Trouble Staying Focused? Here's What I Developed.

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This thread is inspired by Steven Wagenheim's thread on how his day looks. While reading it, I thought that I'm probably not the only one who does not have an effective system to stay focused. Steven has a tight schedule which he details in his thread.

But this thread is about MY plan.

I'm likely the worst person for staying focused and being organized. I start out organized, but it soon goes out the window as papers pile up and to-do lists get buried. It worsens when new projects come up. Then, I have multiple lists that I start, but seldom finish.

A few weeks back, I determined that this disorganized approach has to change, so I came up with a system that is working miraculously. Perhaps you have something similar. If not, maybe this will work for you, too.

When I arrive at my computer every morning, the first question is, "What do I have to do today." Well, it's a little late to be asking, because by the time I figure it out and get organized, half the day is gone and more often than not, I end up doing bits and pieces in an ineffective manner.

I decided that I needed lists, but I also needed something more specific. So I grabbed an old 3-ring binder and set to work building my unique system for staying on task and meeting my deadlines.

Here's an example.

I recently decided to create a book on dog nutrition. It was quite involved - lots of elements, lots of steps, and lots of parts that needed to be done. I decided to take each element and create a checklist for it.

Since I plan to do more than this one package, I knew that I could create master lists that would work across different projects.

Here's what I did.

The work for this package involved creating the sales page, creating the sample chapter page, creating the main product, creating bonuses and putting it all together with all the required ingredients to make the package as complete as possible.

I designed a main Project Work Sheet that details the Product Creation Idea with check boxes for the goals of the idea: Build a list, offer information, offer a free gift, create a one time offer. Pick one.

It also includes the monetary gain expected and the dealine to achieve that income.

The type of product: created, affiliate, public domain or other.

This sheet concludes with an overview of what I have to do to accomplish this goal: production creation, auto responder series, opt-in form, download sites, sales page, payment setup, finding JV partners and affiliates.

The next sheet: Project Check List

In table form (in Word), I created 3 columns: Task, Deadline, Done

This list includes:
  • researching hot niche
  • choosing 1000 keywords for that niche,
  • find or create a gift for opt-in form squeeze page
  • create squeeze page
  • set up autoresponder for gift download
  • put autoresponder code on the page
  • locate a One-Time-Offer to add to the funnel from the opt-in sequence
  • develop the hot product
  • set up OTO page sequence
  • set up PayPal
  • add 7 autoresponder messages to follow-ups
  • locate JV partners
  • Set up Clickbank for affiliate sales
  • Promote the offer (listing each method, ie: RSS feeds, social media, etc.)
  • Upload everything to the server
From this list, I broke each down into their own check sheets. So, take the OTO product and list everything that's involved to get it ready to launch, including creating the web page, setting up the ordering system, researching and writing the product, uploading to server, etc.

As you can see, this gets every single step down so you can proceed in an organized fashion. Since many of these steps are the same for many projects, once you create the check list, you don't need to do it again. Or you can modify it to your new project.

Create the lists before you start. That's the key!

As soon as you decide on a project, take time to go through all the specific steps to completion and create your check lists for each element.

For example, you might have one for Check List: Design Web Page, and under that heading you'd have things like:
  • get graphics,
  • modify graphics as required,
  • write the content,
  • add content,
  • set up opt-in form,
  • put code on page,
  • set up PayPal button,
  • add code to page,
  • put graphics on page.
  • Upload page and all graphics to the server.
Break down each step into its own check point, rather than listing one big task. For instance, you could write get graphics but it's better if you specify all the steps to preparing them, too. This is not only easier to follow, but it's also beneficial mentally. The more things you can check off your list, the more progress you feel you're making, and the better you feel. This motivates you to do more.

By setting deadlines for each checkpoint, you can stay goal-oriented.

This method of using checklists is extremely good for keeping you on task. I noticed right at the start that knowing I had these things to do by this date made it easier to stop myself from getting distracted by something else that crossed my path. In fact, I surprised myself when I began to wander and immediately brought myself back to my Checklist.

Now, I just started building this system so I don't have many checklists yet, but as you can see, when you break the entire project down, you can easily end up with some powerful checklists to follow.

Just one word of warning: Don't go overboard with checklists or you'll spend more time creating them than working on them.

