7 Sep 2017
Working on your own is difficult, especially if you’ve only just set up your own business and are more used to having a boss leading your workload and encouraging you to be productive. Motivation is one of the things that many self-employed people say can be a problem, and without motivation you’ll find it difficult to focus on the task in hand and be productive.
There is, as you’d expect, plenty of advice online about how to increase focus, and we’ve summarised the ones that have worked best for us. Whether or not they work for you is a personal matter, but it will be worth experimenting with some of the ideas, just to see if they make a difference.
If you know yourself well, you’ll know when you are at your most productive. If it’s first thing in the morning, then that’s when you need to schedule the more complex tasks in your diary. There are more than enough routine, sometimes almost mindless, tasks that come with every job, and they can be done at those times in the day when you have less concentration and energy, e.g. the after-lunch slump.
There are many academic studies about multitasking, all of which have concluded that people who multitask are less productive than people who concentrate on one task at a time.
The number one rule of multitasking is to stop checking your emails, Facebook, Twitter and anything else you can lose yourself in online! Yes, it’s important to check your work emails from time to time, but if you’re constantly looking at them whilst trying to focus on a task, it will take a lot longer to complete the task and the likelihood is that you won’t do it as well as you could have.
If you really need to focus on something, set an alarm for, say, 30 minutes, then concentrate your whole attention on that task until the 30 minutes is up. You may find that after a few minutes, you become so focused that you continue working on the task for longer anyway, and finish it earlier than expected.
Sometimes the old-fashioned way is the most effective. The act of writing a ‘to do’ list will help you focus not only on what needs to be done, but also the order in which it needs to be done. And there is a huge sense of satisfaction when you finish a task and can physically cross it off your list. Some people begin their ‘to do’ list with a task they’ve already done, crossing something off straight away gives them a little psychological boost to help them concentrate on the rest.
A survey commissioned by UK music organisations found that businesses believe that having music in the workplace increases staff morale, with a positive knock-on effect on productivity. It’s something that many people do instinctively to help concentrate anyway, although the type of music you’re listening to can also have a negative effect – thrash metal anyone? We didn’t think so!
Working from home is cited by many self-employed people as the place that is the least likely to help you focus. The number of distractions at home can be huge, from the phone calls and visits from friends and family who assume that because you’re at home you’re available for a chat, to the washing up in the sink that’s making you feel guilty. The easiest way of dealing with this is to not work at home. That’s why many people like co-working office spaces – they have the advantage of surrounding you with people who are so focused on their own tasks that it encourages you to knuckle down to your own work.