Sometimes it can be hard to get started on a task. Just when it seems like you are ready to get moving on that thing you have been putting off, something on Facebook pops up.
And we both know it is probably really important.
So you should check it before you get started.
Just in case....
Be honest, are you reading this now because you are avoiding doing something else?
To ensure that your working time is actually effective, take some time to arrange your environment in a way that will help your productivity before you get started. If you do this you will go a long way in making the most of your work time.
One really helpful strategy is to set up separate “zones” for your work and home life.
I sometimes find this particularly challenging as a grad student because usually it doesn't matter where you get your work done, so long as you get it done. This can make it very tempting to try and write that paper sitting on your couch in front of your TV, or in a space where there are a ton of things associated with fun and play. Move yourself to a location that is associated with work and work alone. For example, If I am working at home I have a recliner that I sit in only to do work, and nothing else.
You will find that just by changing spaces you will find yourself much more willing to focus on the task at hand.
It was amazing how much more productive I was in that space, because it was only associated with work, whereas the lab has sort of become the “fun zone” (I know, its sad).
Now once you have decided where you are going to work its time to take on the next big challenge: Your computer. So many tasks that we need to complete must be done on a device that is filled with endless distractions.
I highly recommend the web app StayFocused for Chrome or LeechBlock with Firefox (recommended by Tim Ferriss’ blog). This will allow you to block your most distracting sites for a set period of time. StayFocused prevents me from Facebooking, YouTubing, or wasting time on a bunch of other sites between the hours of 8 am and 8 pm every weekday. I also has a great “no take backs” feature that prevents and changes you make to the settings from going into effect for 24 hours.
You may even consider having separate computers for work and play (if you are so fortunate to have two computers…).
Keep your video games, movies, and whatever else it is people use computers for on your play computer, and strip your work computer down to the bare bones. Only the essentials, your office suite, software you need, a music player (if that is not a distraction for you) and any other tools you need to get the work done. But that’s it. The less you blend the work and play environments together the more effective your time will be.
Also, it almost goes without saying, but silence your phone, or put it in a different room altogether. If the phone is in sight you are so much more likely to check it every 3 minutes.
Just in case.
If you need to have your phone around you can get a version of the StayFocused App for the Android. I haven't tried it yet, but if it is half as good as the computer version is it worth checking out.