Don’t worry you’re not alone if you have trouble staying focused and consistently working to reach your goals. If you’re willing to invest a few hours at the start, I promise you can get focused and stay on track from now on.
You will need to:
- Have a plan with meaningful goals organized and broken into small steps.
- Reduce distractions and time vampires by restructuring your environment.
- Dedicate time to work on your goals and use time management tools.
- Solve problems immediately by defining them clearly and deciding what to do.
- Have a buddy or group to help you stay accountable.
- Use proven motivational techniques to stay focused on your goals.
I want to give you a friendly word of advice. Don’t waste time on uninspiring goals. It’s nearly impossible for anyone to stay focused without a strong desire.
For example, I lost 50 pounds in 10 months because I was highly motivated. Why? Because my daughter’s wedding was in 10 months and my ex-wife would be there!
Also, don’t overload yourself by trying to focus on too many goals at once. You need to be working towards something important to you and you need to limit the targets so you won’t get overwhelmed.
Invest some time for planning, choosing and organizing your goals and making them as compelling and easy as possible. The investment will help you a lot when you implement these strategies.
Are you ready? Let’s go!
1. Have a plan with meaningful goals organized and broken into small steps.
- You have to have a good plan to focus on so you get started the right way. Then, you can plan each day to focus on and finish at least 1 or 2 of the steps you need to reach your goal.
- Keep your tasks broken down into smaller manageable steps. It’s easier to stay focused on tasks that can be completed in a few hours. Break your goals down into small steps that you can block time for more easily. Then if you finish a step quickly, you can start on another small step.
2. Reduce Distractions and time vampires by restructuring your environment.
- Clear your workspace. Keep only items on your desk or elsewhere around your work area that you need for the task at hand. I learned as a young lieutenant in the Air Force to completely clear my desk at the end of the day before going home. I only left a well organized folder with my tasks and plans on the desk. I would always begin the next day with the right focus.
- Reduce noise distractions. If sounds distract you, invest in noise-cancelling headphones and use them when you need to. You might also use a white noise device. White noise gives you a consistent, calming noise to focus on while working.
- Get off the grid while you’re focusing except for only what you need for work. Unless you’re a doctor, firefighter or emergency medical technician, you don’t need to be on call every second. You can check messages and emails on scheduled breaks or you can block out later times to respond to communications. Turn off notifications from social media and news while you’re working. Seriously! They’re simply an excuse to take a break in the middle of working.
- Don’t get distracted by something you don’t know unless it completely blocks your progress. Make a note and stay focused on the task. After you finish everything else, you may find the unknown information isn’t important after all. Or you may find if it is necessary, getting the information will complete your task instead of blocking your progress.
3. Dedicate time to work on your goals and use time management tools.
I use the Pomodoro method to focus intensely on specific tasks for 25 minutes followed by a 5 minute break. All you need is a timer with an alarm that is convenient and easy to use. Since most of my work is on my PC, I use a Chrome extension called Marinara. In fact, I’m using it right now as I write this article. I have 15 minutes left in this 25 minute period.
- Block specific times to focus on goal tasks and use the pomodoro method to focus.
- Plan ahead. It’s impossible to get to where you want to be without a plan. Instead of focusing on what you need to do, you wander aimlessly and waste time on more trivial things.That’s why you should always plan ahead either the night before or first thing in the morning.
- Night before. Before you finish work for the day, spend the last 15-20 minutes organizing your work area and making your task priorities for the next day.
- First thing in the morning. During your morning routine list the 3 or 4 most important matters for the day and block a specific time to focus on them. You can make the work time to begin the day or for your most productive time of the day.
4. Solve problems immediately by defining them clearly and deciding what to do.
Don’t let challenges that crop up stop your progress or fester into bigger problems.
- Define your problem clearly. Write it down. What exactly is the problem? Defining your problem is the toughest and the most important step. It involves evaluating the situation so that you focus on the actual problem and not on its symptoms.
- Is it really a problem? You can do something about problems. If you can’t do anything about it because it’s out of your control, then it’s a fact of life, not a problem. Consider it might be an opportunity.
