Focus, focus, focus. Your time management and focus skills really do go hand and hand. If you can’t seem to get anything done, it may be because you hop from one task to another. Having the ability to focus on tasks long enough to finish them is a key component in honing your time management skills and getting your to-do list done. Here’s how to conquer your focus problem and make everything come together.

Don’t work harder, work smarter

If your to-do list keeps getting longer and you’re not able to get anything checked off, you’re probably getting discouraged. But don’t work harder, work smarter. Streamlining your to-do list and prioritizing what really needs to get done will automatically help you feel more productive. Most individuals feed off of productivity. If you’re constantly stopping tasks that you’re not finishing to start new ones that you’re also not finishing, then you’re likely having trouble focusing. Here’s how to fix this.

Write down your goals for each hour of the day. Start your day by writing down your goals for each hour. You’ll start to get a feel for what you can actually fit into a day when you do this. In the beginning, you might write down way too much and feel unsuccessful when you don’t squeeze everything in. Yet, by writing it down, you have a list to hold yourself accountable to. Accountability is a big factor in time management and being able to focus.

Set time limits. Time limits will help with your hourly goals as well. When you start a task, you’ll move through it a lot more quickly if you look at the clock and think, “I only want to spend 30 minutes on this. Racing against the clock will help you focus and get it done. It’s great motivation. Also like writing down your goals for each hour of the day, time limits will give you a solid idea of how much time a task takes. If you’re frustrated by the fact that something took an hour instead of half an hour, you’ll know to factor that in for next time.

Eliminate distractions. Let’s face it. Your work environment may not be optimal for focus. Do you have the TV on? Are you listening to music that just makes you want to sing along and dance? What are your pets and kids doing that makes you turn around every 5 minutes? Being conscious of the type of environment you’re in is just as important for focus as anything else.

Fake breaks

Are you ever in the middle of a task and you tell yourself that you’re just taking a five-minute break? You’ll just watch five minutes of this show, you’ll just take a five-minute nap, you’ll just go for a five-minute walk or you’ll just go get a five-minute snack. Then, after your five-minute activity, you don’t ever end up returning to your original task. You just get off track and never return. Sound familiar? If this is a trend you know from your own personal experience, then these breaks likely aren’t quick resets that will help you get back on track. They’re fake breaks, they’re distractions, and they indicate a lack of focus.

Fake breaks are tough. Humans can truly only concentrate for so long, so your body and mind need breaks. You can often even work longer hours if you take breaks…but how do you do so without getting off task? If you find yourself in this predicament. Try switching up your work schedule. If you find that you’re always taking breaks at the same time during the day, perhaps you only work in certain hour intervals. Do you never return to your desk after 4 PM? Maybe that 4-6 PM window is particularly tough for you. If you started work 2 hours earlier from 7-9 AM and got off at 4 PM as a result, this might allow you to power through more often when you know you’re getting off when your brain gets tired.

Conclusion

Managing your time means managing your focus because the two are so closely related. Being honest with yourself about your goals and your environment will bring you one step closer to improving your productivity. Switch up your work environment if you need to and stop the fake breaks to boost your efficiency. You’ll only benefit yourself and bring yourself closer to where you want to be.