focusI am often asked how I get so much done considering the time constraints I have as a single mother, working a full time job, running my own business and doing all my housework. It took me a long time to get it right but I worked out a formula a few years back that works for me.

There are four elements to getting all my stuff done:

  • To-Do list
  • Time allocation for each task
  • Focus
  • Reward

I will cover each one separately.

The To-Do list

Every morning I sit down at my desk with a cup of coffee and look at what needs to be done for the day. I base the list on what is critical and important for my business initially. My primary goal is to ensure a regular and consistent income to support my family. Some activities may generate immediate cash, others are important for long term business profitability.

Other criteria include promises I have made for clients and getting their projects completed in time. Then I factor in the taxi-driving requirements for my children in getting them to and from school and their multiple social engagements. Teenagers are so busy!

I keep the list to about 10 items only. Any else that needs to be done but is not critical goes on a separate list below. If I get all my tasks done on time, I will tackle them later.

Time allocation

Parkinson’s Law states that “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. If I don’t allocate a specific amount of time to each task, I can spend all day on one task. I deliberately put pressure on myself so that it forces me to focus and work as efficiently as possible.

For instance, I allocated one hour to write this blog post this morning, otherwise I tend to waffle. The biggest problem I have with writing is sometimes I don’t know how to start. So I start at the bullet points I have mapped out and then go back to the beginning.

If I have not finished the task in the allocated time, I move onto the next one and get that completed. Once all the items on the list are done, I will go back to the unfinished item and finish it.

The problem with all of our lives is that there are constant distractions. The phone rings, Facebook pings, emails arrive and there is always a child asking for something. This brings me to my next point. It is all very well having a To-Do list and allocating time to it but unless you focus, your day will be frittered away.

Get Focused.

One of the best books I have ever read on concentration and focusing was written by my mentor Dr. Mani. “How to Focus, Stop Procrastinating, Improve your Concentration and Get Things Done –Easily” is an outstanding book. I would recommend that you get it.

When I have time sensitive tasks to complete or writing to do, I try and turn off the outside world as much as possible. I put my phone onto silent, close Facebook and any other social media channels I may be working for clients. I also close my mail program so that the notifications do not pop up. The only application I leave open is Skype.

Then I tackle the first task. I normally battle with the focus element as I am so easily distracted. Lately I discovered that instrumental music really helps me to focus. So I signed up for an account at Soundcloud and selected a few classical pieces. One track in particular works very well for me because it is 55 minutes long. My favourite piece is Mozart’s Requiem in D Minor. I slip on my headphones, turn the volume down to about 20% and start working or writing.

Since I started doing this, my productivity has doubled. It intrigued me that using music made such a difference that I did some research. It is a well-known fact that music helps creativity. It’s called the Mozart Effect. The music in my ears also helps to eliminate the white noise that surrounds us all the time.

There is nothing quite as satisfying as ticking off those items at the end of the day. Well. Maybe a few other things, but it is a good feeling when you get it done.

Reward yourself

I find it’s really important for me take time out and reward myself for getting the work done. It can be as simple as taking an hour to read a book, or having coffee with a friend. Anything that is fun and stops you thinking about work. Those breaks are important to clear your brain and keep you fresh for the next day’s list.

This formula may not work for you, but I have found it to be very effective. Perhaps you have some other suggestions? I would love to hear them please.

Have a productive day.


P.S. I finished this blog post in 45 minutes including research. Time for coffee and a quick natter on Facebook before I start the next task.

Diana Heuser specialises in e-Business and Publishing Resources for Authors. Connect with Diana Heuser on her business website, via Twitter @DianaHeuser or on Google+.   Join her Facebook Group Secrets To Publishing A Book.