- Why is it a problem? Could it be an opportunity in disguise? If so, what could I learn or gain from this problem?
- What else is the problem? Maybe the real problem is something else. Be careful that it’s not just something you might not want to face? Be careful of any problem that has only one definition. The more different ways you can define a problem, the greater chance it is that you will find a good solution.
- How did the problem occur? Try to understand the causes of the problem so you can prevent it from happening again.
- What are all of the potential solutions? What else might be a solution?
- What is the best solution right now? Sometimes, an average solution is better than no solution. An average solution executed well can be better than an excellent solution that is too complex or because you don’t have the expertise to implement it. Best wisdom is that you should deal with 80 percent of problems immediately. Only 20 percent of problems should be delayed. If you must delay a problem, set a clear deadline to make a decision on that problem. Then decide at that deadline with whatever information you have then.
- Choose the best solution available to you right now, and act on it immediately. Decide, choose a solution, any solution, and then execute the course of action. Stay on track by always asking “What do I do next?” and “What am I going to do now?”
5. Have a buddy or group to help you stay accountable.
An accountability partner or buddy is someone who holds you to your goals and makes sure you carry out what you say you will do.
- Choose a partner based on your goals and who will help you best to implement them. It’s ideal if you and your partner share similar goals so you can keep each other accountable. You can remind each other about your goal, encourage one another when you need it.
- Your goal buddies can be friends or someone whom you meet in interest groups. Since you already have similar interests, it’ll be easy for you to find people with similar goals.
- When you choose a partner, begin by setting your goals and sharing them with this person. Then set up weekly progress reports to stay accountable to your partner.
- Skipping the weekly reports is a terrible mistake. The greatest gain comes from following through on those progress checkpoints to stay focused on your goals.
6. Use proven motivational techniques to stay focused on your goals.
These are the most effective motivational secrets that I know.
- Saying to yourself “I will” [do something] is not as powerful as asking yourself “Will I” [do something]. To increase your internal motivation, use the words “Will I” instead of “I will.” This is backed by research 1.
- Use what I call the Isaac Newton Trick. Get started on just a small part of the task that you need motivation to do. Getting started puts you in motion and you’re very likely to remain in motion and continue working beyond the small part of the task because of momentum.
To make this work, break your task into very small parts. So for example if you need to write a 1,500 word article. Break it down to writing the introductory sentence or the title and then just get started on that small part.
- A variation of the Isaac Newton trick is the 5-minute trick. It works by you committing to working on a task for 5 minutes. Set a timer for 5 minutes and get started on the task. When the timer completes, you’re free to do something else. What you will find is that working on the task is not as bad as you anticipated and you’ll continue for more than 5 minutes.
- Seinfeld Calendar. Yes, that’s what it is actually referred to as. It is a way for you to see when you’re not working towards your goals as planned. It’s easier to put things off if you’re not paying attention.
- Set a deadline for completing your goal. A deadline (even a self-imposed one) will create in you a sense of urgency to start working on it.
- Get a calendar and a marker. Mark the day on the calendar when you plan to finish your goal with a big “X.” As you approach the deadline, this will be a visual reminder that will motivate you to work harder.
- Put the calendar in a prominent place where you are forced to see it everyday.
- Break down the steps to reach your goal and set a daily goal. This can be results-based like jog 2 miles or time-based such as “spend 30 minutes exercising.” Daily goals will motivate you to work towards achieving them.
- Every day that you meet your goal, cross the day off on the calendar with a big X. Soon, you‘ll have a chain of X’s. Your objective is to avoid breaking that string of Xs. Actually, seeing that chain get longer is very satisfying and motivational. Now your motivation is to keep the string going.
Conclusion to How to Stay Focused on Goals
I know there is a lot of information here, but you don’t need to use all of the tips to be successful. It’s best to choose a few that feel most comfortable or appealing to you.
You might want to begin with 1 or 2 and then plan adding other ones as time goes by. Or you might try a different technique each week to see what works best for you.
The most important thing is to keep trying. The secrets to success are to never quit and to consistently work day in and day out.
- Will we succeed? The science of self-motivation. (1274). Retrieved 23 June 2020, from https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-05/uoia-wws052710.php