How to Focus and Get Stuff Done: Simple Tips that Work for Me

Now let’s get this straight from the start, there are lots of places you can look for time management tips. So why would you be interested in mine?

> Maybe there’ll be something new here – I hope so.
> It could be that you’ve got some time on your hands and just happened to click through – unlikely.
> Possibly the cat sat on your keyboard as the google results were delivered and you had no control over which article was selected – good work feline friend!

Whatever the reason, you’re here now – and that’s great for both of us.

I’m here because in my last post (Just Say No) I wrote about my time management concerns and I wanted to take that idea a step further. And possibly show that I can get things done.

I want you to remember though, this post is about me and how I work. I hope these tips help you, but maybe they won’t all. Be picky, and let me know what helps you if I’ve missed it.

  1. Planning

I’m an ‘organise your mailbox’, ‘write it on the wall planner’, ‘update the electronic calendar and paper diary’ kind of person.

I have lists on my desk, in excel, and software designed to help me prioritise and remember.

I worry that I’ll forget things, so I make sure they’re recorded in 3 places and then worry about which of those lists I might have forgotten.

  • I have a weekly plan in the kitchen which keeps the whole family’s plans in one place.
  • I have a diary which I bullet with daily and monthly tasks as well as appointments. (I tried bullet journaling a while back, but wanted something that allowed more clarity with forward planning).
  • What I really rely on is my phone/laptop calendar – because it beeps at me.

I’m sure to most people this sounds like a crazy amount of effort, confusing and a waste of time. But for me, each of these facilities serves a purpose.

  • I need the family planner because it helps me see what everyone’s doing and because I only write the planner a week at a time it reinforces the plans for that week.
  • I need the diary to show a week or a month ahead so I have a clear picture of my plans – easily. And somewhere to make notes on the day as it happens.
  • The electronic calendars, well you know what they bring… they beep.

Do you need written lists, messages in their proper folder, and planners galore? If you do, then work out what you need them for – and use the ones which help you.

  1. Avoiding Distraction

I’ve read many tips: Keep your phone switched off, the internet switched off, your curtains shut (maybe?). But, then I need those things which I’ve labelled distractions, I’ve turned them back on, and there they are again…

Know your weaknesses and manage them. If that means deleting or disabling certain apps on your phone that’s up to you, distracting noises can be drowned out by music, there’s software available that restricts what you can access on your computer. Identify those things which cause you distraction, or are a worry for you, and research the tools which are out there.

For me, the best way to avoid distraction is to focus on my to-do list and start crossing things off it.

  1. Flexibility

Life happens.

The other day child 1 was too ill for school, it’s difficult to do everything that I’ve planned when he is at home.

Then, discussions with child 2 show they’re feeling neglected and want some attention. I’m not sure whether it was guilt or a desire for attention myself that prompted me to give in on that one.

Sometimes the husband is working at home and lunch at my desk seems rude, or he’s away too much and I seem to be doing everything.

Balancing life and work now I’m working for myself, at home, is hard sometimes. But I’m sure it’s a better balance than if I had to commute so I’m certainly not moaning.

If I can’t do everything on my to-do list then I can prioritise; which things are most urgent and which won’t take me long to complete. If I’m realistic about the amount of time I have, and the effort involved in the task, then I can still make sure I get things done.

Being flexible means being able to pick which tasks happen when, and changing the hours (or places) I work if the need comes up.

  1. Communication

Now, talking isn’t always on a list of productive behaviours but we’re not talking about gossiping here.

Whatever it is that needs doing, my priority is making sure that everyone involved is clear on our outcomes – what we need and when we need it.

This is something which is essential at the beginning of any project, or piece of work, and just as important as the task progresses.

Clear, honest communication between parties will ensure no nasty surprises
– for the client or manager who is worried a deadline might be missed,
– or the writer (in this situation) who might discover a deadline or requirement, has been changed.

Whatever it is you’re working on, whoever it is you’re working for, the aim is to provide clear and consistent updates to ensure no-one feels they’re being kept in the dark.

Find out what works for you

With the number of tips available to you, here and elsewhere, my last suggestion is to try things out.

See what works for you.

Not everything will work, and there’s no point in putting extra pressure on yourself to do things which don’t provide any benefit.

This blog is about how I do it, but it may not work for you and certainly won’t work for everyone.

  • I’m not the kind of person who thrives on pressure, I just get stressed.
  • I’m not the kind of person whose work is their life, I want to keep a balance with my family.
  • I am the kind of person who writes lots of lists… sorry.

Is there a tip which has changed your habits, and your life?
What tool couldn’t you manage without?

I’d love to hear how you get stuff done.