The sun is beaming, your Insta feed is filled with beach shots, and—cue the violins—you’re stuck at work. Productivity experts share their top tricks for staying focused and motivated when you feel really (really) distracted.
Set 3 Goals for the Day
Make a must-do list, not a to-do list, of three things you have to get done. Be realistic about what you can accomplish. “Limiting your goals takes the overwhelm away and keeps you focused,” says Sarah Knight, author of Get Your Sh*t Together. There’s also a secret power in the number three, says Chris Bailey, author of The Productivity Project: “The three little pigs, three Olympic medals, three parts of a story—our brain is wired to think in threes.” When you follow through on what you intended to do, you’ll end the day feeling great and motivated for tomorrow. And if you finish early enough, you can get a jump start on tomorrow’s tasks or spend some time outside.
Curb Distractions Before They Happen
The enticement of checking social media can peak in the summer, when half your office is on vacation and your energy (and motivation) naturally dips, says Bailey. “Whenever we bounce around on apps, our brain releases a hit of dopamine, which makes our phone more tempting than our actual work,” he says. Don’t fight it; instead, check social media with intention. Do a feed sweep to see what’s going on, then put your phone on airplane mode for the next hour. When you fight through distraction and get tasks done, reward yourself with a little time to chill out.
Start a Procrastination Journal
It’s natural to zone out from work, but mindless procrastinating reduces productivity. To figure out when procrastination strikes, Knight recommends starting a time journal. As with a food diary, you write down how you spent every minute of your day to see when distraction creeps in (e.g., you research dinner recipes at 3 p.m.). Don’t ignore it—plan for it. Tailor your schedule to when you’re most focused (and when you’re not) by scheduling grace periods for free mind time.