Unfinished work continues to exert an influence, even when we try to move on to other things.
When you start working on something but do not finish it, thoughts of the unfinished work continue to pop into your mind even when you've moved on to other things. Such thoughts urge you to go back and finish it.
Books, video games and tv-series all take advantage of this effect.
Have you got a project that's forever lingering on your to-do list? Us too. With so much on our plates it can be hard to find the time to make a start on something we know is going to be a bit of a stretch to complete, and thus it gets pushed further and further down the list.
Designate a place to add and organize your tasks that’s not your head: a pen-and-paper to-do list or a digital task manager like Todoist . By capturing tasks to come back to later, you can free your attention to focus on your immediate work, not remembering what you need to get done in the future.
Once you know what you’ll focus on, you’ll need a daily structure for staying focused on it. You may not be able to eliminate context switching from your day entirely, but these strategies will help you cut down on the number of times you have to shift your attention:
Task batching : Grouping and performing similar tasks together. For example, answering all of your emails at the same time so you’re not bouncing back and forth between your work and your inbox all day.
Time blocking : Dividing your day into blocks, such as “meetings,” “email,” and “deep work”. This method goes a step further than task batching and requires you to physically block off time on your calendar for a designated task or group of tasks and only those tasks.
Theme days : Designating different days of the week for different types of tasks. This is a more extreme version of task batching and time blocking that allows you to focus on certain types of work on certain days and postpone other types of work that don’t fit with the day’s theme.
Time boxing : Setting a limit on how much time you spend on a task. Similar to time blocking, time boxing requires you to designate boxes of time for specific tasks. The twist is that you must finish the designated task within the time box. The time constraint creates a sense of urgency that sharpens your focus.
Pomodoro method : Setting a timer while working on one task and taking regular breaks. This is a variation on time boxing that calls for 25-minutes of focused work on a single, clearly defined task followed by a 5-minute break with a longer 30-minute break after every four focused sessions.