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On Your Own: 5 Tips to Get from Scattered to Focused


For those times when you just can’t get going on your To Do list, try these tricks to get moving.

Do you ever wonder if you’re “losing it?” You know what needs to be done — there’s a long To Do list right in front of you. And you find yourself starting a task, getting sidetracked to another item on the list and going back and forth to a few more until you actually complete one!

I was in that place recently. One of my 6 roomers gave notice. I found that a book I wanted from the county library was a very long bus ride away. I couldn’t concentrate on pulling together my income tax receipts any better than I could on changing an appointment that I couldn’t make tomorrow.

Since it’s not that unusual for me to multitask, I was sure I could come up with a working plan if I could get away from all the reminders on my desk. So I went to my writers’ group at a coffee shop, for the sole purpose of finding a way toward FOCUS!

1) That plan, getting to a place where it’s easier to focus, seems a necessary first step when my mind is muddled. Even bringing my papers to the dining room table, away from my office desk, helped me work on my IRS preparations so I wouldn’t need to file an extension.

How about the porch on a sunny day? Leaning back against pillows in your bed? The den? The TV room with the TV off? A coffee shop you can walk or ride to? A friend’s house where she knows you want to concentrate? The library? A picnic table? Figure out the best one for you, gather what you’ll need and GO!

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2) OK, you’re settled in there now. You may be fearing you’ll get sidetracked again. One thing at a time. Commit yourself to 30-60 minutes on what you’ve decided is most important. If you find your attention wandering, set the times and don’t move to any other project till it goes off. Then take a short break. Maybe a walk around the block, 10 deep breaths, reading for 15 minutes, watching YouTube videos, or whatever feels rewarding to you. Repeat for as many 30-60 minute sessions (followed by breaks) as you are able and willing to take on.

3) When you’ve reached your limit of productivity, even though there’s lots left undone, get out a spiral notebook or planner or even loose pages. Put each category on a separate page. You might have 1 for household, away, calls, gratitudes, events, finances, health, legal, career, friends and family. The point is to be so aware of ongoing ways you spend your time that, once they’re listed, you needn’t worry that there’s something you forgot. When there’s a fun experience you don’t want to miss, it will be on your calendar and/or Events page. When you’re feeling sorry for yourself, you can check out your Gratitude pages and be reminded of the things you’ve written down each night before bed.

4) When you’ve noted the important To Dos in the categories you listed, take the time to get to clarity by choosing 1-5 items you intend to complete that day.

If you are motivated by externals, mark a * on a chart for each completion. If you find yourself slipping into something not on your 1-5 items, get up, do some stretching, remind yourself you’re making good progress, distract yourself by a trip to the fridge for fruit or to the yard to pick a bouquet, or any other brief break. Then come back to those 1-5 items, which are the only things on your desk to grab your attention. If you manage to finish the five, you might check out the other categories for an appealing task or call it a day as far as work is concerned.

5) Have as many folders in your filing cabinet as will make storing AND finding items easy! For me, I like printing out or saving notes and clippings about personal growth. I’m more satisfied when I can easily separate and access notes from Abraham Hicks, Wayne Dyer, Byron Katie, meditation, webinars, quotes and related categories. Those same folders make it easy to FILE when I have the paper in my hands OR when I “find it” on my desk.

I haven’t completely mastered the habit of filing each piece of paper as I handle it. I’m doing better, and I’m usually closer to focused than to scattered…

Hm, I see I need to go to the dining room table now. What do YOU need to do?

This guest article from YourTango was written by Ms. Moreah Vestan and appeared as: 5 Tips to Go from Scattered to Focused

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On Your Own: 5 Tips to Get from Scattered to Focused

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APA Reference
Experts, Y. (2018). On Your Own: 5 Tips to Get from Scattered to Focused. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 3, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 1 May 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.