Can’t stop goofing around

This letter writer finds it hard to focus. 

Our elder shares his tips on how to prioritize your time.


Dear EWC

So, I have a problem where in school I can’t focus and that’s kind of the reason that I turn in a lot of my work late. I just goof around with my friends and end up not finishing in time. I find myself looking at Google and changing my computer wallpaper. I want to stop and my grades are getting lower for turning it in late. Can you please give me advice and help me stop? 


Dave-Scott replies

Only you can decide what is most important in your life and how you will spend your time. A balance of work and fun is probably a good goal, but it is so easy to get distracted that some kind of plan is really needed to keep on track.

I have always been a list maker myself and have found that it is more than just making up a list of everything you need to get done. I’ll tell you how I go about it and why this system works well for me. The goal is to prioritize your time, get things done most efficiently, not waste time, and never be afraid to reward yourself when you need to.

What I always did to determine how to best spend my working time (and also “fun” time) was to start by simply making a “to do” list (the list can cover whatever time period you think will work best for you – day, week, or month). The list was always divided into three sections – A, B, and C. The A list included the highest priorities regardless of the time they required. They were simply must do’s. 

The B list was all the things that I anticipated would soon become high priorities, but were not yet that pressing. Many of the items on the list were things that needed input I didn’t have yet or someone else needed to complete their work first.

The C list was things I thought I was going to have to handle sometime in the future, but planning and details were still lacking and vague.

Using the list is simple. You always do the things on the A list first unless for some reason something is removed from the list or you find doing it will need to be delayed (which means it moves to the B list) Only when finished with the A list do you move to the B list. As for the C list, you will find this especially valuable because you will find that you hardly ever do anything on the C list. This means you won’t have wasted your time doing something that you suddenly find doesn’t need to be done.

You have to be somewhat flexible with these lists, but as simple as they are, they give you a starting point. In general, you work primarily on the A list according to the priorities you set. You need to be flexible, however, and constantly re-prioritize when required.

Making lists may seem a simple, no-brainer, but you need to realize that if you put an effort into making these lists more than just a bunch of random items, they can be a very useful and important tool in themselves. Lists keep you from forgetting things, but more importantly can make you break down every job into individual components. Make your list more valuable by determining what resources will be required and how much time will need to be spent on each item. 

From the master A, B, and C lists, I would make sure I also did a daily list of what I was going to do for each individual day. That way, when you first come into work or start the day, you are immediately ready to get started.

Lists can also provide motivation to get the next thing done as well as serve as a reward each time you get to cross something off. The lists can also help you to accomplish what you need to when you need to, but it is up to you to determine how to fit everything you need to do into a 24-hour day.

I am sure there are entire books dedicated to this problem, but I just thought I would suggest something that worked well for many years when I was still working. My list is less complex now, but I still work off of one every day.

One other tip is to always do the hardest things first. Otherwise, you may find you are just putting off doing things based on how you feel rather than what is most important. For me, the majority of the time what I hated doing the most was calling people on the phone (I realize that now emails or texting has replaced the telephone), but if I started the day with these calls the day just went much better. 

From what you said in your letter, there may be other problems creeping into your daily work routine – allowing yourself to be distracted, second guessing yourself, putting your friends’ desires before your own–but you might try what I have recommended first and remember you can only do one thing at any one time (multitasking only allows you to do more things poorly).

I would also recommend a great self-help book for you, You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life, by Jen Sincero. I really think it might help you. 

I might also add, good for you in recognizing you need to make changes in order to have the future you desire. Go get ’em.

Write back if you have any further questions. I’d be interested to know if any of my advice helps you achieve your goals. Good luck.

Article #: 437830

Category: Self-Improvement

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