wikiHow to Get More Done on Days when You're Not Focused

We all have days when we're more focused and less focused. On the days when we're less focused, it may still be possible to accomplish something. Here are some ways to help rescue some of the less focused moments.


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    Remove external distractions. Turn off the TV. Close or put away computers, phones, or any browser or IM windows you're not using. Turn off any music that prevents you from concentrating. If noise from another room or outside is causing your mind to wander, shut the door or window to block it out.
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    Define the task or problem clearly. If you don't know what you're working on, it's very hard to accomplish it. If you're stuck, try to articulate precisely how you are stuck. Often, clearly stating the problem will lead to possible courses of action:
    • Look at whatever project you're putting off. What is the part on which you are stuck? What one, specific thing can you do to make some progress? Perhaps that is calling somebody who knows what to do. Perhaps it is just getting started.
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    Identify one specific step you can take, and take it, or start to. A specific step is not "get all of your accounts in order" but something like "check the account balance" for one account that you choose.
    • Break down larger projects into smaller, more manageable tasks.
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    Choose easy or mindless tasks. Pull some weeds, do the ironing, do basic paperwork, or clean out a desk drawer. If all you do is take care of a few simple tasks, at least they will be out of the way some other day when you have more energy or focus. Sometimes, easy tasks can help build the momentum that gets you started on other, more difficult tasks. Low-hanging fruit is still fruit.
    • Choose tasks you enjoy doing or that are important to you. Often the motivation of doing something fun or rewarding will boost your energy and enthusiasm, and thereby your focus.
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    Put music on.
    If it's appropriate to do so, upbeat music can get you started, help drown out distracting background noise, and give you a little more energy.
    • Obviously, don't use music if it will distract you from your task or interfere with it. If your task is to make phone calls or to complete a language lesson, leave the music for later.
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    Get started on something, even if it's not the most important thing. As long as you can trust yourself to accomplish your more important tasks on days when you are more focused, go ahead and choose a less important, less taxing task.
    • Call it a rough draft or a first attempt. Trying to produce something, even if it's not right yet, can get you going, help you discover where you really are stuck, and help with perfectionism.
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    Work out loud. Talk through your plans with a friend, colleague, or adviser. Or, write in a journal or separate document. Sometimes, this process of explaining to another person or to your journal can help you identify the correct course of action. It can be better than letting poorly formed thoughts chase around your head!
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    Keep a to-do list. Sort it by context. If you're at work or school and thinking of things that really should be done when you're at home or running errands (or vice versa), jot those down on a notepad, or in a task management program for your phone or computer. Then, commit to get back to them when you have the opportunity.
    • Declutter unnecessary tasks from your to-do lists. If you have a lot of tasks that "would be nice, someday" but aren't a priority, keep a separate list (or tag and filter them if you track your tasks electronically).
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    Keep your schedule flexible but structured. Try to keep regular hours. If you work or attend classes outside the home, part of your schedule will be decided for you. If not, create some "office hours" (or otherwise set aside task time) for yourself, even if that means getting up earlier or staying up later.
    • Build little deadlines into your time management scheme.
    • Leave time in your schedule for having an occasional day with less focus. This may mean working ahead a little on days when you are better focused, or simply scheduling time to yourself on weekends to relax and rest.
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    Create routines that put basic stuff on autopilot. Otherwise, these things become distractions. If you need your keys and purse or wallet each day, make sure they land in the same spot each evening when you come home.
    • Fall back on your system and routines. At least you will keep up with the basics and, if need be, keep up appearances.
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    Try working faster or slower than your normal pace. For some tasks (especially the simple, repetitive ones), try racing against yourself, as long as you can do so safely and maintain your quality. For more complex tasks, you may want to slow down and take things step by step.
    • Sometimes we convince ourselves that we lack the energy needed because we feel that the only way to accomplish something is to throw a lot of speed and energy at it. Take the opposite view and work at the task slowly and deliberately. This frees you up from using a lack of energy as an excuse; anything achieved slowly is something achieved.
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    Reward yourself. After you make one phone call or focus to some degree for 15 minutes, take a quick break or do something fun.


  • Sometimes, a lack of focus may emerge as creativity. If you think this may be the case, you may want to set aside your regular activities temporarily and allow yourself to create. If you can't set aside your regular activities, try to jot some notes about your ideas for yourself for later.
  • Get enough sleep. Nothing hampers productivity or focus like being tired. If you can take a quick nap, take one. If not, make a point to get to bed a little earlier next time.
  • Your system doesn't have to make sense for anyone but yourself. Don't worry too much about how you "should" do things. Instead, try different approaches and figure out what works for you.
  • Don't be too hard on yourself. We all have days that are better or worse than others. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is to rest and start fresh a little later.


  • Check your work. If you know you were unfocused yesterday, take a little time today to check your work for things you might have missed.

Things You'll Need

  • Journal
  • Notepad for lists
  • Friend's ear for listening

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