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I've noticed a disturbing pattern with myself that goes like this:

  1. At the beginning (e.g. start of the day, sitting down after lunch, or getting home at night), think about one thing I need to do and start doing it.
  2. Think about a couple other things I need to do. Get distracted from the initial task by these thoughts, but get back to it.
  3. Think about more things - some of which may be more important and/or time sensitive.
  4. Lose the motivation to do any of them, including the one I was in the middle of working on.
  5. Surf the web, watch TV, play a game on my phone, or check my email.

I know it's easy to say "just finish that first thing you were working on, then move on to the others" but it just doesn't work. What techniques can I use to actually get things done?

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3 Answers 3

There are a few things you can do immediately.

  1. Allocate your time. One hour two hours whatever you feel is necessary. Commit to working this duration.

  2. Write down what you want to have done, how you want it to look etc. Just a brief description of what you would like the outcome to be at with the time you have available. Put this where you can see it wherever you are working.

  3. Get to work.

  4. Whenever you have a thought that distracts you stop and write it down on a notepad. Keep a list of these thoughts or ideas. It doesn't matter what they are. Promise yourself that you will review this list at the end of your work session

  5. Review the list you just made. Move on to the next thing thats important to you

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Have you read 'Getting things done'? This book handles precisely your problem.

It introduces a system that allows you to seperate your todo list from your mind. It's a must read for productive people.

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2  
I think this has the potential to be a great answer, but would benefit from being expanded upon in terms of what parts of GTD allow you to "get it out of your head" as well as the philosophy of why we need to do this. –  Raystafarian May 8 at 14:51

If it's work todo on the computer I had some success with the Pomodoro technique. I use http://www.tomighty.org/ and work in 25min timeframes in which I fully focus on one task only. For mobile phones similar apps exist if you need to be mobile during your task.

The most important thing is to get rid of distracting thoughts (like checking emails, check stackexchange :-), etc.). You must commit yourself to focus on one task only and if you notice a distracting thought, make yourself aware of that it is a distracting thought and put it aside. Make some notes about your thought so you can defer that idea and continue on what you are working on. It can also help to imagine your distracting thought as a cloud in the sky and let it pass by.

This works good if you have to work on the computer or writing a book. But the basic principle should be appliable to rest of life too. Allocate a timeslot and fully concentrate on one predefined task only in that time.

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