Unfocused Productivity

5 Productive Things to Do When You’re Unfocused

Sometimes I have laser-like focus. But there are days when I stare blankly at my screen. Here are 5 things to do when you're unfocused but want productivitySometimes I have laser-like focus. With task at hand I plow through and get the work done, barely taking time to drink water and breathe. This was the case in preparing my 30 Day Self-Care Challenge in 2015. From concept to fleshed-out plan took less than a week. But not all my endeavors are like that. Actually, most aren’t.

There are days when I show up at my desk and stare blankly at the screen. This in spite of the fact that I have taken time the night before to contemplate what one thing I plan to focus on for the day. Some days, it just doesn’t click.

So what is an entrepreneur to do? Sit around and eat bon-bons while catching up on Game of Thrones and Outlander? Tempting, but I recently sat down and put together a list of 5 things to do when I’m feeling unfocused but want to be productive. Consider making your own list (and feel free to use my list as a starting point!).

Productivity even when unfocused:

1. Delete email

Zero inbox? Me neither. Not even close. So set the timer for 5, 10, or 15 minutes (or whatever time you want) and start deleting and filing. I try not to get caught into reading old emails. If I run into a bunch that I want to read (often from signing up for some list), then I make a folder and stick them in it. I do take the time to unsubscribe from those that I no longer have an interest in or have turned out to not be what I thought they’d be. Don’t be afraid to unsubscribe – besides lessening your inbox load, you are doing the sender a great service. Your not opening their email hinders their open rate. If you haven’t opened a single email from them in the last month or so, unsubscribe.

2. Read articles saved to reading list

Facebook has this really great feature where you can save an article link that someone posts. In the upper right hand corner of the post is a light grey downward pointing arrow. If you click it a menu appears and “save link” is an option (but only if the post contains a link to an article). Click that and the article is saved to a list. How to access the list? When logged into Facebook, go to http://www.facebook.com/saved and your list will be there.

When I find interesting articles via Twitter (often accessed from my iPhone), I save them to Safari’s Reading List.

3. Sort favorited pins on Pinterest

I favorite way too many pins, and always with the intention that I’ll go back later to see if I really want to commit to pinning it. Sometimes I’m not sure to what board I want to pin it; sometimes I don’t have time to follow the link to the original website to see if the information is really what I’m looking for. Sometimes I’m just lazy. But taking a few minutes to pin (and then unlike) a Pinterest pin is a good thing. Ideally I’ll get down to under 20 likes (I’m at 491 494 746 – I couldn’t help myself – as of the writing revision of this post).

4. Sort photos

Whether on my phone or computer – a few minutes of time can be well spent cleaning up “bad” (blurry, useless, dark) photos. Good bye duplicates. Good time to sort and tag as needed too. Certainly makes searching for that Pre-K graduation photo (to compare to the 8th grade graduation nine years later) a whole lot easier! Well, it would have.

If you’re not a Mac user, sort your photos in whatever program organizes them. You can take this task old school and sort through the shoebox of photos too!

5. Tag my Evernote notes

I don’t utilize this feature nearly enough. I’m still trying to master organizing in Evernote, and I really like how Michael Hyatt approaches this with tags. So besides tagging my notes, I guess I could use unfocused time to figure out an organization hierarchy as well!

Not familiar with Evernote? Then take some time to check it out. I have it installed on all my devices (it synchs across them all and with the cloud version), and I just learned how to clip web articles to it. The basic version is free (which is what I use).

So there you have my list of 5 things to do when your feeling a bit unfocused. Just remember to set a time limit. I find that I often get inspired by something (series of pins, interesting article, etc.) that sends my mind spinning and my creative juices flowing. Next thing you know – I’ve written a new blog post!

What things might you add or tweak to the list?

How to Stop Procrastinating: Finished is Better Than Perfect

Hung Up on Perfect

I start a lot of projects; I don’t always finish them all. Sometimes I get bored or I “figure out” the project before it is completed and the project looses its appeal or I get distracted. Often I get hung up on perfect.

In my mind, I’m not a “perfectionist.” I don’t feel the need to be perfect or have everything be perfect. I do, however, often feel I could complete a project better if… I had more time, more money, more resources, more…. something. Lately I’ve been taking this problem – because it is a problem – head on. It’s time to stop procrastinating.

Let me just interject here that “project” has a fairly loose definition. It can be anything as mundane as cleaning out a closet to something way more interesting, like writing a book. Size and scope of the project seem to have little bearing on my ability to complete it!

Tactics to Stop Procrastinating:

1. Don’t get distracted: Keep the original goal in the forefront.

Why did I take on the project to begin with? Cleaning out my clothes closet is not on the “fun project” list, but I know I need to get rid of stuff that’s not being used. The “do it better” me wants to completely re-do the closet: new shelving, new hangers, new containers, and everything will look like it could be on the cover of a DIY magazine on organizing. “Realistic” me knows that just going through and pulling out the clothes I no longer wear (ever) and the things I no longer use (why did I buy that wide-brimmed hat?) will make a world of difference.

Unfortunately, “realistic” me walks into that closet and “do it better” me butts in within minutes. The trick is to keep “do it better” me in check. There is always more that can be done. And truthfully, until the closet is decluttered, you can’t know what the “right” closet organizers are. Furthermore, if any other unfinished projects emerge from the closet (that box of photos that should be scrapbooked, for instance), “do it better” morphs into “that’s more fun, do that instead” me.

No! Stand firm! Goal for this project is: get rid of stuff. If I keep reminding myself of that, then “do it better” me can sit in a corner and pout while “realistic” me tackles the goal.

2. Plan ahead to make the process smoother.

This is one with which I’m getting better. Nothing is more discouraging than being all pumped up about a project only to dig in and find you are missing something. It can be disastrous if that something is critical; or potentially enlightening if you figure out a way not to need that missing something. Either way though, it is frustrating and time consuming, both of which take away from “getting it done.” So take a moment to think about what you need in order to complete the project before you delve into the project itself.

3. Set time boundaries.

What is the amount of time that is appropriate for the project? For writing a blog post, I like to set aside a couple of hours. It should probably take less than that, but I feel that’s a reasonable amount of time. If the post seems to be taking much longer, than it either needs to be broken down into multiple posts (perhaps I have a lot to say?!), or it’s not ready yet (the words just aren’t flowing). I also have a time boundary in the sense that I set a deadline for when I want to post. Without that I am likely to put off publishing a post so I can tweak it a bit further. Nope. Have to get it done today. Which leads me to my fourth point:

Stop procrastinating: finished is better than perfect4. As is, is better than not at all.

Which is, of course, much like saying finished is better than perfect. Only this doesn’t have to apply to finished. My closet is better even if I only get to clean off one shelf. It’s not finished, but it’s better than not cleaning that one shelf at all. Publishing this post today, even if some part of me thinks that four tactics is somehow not as good as five (odd numbers are better, right?) and I’m sure with a little more time I could think of something else to add… Nope. It’s time to hit the “publish” button (as soon as I find an appropriate photo to accompany this post, of course).

[By the way, one can come back a year and a half later and tweak things in the post. Just saying.]