Staying focused on your goals is one of the essential elements of musical development. In today's busy environment, it is easy to lose the focus required for you to succeed. Everything from time commitments, to bad organization, to social distractions are the enemy of achieving our goals. Here are some ideas to keep you focused on crucial tasks.
SET UP YOUR DAY THE NIGHT BEFORE
Plan your schedule to include as much detail as possible to map out your day. Lay out what you will wear for the day. Make your meals for the next day if needed or plan where and when you will eat and what you will snack on during the day. Put your belongings together that you will need to take with you. While this preparation may seem excessive to some people, I believe it is an essential element in order to begin your day refreshed and not rushed.
WORK ON THE MOST CHALLENGING TASKS FIRST
Research suggests that humans are more productive in the morning hours. While you will need to prioritize your tasks for the day, work on the most demanding tasks earlier if possible. Completing more difficult tasks first will take some pressure off and allow you to accomplish more routine daily chores later in the day. Also, once those challenging tasks are complete, you will not have to worry about them anymore; that can be a big stress reliever.
TAKE SMALL BREAKS DURING THE DAY
During the day, your body and mind need time to refresh and regroup. Some people feel themselves fading after a long period of work time. Take small breaks to do whatever you need to do to regain your focus. Have a beverage, stretch, go for a walk, or have a healthy snack. Find a small activity that works best for you. Take your mind off of work and strive to find a bit of mental/physical balance. After a short break, you should feel more refreshed and ready to get back to work.
ELIMINATE DISTRACTIONS AND TIME WASTERS
Time wasters are any activities that prevent you from being productive. Social media, social emails, phone calls, and smartphone apps and games are some examples of time wasters. Those time wasters take precious time away from you and can cause you more stress in the long run. Turn off phone app notifications as they will only distract you. In some situations, you may need to turn off your phone entirely to "tune out" the rest of the world to accomplish your essential tasks.
BE AWARE OF YOURSELF
Become more aware of your body and mind. Take notice when your focus begins to fade. What caused you to become distracted or less mentally sharp? How did your body feel during that time? What were some of the triggers that made you unfocused? Answers to these questions could help you avoid similar situations.
REVIEW YOUR ULTIMATE GOALS
Many people set goals but fail to consistently revisit, revise, or remind themselves of their important goals. Some goals may be long-term; others are short-term. Visualize your goals daily and do not be afraid to change or alter a goal when needed. Try to become emotionally connected to your goals. This connection will help keep you motivated and moving toward the completion of your goals.
“Success is the accumulation of small advantages over time.” —Aaron Lynn
Since there are only so many minutes in a day, it makes sense to use our time productively. Look for “small advantages” of time that you might typically miss. Plan and organize your schedule to help meet your goals. Once you have your proactive routine set, remain focused on the tasks at hand to ensure future success.
Dr. James T. Lindroth is Associate Professor of Music Education at Northeastern State University, where he serves as the Percussion Chair and Coordinator of Music Education. Dr. Lindroth earned his Ph.D. in Music Education from the University of South Florida and his Masters of Music degree in Music Performance and Bachelor of Music in Music Education from the University of Massachusetts – Lowell. He is an active performer and recording artist and is a member of the Central States Judges Association, where he adjudicates music festivals throughout the United States. He is a member of the Vic Firth Education Team and serves on the PAS Health and Wellness Committee. Dr. Lindroth’s scholarly research has been published in regional and national peer-reviewed journals, and he has presented research and workshop sessions at music conferences in the United States and internationally.