A common problem among freelancers is a catastrophic lack of concentration when working on projects. This leads to a bewildering and sickening sense of regret and missed opportunities at the end of a frustrating day where time just seemed to disappear. Without the external discipline of a boss hovering over us, it’s all too easy to lose track of time and slip into dangerous multitasking and OCD loops.
OCD Loops (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Loops) are where you feel compelled to run through a pattern of checking certain websites in a certain order, even if you’re supposed to doing something else. This pattern becomes entrenched day after day to the point that you regularly feel the urge to start checking this particular sequence of sites, starting at the top of the loop and going round and round to delay getting on with your real work.
OCD Loops and lack of focus are incredibly common and are huge hurdles to achieving consistent and quality output. I would go as far as saying that this lack of prioritizing and focusing on the most important tasks on hand is the biggest challenge that confronts us in our quest to design a healthy life where we feel fulfilled in our personal and business lives.
The most dangerous think you can do when waking up in the morning is to be complacent about how much time you have. When the day stretches out in front of you, it seems like an eternity of time. Then we’re surprised when the day disappears and we’re only left with a couple of hours to hit key deadlines. The funny thing is that no matter how many times we allow our days to evaporate into the cesspit of underachievement, we continue to overestimate how much we’ll be able to get done the next day, and we remain complacent about how we’ll be able to manage the scarce resource of time that is seemingly abundant at the beginning of a seemingly long day.
It’s easy to get lured into this trap of thinking that you have plenty of time during the day and can handle the workload while coasting along. But studies show that most people drastically overestimate their ability of how much they can produce during a work day. I’ve always been amazed at how much time I think I have left in the day, only for it to slip out of my grasp without me realizing it.
How many hours do people waste because they don’t have a structured plan or time tracking device to keep them focused?
Tragically, hours is an understatement as we actually end up wasting weeks, if not months of our lives!
The Solution to Improving Concentration
I’ve found using productivity tools to be helpful as they’ve helped me to come to realize just how valuable my time really is. By concentrating and focusing on the minutes in my day, I’ve come to appreciate them more and more instead of been content to waste them. The harsh truth is that you must be accountable for each minute your work day so that you can execute and eliminate the tedious but necessary tasks and free up the real quality time in your life.
I actually thought it would be miserable using a time tracking device to schedule my work day. The concept of taking the spontaneity out of my day isn’t appealing to a freelancer who values time and ownership of it even higher than money. Making a commitment to schedule a block of time may be irritating and dreary at first, but as long as you have a minimum level of control over your emotions, it shouldn’t be difficult to stick to as a grown up.
To my surprise, I’m actually enjoying meticulously planning my day. Instead of drifting from one task to the next and drowning in a sea of instant gratification by going through my OCD Loop for a quick dopamine fix, I find it strangely satisfying to see the clock tick towards my goal of productive achievement within each block of time I’ve assigned.
The bottom line is that I’m having more fun now that I’ve mastered my work days and understand my emotional reactions to procrastination and lack of focus. Knowing yourself and what you’re weaknesses are allows you to plan ahead and deal with life more effectively. Actually doing the work of focusing and getting the job done is incredibly liberating. I’ll take the exhilaration of productive, focused achievement over the comfortable but lethargic feeling of going through the motions any day.