserve.
Know what you’re supposed to be doing and why you’re doing it. It’s easier to stay focused and get things done if you have clarity about what and why you are doing it. It will also help you to stay positive about your goals. Ask yourself these questions: What do I want to achieve? Why? Whose expectations are driving this project? (My own, or someone else’s?)
In the mood for some fun? Discover the New Year’s Resolutions you should be making with our fun New Year’s Quiz below!