How to Focus Whilst at Your Computer

In order to get things done, you need to know how to focus on your tasks. There are many distractions and interruptions around us, and we need to learn how to deal with it. The internet make things worse. Being connected to the World Wide Web means that you expose yourself to a vast amount of information, distractions and interruptions.

In this hectic pace of the world, you can easily over extend yourself and get pulled all over the place by different things and people. It is only a matter of time before you get overwhelmed and stressful. When you are overwhelmed, it is hard to focus yourself on getting the essential tasks done. Being in front of the computer is one of the most distracting places to be. Think about the time you spent on Twitter, Facebook and your email inbox. Most of us work in front of our computer for long hours, therefore it is important to learn how to focus and stay in control instead of allowing distractions and interruptions to take control.

1) Sit Down In Front Of Your Computer With A Purpose

Most people do not have a purpose in mind when they are in front of the computer. This can easily lead to mindless surfing and time wastage. You have to be clear about what you want to accomplish when you are going to work with your computer.

If you have to work with your computer, get to know your purpose first. What do you want to accomplish in an hour? What are the sites that you need to visit that are relevant to your purpose? Once you got that in mind, write it down on a piece of paper. Visit only the sites that are relevant to your work. This will help you to be more productive and decrease the probability of you straying into time waster sites like Facebook and Twitter.

2) Open Only Relevant Tabs In Your Browser

All the popular browsers can open up multiple tabs. It may be a convenient feature to have but it encourages multi tasking. Most of us open way too many tabs on our browser and multi-surf all the sites at one go.

Multi tasking can spread your focus too thin. Opening too many tabs at once will distract you from your work. You tend to stray and surf for stuffs that are not relevant to work. Open as little tabs as possible. Choose only to open tabs for essential sites that you need to help you complete your work. Keep working on disciplining yourself to only open tabs that are relevant to your work.

3) If You Lack Discipline, Try This

If you find yourself wasting too much time on time waster sites (Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon), try out this method. Firefox and Google Chrome allow us to use third party plugins. There are some wonderful productivity tools out there but one of the best tools you can use is LeechBlock for Firefox. If you are using Google Chrome, you can try out StayFocused .

These tools can help to block out time waster sites at any time of the day. When you spend less time on these sites, you have more time for your essential tasks.

4) Blast All Notifications Away. An Hour Of Isolation

Notification alert is an interruption and eliminating it helps a lot in imcreasing your productivity. Turn off notification alert from email, Twitter, Facebook and switch your cell phone to silent mode or turn it off. These are tigers waiting to pounce on you. Just when you start to focus to get things done, your phone rang and you can’t resist to pick it up and chat with your friend for an hour. You can avoid these interruptions easily by turning off your phone and notifications.

To prevent further interruptions, tell your colleagues to avoid interrupting you during the period when you are working. Create an hour of isolation. Put up a sign on your table to remind them that you are in your “hour of isolation”. One of the best ways is to put on your earpiece. Your earpiece is the best weapon against interruptions. There is a less tendency that someone will interrupt you when you have your earpiece on.

5) Parkinson’s Law

Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

You need to create time blocks for your tasks. We tend to complete our work with all the available time we have. This means that a shorter deadline will help us to complete our project much faster. A project that can be completed in a week may end up taking a month to complete instead when there is a longer deadline.

This is inefficient and a waste of time. To be productive, you need to have a deadline (a suitable one of course) for all your tasks. If you think that you need around a month to complete your project, set the deadline a little nearer. This will help to stretch yourself and create the sense of urgency to get things done faster.

How About You?

What are your methods for increasing your productivity while you are working with your computer? Do share with us some ideas in the comment section.

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Comments

  1. I must say that if I could implement those suggestions of the above, I could be able to 3 times more productive than now. But, I can’t help to go with the flow of expansion of tasks.

    Vincent’s thought is very detail and effective. Beside this, one suggestion attracted me tremendously. That is Lach’s suggestion: “Like what you do”. I have figured out that the main reason of my slipping from focus is disliking the pressure of jobs. I’m a freelancer graphics designer. When I was beginner, I used to enjoy working. But now, I’m almost professional and tasks seem pressure on my brain. This is why I sit in front of my PC, I start working..slip..and end up with frustrations, pressure, burden and pain. I think this only thing can change me if I can love working. Though I understand much, I still can’t help the slip…can’t help me :(

  2. I can totally relate! Especially being a blogger, I am finding that twitter and the like are an important part of marketing my site, but at the same time, I have to separate that from pleasure or nothing gets done.

  3. Hi Vincent

    Enjoyed your post. I think everyone has suffered from this problem. I am an nlp coach, and definitely know the benefit of going into any situation with an outcome in mind. Setting an outcome beforehand helps to focus your concentration on what you want to achieve, and you’re much more likely to achieve it. I also like setting a time period: this also helps to maintain focus.

  4. Thank you for this article Vincent

    Being in a multitasking working environment, I think the idea of the “hour of isolation” is great! Hope my boss will also like it, when I ‘ll explain him the benefits.
    I m waiting for you next article here

  5. Hey Tan,

    Superb piece and I totally am with you on point 1, I find if I set myself a small target…such as…for the next hour I’m going to focus on commenting on other blogs and connecting with people, then I find I do that…If I don’t set that small goal I drift and get lost in procrastination. I also my say set 2 solid hours to write a new post and only focus on that and nothing else….it does wonders ! I also find that good music always truly helps me focus!

