How to Stay Focused When You Work Online

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How to Stay Focused When You Work Online

You work in the online world -- maybe it's in high tech or some socially-driven business model. You're trying to concentrate on some tricky code or a new twist on a social marketing campaign. But then ... it happens. Your mind wanders and starts to wonder how your score on, the social network influencer site, is running -- oh no, it's down a point!

Quick, find some interesting links, fire up Twitter, and start sending out tweets. For good measure, scroll down to see what people have been saying and respond to a few, adding a retweet here and there.

Congratulations! You've probably bumped your score back up, even though you've also gotten yourself 45 minutes nearer to an important end-of-the-day deadline without getting any closer to being done.

Focus! (Don't Check Facebook)

You're not the only one facing this problem. One of the dangers when work brings you online is getting wrapped up with one new imperative after another. You have to be on Klout ... and Twitter, Foursquare, Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, or any number of the latest social media crazes.

But following every breadcrumb trail to the promise of effective marketing and self-promotion becomes a constant distraction and a waste of time and energy.

Efficient vs. effective

To combat the problem, first realize that you're facing a problem management guru Peter Drucker described as the trade-off between being efficient versus effective -- that is, doing things right versus doing the right things.

You're trying to be effective by promoting your business, and that's important. But sometimes you have to be efficient and do things right, like getting the existing work done so there's a business to grow.

 Here are some ways to keep the nose to the grindstone:

  • Set certain times of the day to go online. At those times, prioritize what to do, based on your business needs. Is Twitter more important to your marketing than Facebook? Collect all the questions you need to research online and find your answers at one time.
  • Need to have messages come out on Twitter or Facebook during the day? Write them in advance and then use software like TweetDeck to automatically post them when you want. That saves the potential distraction of going online more frequently.
  • Consider a software package like Freedom, which turns off your PC's Internet access for whatever period you specify. It isn't foolproof because you can turn it off by rebooting your computer, but many people have found it helpful. Or find a cafe without Internet access and set up your remote office.
  • You can also do the opposite -- set aside some time to go online, unfettered by what you're "supposed" to do, so long as you accomplish a goal you set for yourself.
  • Your problem may also be that routine tasks are taking too long. Free up extra time by using tools to let you be more efficient while being effective. Pricetag is a great example because it lets you more quickly build custom quotes that you'll need to secure some of that business you're trying to drum up via social networks.

Just remember the old rule of thumb  from childhood: get the chores out of the way first and then you can go online and play.

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