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Can’t Focus? 7 Tricks to Help You Get It All Done

Can't Focus? 7 Tricks to Help You Get Shit Done

When you can’t focus, it pretty much feels like the sky is falling.

Not being able to focus when you’re drowning in deadlines is basically one of the worst feelings ever. First comes the panic, then the stress sweating, then the cat videos, then more stress sweating over the guilt of enjoying the cat videos. What’s a girl gotta do to get things done?!

Here, 7 trusty ways to rein in the frantic when you can’t focus:

1. Turn off automatic notifications

Change your computer and smartphone settings so you don’t receive automatic notifications when new messages come in. Guaranteed they’re not as important as the project you need to have finished like, yesterday.

2. Write a daily to-do list

One big thing that’s helping me get back on track since my last dip in the distraction pool: Making a daily to-do list. Every morning I bust out my notepad, make a list of what has to get done that day, and nothing else exists but that list. Using that one list has been uber-helpful in tricking my brain into thinking I’m not as insanely busy as I am (and hopefully, you too!).

3. Pinpoint your triggers

What causes you to lose focus? Calls? Hunger? Twitter? Pinpointing exactly what sends you off the rails will help you plan ahead for a distraction-free workday. For example, batch phone calls together so they don’t break up your day. Turn off your Internet when you’re working on a project. Keep snacks within arm’s reach.

4. Cut yourself off

Emails, social media, and the overwhelm of multiple projects can turn your productive day into… well, the opposite. Give yourself cutoff times for each task. For example, instead of replying to emails until your inbox is empty (swoon, what a concept), write emails until 1 p.m. If one of your projects is getting more attention than the other, switch to the neglected one by a certain time. Take small breaks between “shifts” to give your mind a chance to prepare.

5. Declutter

If your mind wanders so much you wonder if you’ll ever find it again, clearing your workspace is an easy fix that can help you stay in the zone. Only have out what’s necessary for what you’re working on in that moment. Period.

6. Cut back on caffeine

The line between not enough coffee and too much is very, very fine. One minute, you’re working at lightning speed, the next your mind jolts into the next stratosphere and you find yourself redecorating your office while taking a conference call and shopping online for that dinner recipe whatsherface mentioned at whatshisname’s place. (Of course, I could just be projecting.)

7. Care less about what other people think

Here’s something that might make you feel better when you can’t focus: You have more time on your hands than you think. (Whew.) According to a recent study in the Journal of Marketing Research, the reason we feel so crunched for time is the emotional tug-of-war we feel between work and personal obligations—for example, guilt over how time is being spent.

The study authors found two simple strategies helped participants chill out: Slow breathing, and channeling their feelings of stress into more productive high-energy emotions, like excitement. The fact is if you’re doing exactly what you need to be doing in the moment—even though you’re missing your sister’s friend’s cousin’s secretary’s baby shower—you have nothing to feel guilty about.

What tricks do you use when you can’t focus?

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Time image via Shutterstock

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