    • Hi Amit,

      Yes, focus is the key here. You made some great points too. Setting small goals can be pretty useful in getting ourselves focused on the job.

  6. You offer some really good methods here for time management. Something that works for me is using Microsoft Outlook to schedule tasks and events for myself. I include a reminder for each task, so that I get a nice little pop-up no matter what I’m doing. Also, I give myself specific time limits for social networking activities.

  7. Hi Vincent,

    I agree that it is very easy to let your productivity slip in the face of distractions and the internet is a procrastinator’s dream come true!

    I am also a big fan of the 80/20 Principle (80% of your effective outputs are created by 20% of your inputs). Before I even sit down to work on something at my computer I first decide whether the task is worth doing in the first place. This ensures that I maximise my ‘effectiveness’ with how I use my computer. Your list here is great to ensure that I am also maximising my ‘efficiency’ while working on these useful tasks.

    • Hi Brenton,

      I am a huge fan of he 80/20 Principle too. It really helps to get more things out of me. Cheers to the 80/20 Principle! :)

  8. This is my first time here at this website, and WOW! What a website you have here Steven, hats off to you.

    As for this article, I think you’ve done an excellent job Vincent. Computers are only going to get more popular as the years go by, and the more productivity we can get out of them, the more efficient our lives will be.

    Thanks for sharing :-)

    • Hi Stuart,

      Yea. Computer is a double edge sword. It is how we are going to make it work for us that is going to be the difference.

  9. Hi Vincent, great post. I don’t believe that you ever “waste time” whilst expanding your mind (getting caught up in Facebook/ surfing the internet etc). That’s not the same thing as lack of planning/ focus that leads to missing a deadline. Our subconscious mind (the bit that never sleeps) is capable of a vast array of processes, prepartion work, idea assimilation etc all at the same time even if our single(ish) track conscious mind is not. So as you absorb through the conscious mind you are significantly feeding the subconscious. That’s why sometimes when you “return from a break”, new ideas and clarity on project work appear to just pop into your head. Again, thanks for a very thought provoking post…..

  10. Vincent,
    You eloquently describe how easy it is to lose one’s focus. It’s a challenge for me, but I am getting better. Your first advice really hit me: “Sit Down In Front Of Your Computer With A Purpose.” I’ve never heard it phrased that way. This is really smart and I will keep it in mind henceforth. These are all such useful ideas. I’ve found turning off notifications helpful. I am also learning to work for a defined period – 45 minutes to an hour – and then get up a take a short break.

    • Hi Sandra,

      Working in short burst and taking a short break after every working period is critical to being productive. Notifications are killers. Too many of them can kill your productivity. Say goodbye to notifications to keep ourselves sane.

  11. Everything has its place. I try to spend 40 minutes on a project and then a 20 minute ‘break’ checking emails, facebook, extra. After that 20 minutes, all things are closed and it is back to the project at hand.

  12. It’s interesting that people who live creative, productive lives experience the same urge to hesitate as those who procrastinate and experience frustration. If it was not Facebook or Twitter it would be something else. Recognizing the self-talk that is keeping us from focusing is essential. You discover who
    you really are when you decline to procrastinate while feeling the urge to hesitate – you really are unlimited potential waiting to be realized.

    • Hi Rob,

      You make great sense! It is true that if there are no Facebook and Twitter, there will still be other distractions. I agree that in the end it still end up in how our habits were programmed. (to work or procrastinate)

  13. Those are all great tips. I especially like number 2. Being responsible for the marketing of a business means I am responsible for all the social media of the company. These sites also happen to be big time wasters if you are not careful.

    To help with it, I make sure to close those tabs whenever I’m not working specifically on that task.

    • Hi Bryce,

      The social aspect of marketing does have a grey area. It may seems like work but spending too much time in it will cause you to become unproductive.

  14. I have the new Apple iMac w/the super big monitor, and feel like an air traffic controller with lights flashing and blinking with 40 tabs open all at once on my split screen! I also have a head-set with multiple phone lines, so when my wife comes to my office it must look to her like she just walked into NASA mission control. “Huston … we have problem!?”

  15. Great advice. “to have a deadline … for all your tasks”, I feel this is most important.

  16. I find I can usually focus for 1-2 hours at a stretch and remain productive. Beyond that my focus starts to slip and I end up burning time without accomplishing anything. So, I like to set a timer for one 50 minutes or an hour while I’m working. Decide what the highest value activity is and then decide to focus on it for an hour. Shut down all the other apps (i.e. email client etc.) After that I take a few minutes to reset. Possibly meditate. But the biggest factor is actually being keenly interested in what you’re doing. When the task feels like a chore it takes a huge amount of effort to stay focused on it for any length of time. When it feels interesting and invigorating, focus is not a problem. So, like what you do.

    • Hi Lach,

      I’m doing something similar as you. I use a timer to set 25 minutes at a go. I will rest for 5 minutes after that and proceed to repeat this for 4 times. Got to say it works great.

  17. I too am guilty of time wasting, however, it is not as bad as it might be if I allow it to be. This is good advice. Thank you.

  18. Hey Vincent, welcome to the CYT authors club :)

    I must admit I am guilty of falling into the twitter, facebook, SU trap and getting caught up for 30 minutes at a time, then i have to have a word with myself and get back on track.

    thanks for a great article Vincent.

    • Hi Steve,

      Thanks for the guest post opportunity at Change Your Thoughts! I think Leech Block will work great for your case. :)

      Cheers,
      Vincent

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