How do you stay motivated/focused on a single task?


#1

This question gets asked frequently on sites like Reddit, but I was wondering how the Waypoint community stays focused on a task. I’m always looking for new methods to try out.

For me, I have to actually leave my house and head to any other place in town in order to buckle down and stay focused. I just become too tempted to find things to do around the house if I stay (i.e. clean, play ‘just a bit of Overwatch,’ etc.). While at the library, I usually just pop on a Vaporwave or LoFi Hip-Hop playlist and just have at it. I also found that having the Block and Focus extension on helps a bunch.

So, what about you guys? How do y’all remain focused on an objective you need to complete?

Bonus song added on because my buddy just put on this record and it was like fate.


#2

Generally, I would break things down in to subtasks then assign an amount of time I would spend on it. For example, I have to unpack shit from moving, so I will look into 1 box and find places for all the items in there, if I still have some time then I’ll look into another box, etc.


#3

Nothing like an unceasing and overwhelming fear of failure to keep me motivated! Just me? Ok, I’ll sit down.


#4

Well, I don’t, simply answered. As a student it’s something I should be better at. Leaving the house is a great way to do it though, I think. But when something is moving along nicely (i.e I don’t add errors to my programs) I stay motivated thanks to enjoyment or progress.

Enjoyment or progress is not something you can always get out of a task, but it sure makes them easy to do.


#5

Though I’ve let my technique degrade a little, I find the most success by:

  1. Giving myself an explicit timetable or time slot in which to do the thing, with a lot of warning. I’m not just working on my project today, I’m working on my project between 1PM and 3.30PM, with a fifteen minute breaks at 1:45 and 2:45. I’ll have notifications warning me an hour beforehand and fifteen minutes beforehand. If possible, I’ll ensure the space is tidy and my work materials are prepared before I sit down.
  2. Refusing to let myself work outside of regular working hours (where circumstance allows). Beyond 4pm I’m a lost cause anyway but if I’m having to work late into the night I’m definitely not organising myself correctly through the rest of the day. Absolute worst case scenario I’ll go to bed at 9PM and wake up very early to crunch the extra work while I’m fresh to minimise inefficiencies due to tiredness. (Especially relevant when coding where one poorly thought out bit of code could cost you tens of hours of diagnosis further down the road.)
  3. Putting myself in an environment with minimal distractions. A chair in the garden, or a tidy desk. If there’s distracting noise I’ll use ear plugs or put on some white noise. I wish I could work with music on but my speed of work slows to a crawl.
  4. Ensuring I’m generous with breaks and respecting my body’s signals to stop. I’ve got pretty nasty ADD so if I’m reading or coding for >45 mins at a time I start glazing over and stop taking information in. I’ll take the final fifteen minutes of the hour as a break. Tea breaks don’t cut into that nor do bathroom breaks. Finding that ratio took some trial and error but timing it out let me hone in on the ideal combination faster. I’ll always have a water bottle available but I find snacks too distracting.

I still have difficulty coding without distractions (since it’s on my PC) beyond getting captivated by the problem I’m solving. Any tips specifically for computer work would be appreciated.


#6

I work at home, so I’m prone to all of the easiest temptations, all of the time. Here are a few things that I do to stay on task for at least 6-8 hours a day.

–chill, inobtrusive music sometimes paired with ambient noise, which I feel is really good for transporting yourself to a work zone and minimizing distractions, especially if you have over-ear headphones. Sounds like you already have some appropriate music.

–a task manager. Something like Asana where you can neatly sort and keep track of different types of work. I also have a post-it or txt file every day visible on my desktop that is a list of the things I absolutely HAVE to get done. Once that list is empty, I feel free, and I think I really do strive to make it empty. If I finish everything early, I even let myself off early.

–a cutoff for “work time”. Possibly the most vital thing in a freelance or work-at-home situation, that work-life balance. This might not be as relevant if you are having to do work around the edges of a day job. At that point you may be sacrificing “off” time to be on. My absolute cutoff is 11 PM–I telecommute to a company on the west coast and I’m on the east coast, so I at least stay ready to go until 8 PM their time. If I do work after 11 PM, it better be for fun personal stuff.

–an escape route. Like a coffee shop or library. I probably spend two three-hour blocks of time per week at a coffee shop. There’s something about being around peaceful strangers and just out of your comfortable zone that can be really good for focusing.

–knowing your limits. Take breaks, don’t be afraid to admit you can’t do something today or ever, instead of beating your head against it. Treat yourself when you can, especially if a day of work seems to be a total waste right from the start–just think of how you can turn it into a positive. It will make all your next days better. With creative work especially, you never know when inspiration will strike and you can’t just wait by the well for it; that’s no way to live.


#7

Definitely agreeing with what @2Mello and @Tolinky have said about having a cut-off for worktime and knowing your limits. Regularly paced work will be more efficient than unevenly rushing to finish things off (the tortoise and the hare and all that).

I definitely find that leaving the house and having some kind of ritual around your work is also a good move for maintaining your focus and keeping to it. Whether it’s leaving the house, brewing a coffee, or turning on your browser extensions, having something that demarcates ‘work’ from ‘leisure’ is super important for being able to stick at it and keep working. What it is is, to an extent, up to you—but something is vital. If you’re a student, this is a great way to actually commit to finishing your readings!


#8

As somebody who may have ADD (I was never professionally diagnosed but a couple teachers urged my Mom to get me looked at when I was in school), I definitely find the “make a list of tasks” thing a good way to keep me focused.

Turning off distractions helps, too. If I’m really in dire need of getting something done ASAP, I have straight up unplugged the router to make sure I stay focused on the job at hand.