Whether you work in an office or from the comfort of your sofa, I'm sure you have days when tackling your to-do list just seems impossible. I know I do. Sometimes I feel so stressed out that I can't seem to have even one uninterrupted thought. Sometimes there are so many things on my plate needing to be done that I don't know where to start. And sometimes I'm just in a total funk and can't focus or find any motivation.
In general, I am a supporter of taking a break when you truly need it. I mean, if you've been banging your head against a wall over the same problem and there's no end in sight, by all means, give yourself a day. But the majority of the time, the overwhelmed/overly distracted mindset is something that can be overcome.
Here are a few of the tactics I use when I'm feeling the brain fog but really need to focus:
This one is a two-parter. First, it's important to start your day off on the best foot possible. For me this generally means having my workout done and having gotten ready, even if that just means some mascara and real pants and shoes. (Side note: for those of you that work from home, it's amazing how much simply having on shoes can put you into full work-mode.) Then I aim to get my most important, time-sensitive task done before even glancing at my email. If that's not an option, I would recommend skimming your mail, answering anything urgent and then getting it out of sight as much as your job allows (same goes for social media and other apps).
Part two is just committing to starting all projects that are on your plate that day. Starting is always the hardest part and I often find that once I've gotten over that mental road block, the task can be completed much faster and easier than I had anticipated.
A coffee cup that makes you happy. The perfect playlist. A pretty candle (these scents are the best for productivity- and yes, that exists). Anything that can help you to create a happy feeling in your work space will be good for your end product.
My perfect day at my desk involves either an iced coffee or Diet Coke, a really beautiful planner, and Spotify (I find I work too slowly when Hulu is on in the background, but I like to reserve it as a treat on more relaxed days). Spotify is my favorite music source because of the option to select pre-made playlists by mood. It's amazing what an uplifting playlist can do on a sluggish day and what a mellow mix can do for a chaotic day. It's all about balance and harmony here.
It can be hard as a creative to commit to a system. The worry is there that it might interrupt or impede your "greatest idea ever," but I cannot function without my systems and I find that the more structure I implement in my creative life, the more productive I am by far.
I'm a total paper person and like to physically write notes so I use a monthly calendar for my blog schedule/design projects/business schedule, a weekly/daily agenda for my workout schedule/meetings/specific tasks, and then use a notebook for notes/details/ideas on each task as I'm working on it. If you like to be more a part of this century, here are some top apps for productivity and organization.
And speaking of productivity, I recently discovered the Rule of 52 and 17 and so far I find it really helpful. A study by The Muse found that the most productive 10% of their workers followed a ratio of 52 minutes of work followed by 17 minutes of restorative break time. At first I thought, why not 50/10? But the beauty of the specific 52/17 is it really forces you to use a timer, like this one here, and thus focus solely on the work. The act of actually getting out of my office chair and resting for a full 17 minutes seemed extreme to me at first, but it has really been forcing me to sprint work through that 52 minutes (plus it's great for your body to have that chair break).
Overall point: have a plan and stick to it. Eventually your effective system will become comforting and make straying from schedule at every whim seem much less appealing.
I mainly work from home, which is a great blessing, but sometimes the sight of my own walls make me want to barf all over my newly minted to-do list. On those days I head to a local coffee shop or bookstore and, amidst the new sights and sounds, find myself instantly refocused.
When I'm really stuck I find that hitting pause and focusing on anything physical almost always leads to a break through. A good walk (or run, for you crazy people) can solve almost any problem. Plus, there's a head-clearing bonus if you can do so in a beautiful environment, really focusing on the moment and taking in your surroundings.
But if the thought of exercise makes you cringe, you can get the same benefits from anything that involves focus and movement. Have a dance party, do the dishes, browse a thrift shop- anything that will force you to focus on your senses and your movements will help you hit a mental refresh.
If you truly can't find the motivation or focus to tackle a task, find a trusted ally and give them a (quick) rundown of your situation. How many times have you heard yourself talking and then mid sentence found your answer? Sometimes hearing your thoughts out loud is all you need to get the ball rolling.
And if that's not the case, a new set of eyes and ears might be able to pinpoint in seconds something you've been overlooking all afternoon. A new perspective can give you a fresh idea and a whole new energy towards your project.
What are your best methods for staying focused and being productive? Share your wisdom with us in the comments!
And while we're on the topic of to-do lists, here are some of my hits and misses from last week's goals, as part of Nectar Collective's Weekly Wishes linkup...
+ Decide on a color palette and inspiration for office makeover - Done and done!
+ Pick up my March reads - Done (although I haven't cracked them open yet).
+ Catch up on the Blogilates workout schedule - YES! And best news ever: after weeks and weeks and weeks of feeling like some of it was pure torture, I finally hit that mark where it feels good! Hallelujah!
+ Post on Instagram everyday - Worst fail ever. I have been a total ghost in the social media world.
+ Officially schedule meetups - This one proved a little harder than anticipated so is still a work in progress.
+ PAINT! - Yes and also a work in progress...
+ Taking another stab at posting to Instagram daily and scheduling my meetups
+ Get 3 days ahead of blogging schedule (a long-awaited dream I have yet to make reality)
+ Nail down theme, acquire wardrobe, and book venue for an upcoming shoot I'm styling
+ Make needed edits to my latest resume
+ Create a website for my dad's company
+ Make a dentist appointment (she typed with dismay)
+ Tour 3 wedding venues (for me and for an upcoming post!)
+ Start nailing down summer design work
+ Keep painting!
What's on your goal list this week?