Whenever you have projects that can't be done in one sitting, they have to be broken up into steps. Some people are marathoners and work best when they can spend long, uninterrupted hours on their projects. They hate to stop working because of piddly considerations like eating or sleeping, and they look forward to their next sessions. They're motivated by their goals, and they enjoy the process. That keeps them on track.
However, many work environments are too full of distractions to support marathoners. Your home office also harbors plenty of distractions. Some distractions can be managed, but many are integral parts of the work day. I'm talking about the kind of environment that makes people say, "I must have ADD!" The answer is: learn to sprint.
Make Your Sprints Productive.
Some people are natural sprinters To find out, ask yourself if it's hard to get back into the swing of a project once you get up from that first session. The novelty has worn off, you're distracted by new projects, and the prospect of not finishing the current one any time soon diminishes your enthusiasm. This can make it hard to get projects checked off your list. But you can turn this tendency into a productive work style.
Think back to other projects you've completed. Can you remember how much time you comfortably spent at one sitting? If not, plan to work for 15 minutes. The session will actually take about 10 minutes longer than that, so schedule enough time. You'll begin by setting things up, physically and mentally. Get tools and equipment, put email and phone distractions on hold, and review what you'll be doing. Focus on working for the 15 minutes. At the end, clean up and make notes for the next session. If that was easy, try making your sessions longer. If it was a toughie, shorten them.
Why Does This Work?
Mainly, it works because you prepare yourself mentally to work for a specific period of time. The mental preparation and the time limit together are a terrific combination. It also works because you develop a new work habit. Once something becomes a habit, it feels natural and you come to expect it. You're not inventing the wheel each time.
Another reason it's helpful is that a project that's broken down into many steps can have many "beginnings." That's a good way to look at it if you find yourself losing motivation. Every time you finish a work session, you'll specifically describe what's to be done next time. If the next step is a different kind of activity, it will naturally seem like a new activity, even if it's part of a larger project. For example, once you finish reviewing a set of data, your next step is to call the salesperson to discuss your order. When you write your task out as "call salesperson" rather than "continue slogging along on the Schwartz project," you'll be able to focus on that current step instead of feeling overwhelmed by looking at the entire large project.
Finally, it works because no matter how little time you work on something, if you keep at it, with regular mini sessions, you will eventually finish. Guaranteed.
Claire Tompkins specializes in simple, efficient systems to help people be more productive, more easily. Before figuring out how to do something better, ask why you're doing it at all. Got to http://www.clairetompkins.com to find out more. Contact her at Claire@clairetompkins.com and 510-535-0856.