When you own a business, there’s never a shortage of things to do (especially when you aren’t yet able to afford employees or a ton of contract help). The longer your to-do list, the more you can feel overwhelmed the more difficult it can be to find focus.
If you’re anything like me, it’s not always enough to “just do it.” Sometimes you need to force yourself to find focus. These are a few tools that may help.
(Some of the links below are affiliate links meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.)
Trying to remember everything you need to do is enough to make anyone mad. You need to get the tasks out of your brain and stored somewhere you can access at any time.
I prefer a paper planner because, well, I’m old. Or maybe it’s because I’m tactile. Or both. If you also like to put pen to paper and hold your to-do list and calendar, then find a paper planner that suits your personality (I use a weekly now after having used a daily for years).
If you prefer digital tools to old-school ones, then you may like something like Trello or Asana. These are project management tools that act as an editable record of all of your tasks.
2. Pomodoro Timer
I love the Pomodoro Technique (I wrote about it here). It’s a super simple way to block out distractions and focus on the task at hand. When I use this method, I get so much more accomplished.
Using the Pomodoro Technique can be as simple as setting the timer on your phone. If you like fancy tools (or want to really ensure distraction-free work by putting the phone away), then you may want to invest in a timer.
- The Saent button is a high-tech smart device that helps you launch pomodoros (working sessions), block digital distractions, and take timed breaks. It’s fancy, but pretty cool. $59
- The Miracle TimeCube starts a countdown as soon as you turn it over. It doesn’t get much easier than this. $20
- Keep it simple and classic with a tomato-shaped kitchen timer … this is tool the technique was based on; if it was good enough for the founder, it’s good enough for anyone! $6.99
3. News Feed Eradicator / Rescue Time
Stop the scroll! For many of us, the biggest source of distraction during the work day is social media. Whenever we feel stuck, overwhelmed, or disinterested in work, we fall into the rabbit hole that is Facebook or Instagram.
The *free* News Feed Eradicator extension for Chrome is simple to install and automatically quashes the Facebook temptation. With it installed, you no longer see a busy newsfeed filled with cat videos calling your name. Instead, you just get an inspirational quote (I use the Feminist News Feed Eradicator to get empowering quotes!). If you tend to use your laptop or desktop computer for work, install this extension today! (And don’t worry, you can still see your notifications so you won’t miss anything that’s actually directed at you and may require your attention.)
Don’t think you are wasting time on social media? Put it to the test. Install RescueTime (there is a free basic version) to see exactly how much time you are spending on specific sites and applications each week. Seeing the report in black and white may be enough to shock you into changing your habits.
Writer’s block is a tricky beast that can be difficult to tame. One way to push past it is to make yourself write nonstop—even if it’s awful—until you get into the flow and unleash the good stuff that’s hiding within.
That’s easier said than done for most of us. We put pen to paper and then nothing. We internally edit and don’t allow ourselves to let loose.
Enter FlowState. This app (only available for Apple users, OS X or iOS) allows you to set timed writing sessions in which anything you write will disappear if you stop writing for more than seven seconds. Terrifying, but also a great push.
You’ve probably heard that meditation can help you remain calm and focused, even in the face of incredible stress and overwhelm. But how do you actually do it?
If it’s new to you, it may feel silly. It may even seem impossible. That’s why I love the Headspace app (and even switched from the free to the paid version after a few months). The short, guided meditations tell you exactly what to do and make it really easy. Plus, the guy’s British accent is quite soothing.
I don’t use the Calm app, but I’ve heard from many people that it’s also a fantastic tool for beginning to experienced meditation.
What works for one person may not work for someone else. There are a ton of great books all about how to reduce distractions, get more focused, and increase productivity. Keep reading until you find systems that work for you.
Here are a few suggestions to help you find focus:
- Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport
- The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan
- Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear
- The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People’s Lives Better, Too)” by Gretchen Rubin
- How to Get Sh*t Done: Why Women Need to Stop Doing Everything so They Can Achieve Anything by Erin Falconer
- Your Best Year Ever: A 5-Step Plan for Achieving Your Most Important Goals by Michael Hyatt
- Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs” by John Doerr