As my daughters started their Junior year of high school a couple weeks ago and school begins today at Taylor University (my day job), I am finding my life full of a lot more distractions than it was this summer. There is a lot my mind wants to think about other than freelancing, and many random things like emails, text messages, phone calls, and social networks vye for my attention. Add to that band concerts, high school football games, church youth events, and college events filling up my evenings and weekends, and my time becomes precious. When I sit down to work on a freelance project, I have to find ways to be effective and efficient with that allotted time. I have to be focused.

The first requisite for success is to develop the ability to focus and apply your mental and physical energies to the problem at hand – without growing weary. Because such thinking is often difficult, there seems to be no limit to which some people will go to avoid the effort and labor that is associated with it. – Thomas Edison

As Edison states, I also have to keep from becoming weary while so focused on a project at hand. This is especially true when editing and proofreading. If I am too focused to the point I become tired (or worse bored) of what I am reading, then I can start overlooking errors I should be correcting. For me, I find my freelance time a balance of focus time and head clearing times.  For me, I follow this simple strategy to make my freelance time as effective as possible.

  • Limit Distractions – I prefer either silence when I work or headphones with light casual music on to block out other noises. I also close extra tabs and applications on my computer (like social networks, email, skype and such), so they do not grab my attention.
  • Take Breaks – I take breaks every 10 pages. I get up, stretch, walk around, and sometimes get a snack. This allows my eyes to rest and refocus and my mind to relax from the intense work. When I come back to the project I am working on, I have fresh eyes and an open mind again ready to delve into the document.
  • Reward Yourself – When I hit major goals, like the end of a chapter or completing a full Index, I will take a break and celebrate a little. Grab a bigger snack, watch a quick Youtube video, or check social networks. Even with the reward, I set a time limit of ten minutes to be sure I get back to the project at hand.

How do you stay on task when doing your freelance work? Do you prefer silence or music? Are you a “get in a groove” type of person where the hours pass quickly or do you have to deliberately sit down and work methodically with a time table? What are tricks you have learned that you can share with us?

Focus – How Do You Stay On Task?

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2 thoughts on “Focus – How Do You Stay On Task?

  1. For me, it’s headphones with high energy music, but never something new. I’ve got playlists built with songs I know well. It’s music I like listening to, so it puts me in a good frame of mind, but it’s familiar enough that I can relegate it to the background. I also turn it up a little louder than I normally would, just to make sure I’m drowning out outside distractions.

    In general I also shut down other things, or make sure I’m satisfied with the state of my other to-do lists before I sit down to do it. I also give myself either a time limit (work on this til 9:00) or a specific accomplishment (finish adventure outline). That way I have at least some sort of goal to measure my progress by.

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