How do you maintain your focus on big projects versus smaller tasks?
The time and energy you put into a project will vary depending on its size and scale.
Some of our goals and projects will require our long term focus. It’s all about the big picture view and managing our time, energy, and commitment over the course of several weeks or months or a year.
Other tasks and assignments will require short term focus. It’s less about slow and steady progress and more about short bursts of energy and sprinting to the finish line.
For both long and short term work, you will definitely need the best tools to help you stay focused. Below are some of the tools you will need along with tips on how to maintain your focus and reach the finish line.
How to maintain long term focus
Do you have big projects or goals you’d like to accomplish?
Examples of long term goals include training for a marathon, eating healthier, writing a novel, launching a new business, and getting a job promotion. Instead of seeing quick results right away, you’re more likely to see incremental progress that builds over time.
Here are the best tools you can use to help you achieve long term focus for your big goals and stay on course.
Focus Tool #1: Yearly planner
A big goal seems overwhelming and unapproachable at first. It’s like a big mountain that’s looming in the distance. In order to get closer to the summit, it’s important to take a step back and plot out the steps you need to take to get closer to your goal.
Here’s where a goal setting planner can help.
It’s difficult to get a sense of the scale of a big goal when it feels so out of reach. But with a planner, you can break down your big goal into small enough pieces that it starts to feel approachable.
Use your planner to plan out all the things you need to do each month and week to help you achieve your goal.
Thanks to this planning tool, you’ll know exactly what you have to do for rest of the year and you’ll also have no trouble keeping your eye on the prize.
How to use your planner to stay focused
- Set monthly goals. Maintain long term focus on a goal by making sure you’re taking action on it every month. This means setting monthly goals that you can work on and help you get closer to your target. If your big goal is to apply to grad school, your monthly goals can include: research grad schools in my field, take standardized admissions tests, write application essays, get recommendation letters, etc.
- Conduct weekly check-ins. Another great way to create accountability and stay focused on your goals is to conduct weekly planning sessions. At the end of the week, check-in with your planner and take note of all the things you accomplished. How much did you get done? Are there any tasks that you didn’t get around to doing? Make a note to do them next week.
Focus Tool #2: Journal
We know that journals provide valuable space for self-introspection and getting to know ourselves better, but did you know that it’s also an important tool for achieving focus?
A journal can serve as a confidante, an outlet, and a coach, all in one. It’s a place where we can process all our worries and concerns, find solutions, and harness our focus.
How to use your journal to stay focused
- Do a brain dump. Use your journal to unleash all the thoughts and worries that are occupying your mind. After this writing exercise, you will feel as if a huge weight has been lifted off your shoulder and you’ll have much better clarity for the work ahead.
- Coach yourself. It’s so easy to talk to ourselves in a negative, critical way. But how often do we actually pay compliments to ourselves? Or pump ourselves up? It may feel awkward at first but talking to yourself in an inspiring and motivational way can really do a number on your mood and enthusiasm. Make a list of all the reasons you are great. Or tell yourself why you have what it takes to accomplish this goal.
How to sharpen your short term focus
Whether it’s a time sensitive deadline or a chore that you need to get done, short term tasks are all about sustaining your focus for the here and now.
If you’re struggling with procrastination or perfectionism, focusing on a short term task can be that much more challenging. But with the right tools by your side, you can overcome these challenges and get to work.
Here are the best tools for sharpening your focus for the day-to-day work.
Focus Tool #3: Timer
When it comes to maintaining your focus for a fixed amount of time, a timer is your best friend.
Not only does a timer help you manage your time, but it also adds a little urgency to your tasks, which is a good thing if you have a tendency to drag things out.
A timer also motivates you to stay away from distractions like social media or surfing online, because you know you only have a certain amount of minutes before it goes off.
How to use a timer to stay focused
Set a timer for 20 minutes and accomplish as much as you can. During this time, try not to fixate on typos or getting everything perfect. Right now it’s all about executing your task and getting it done. You can fine-tune your work at a later stage.
After the first 20 minute cycle, take a break, and then do another 20 minute cycle. This time management system is known as the Pomodoro Method and it can really help you be more productive and efficient.
Focus Tool #4: To-do list
If you need a way to stay on top of your daily tasks, you can’t go wrong with an old fashioned to-do list.
A to-do list captures all the big and small things that you need to do that day. By writing things down on paper, you take the guesswork out of what you have to do (which saves you time and energy), and you’re less likely to tackle projects that aren’t aligned with your true priorities.
Essentially, a to-do list keeps you honest and gives you a structure to work with for the day.
How to use a to-do list to stay focused
Make a to-do list of all the tasks, errands, assignments you need to take care of.
Then, put a star next to 3-4 items that you need to accomplish that day. These are your top priorities. After finishing your priorities, you can move on to the next item on your list. Otherwise, add the remaining items to tomorrow’s to-do list.