I've done it all. I've been a full-time student working part-time, a part-time student working full-time, a graduate student, a freelancer, and a full-time worker. In every setting, it's hard not to do everything but what you should be doing. Being a student for so long, I've written this off with the all nighters and the age-old "I work better under pressure" mantra. It's true, I do. However, only a few days into a professional setting, I'm realizing that isn't going to fly. There is no Sunday night cramming or all night library sessions anymore. I need to work hard 9-5 and learn how to prevent distraction.
1) Keep a Thought Pad
I'm struck with great ideas while I'm working on something else. Traditionally, I'd stop what I was doing to spend minutes or hours mulling over my new thoughts. Thoughts lead to research, research leads to Twitter, Twitter to YouTube and I've failed. Now, I keep a Thought Pad to jot down my thoughts, ideas, or questions as soon as they pop up, and I don't let myself think about them further until after I'm done my work.
3) Write Morning Pages
I won't go into detail on this because I wrote about it here. Getting all your big thoughts, to-dos, dreams and rants out in the morning stops them from creeping back up later in the day.
2) Use technology
Wait - hear me out. I don't mean keep your phone and tablets attached to your hip. Certain apps (Selfcontrol) will block distracting websites for a certain amount of time, and won't reset despite how hard you try (example: restarting your computer.)
4) Schedule your time
If you're still pretending you work best under pressure, give yourself a time limit. Allot a certain number of minutes or hours for a single project, and ensure you finish on time.
5) Take a break
If you find yourself working hard to fight off continuous distractions, it's probably time to take a break. Step back from your project and regroup - your work will thank you for it.
As I'm still learning, I'd love to hear some of your tips for staying focused!