I hope this helps you as much as it is helping me.

Sylvia
#developed #focused #staying #trouble
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  • Profile picture of the author Chris Lockwood
    I was halfway through your list when OMG who is that on TV?
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    • Profile picture of the author David McGimpsey
      Originally Posted by Chris Lockwood View Post

      I was halfway through your list when OMG who is that on TV?
      Rofl that's funny!

      Excellent post Sylvia. Printed...
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      • Profile picture of the author aim73
        Originally Posted by David McGimpsey View Post

        Rofl that's funny!

        Excellent post Sylvia. Printed...
        Yeah. I thought that was funny, too!

        Sylvia, thanks for this. I too have trouble staying focused. I just wrote about this yesterday in a different thread... about how my head just seems to be everywhere and I´m always aksing myself, "what next?" and not really quite sure What Next should be.

        Writing it down on paper is really the way to go. I knew this about me ages ago, but just never got to doing it.

        Now if I could just find a pen and paper in the house. I think I´ve even forgotten how to write! The last time I tried it, my "hand writing muscles" hurt I couldn´t believe we used to spend hours writing in in school.
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  • Profile picture of the author Wendy Maki
    You sound a lot like me. I tend to get lost in a forest of my own making. My solution ended up being similar in regards to the checklists but with a couple of twists.

    First, I realized after about 20 years of trying to believe what others said about computers being faster that I actually need to do a lot of things on paper. I need to spread them out, see them, etc. Visual and kinesthetic. Trying to remember what is out of eyesight on a computer just does not work for me. Having realized that, I accepted it and started working accordingly.

    Second, I now use these sort of mini file folder thingies -- one for each thing that could be considered a project. (man, the name of those things is completely escaping me :confused: ). They are about 2 inches thick with about 8-12 individual accordian envelope spaces to put file folders in. I get the plastic ones (not cardboard) because they have a spine that I can label and they stand up on my shelf. Easy to grab and move around. Everything for the project goes into it, organized into sub-folders.

    What's really good about this system for me is that when I haven't touched a given project for a while, it's soooo much easier to figger out what I was doing and pick it back up.

    Oh, and my to do checklists are neon pink! so they really stand out from the rest of the materials, and I can just grab them.

    Before I started using those filing things, I was constantly lost.
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  • Profile picture of the author George Wright
    Great list examples Sylvia. Mind maps using your examples would be awesome.

    George Wright
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  • Profile picture of the author Writing Warrior
    Thanks for the very detailed post. I'm usually okay with staying focused, but only if my kids are sound asleep!
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  • Profile picture of the author garyv
    Wow - Great post Sylia! Looking over your post again, I'd pay just to see your project todo list. You should consider putting together a detailed explanation of everything you do to get a product up and running - and put it up in a WSO. I'd definitely pay to see it & use it.
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    • Profile picture of the author Merlinthecat
      Great post.

      I also find it useful to set time limits on certain tasks - research for example - and I have a little clickable widget on my desktop which acts as a timer.

      Nigel
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      • Profile picture of the author sylviad
        Originally Posted by Chris Lockwood View Post

        I was halfway through your list when OMG who is that on TV?
        That is soooo funny, Chris. I most definitely can relate to THAT!

        Originally Posted by Wendy Maki View Post

        ...First, I realized after about 20 years of trying to believe what others said about computers being faster that I actually need to do a lot of things on paper. I need to spread them out, see them, etc. Visual and kinesthetic. Trying to remember what is out of eyesight on a computer just does not work for me. Having realized that, I accepted it and started working accordingly.

        Second, I now use these sort of mini file folder thingies -- one for each thing that could be considered a project. (man, the name of those things is completely escaping me :confused: ). They are about 2 inches thick with about 8-12 individual accordian envelope spaces to put file folders in. I get the plastic ones (not cardboard) because they have a spine that I can label and they stand up on my shelf. Easy to grab and move around. Everything for the project goes into it, organized into sub-folders.

        What's really good about this system for me is that when I haven't touched a given project for a while, it's soooo much easier to figger out what I was doing and pick it back up...
        Sounds like you were trained off-line like me. Before computers, I had an excellent system for taking in projects and getting them done when I was a typist. Simple really. One IN tray, one OUT tray, oldest file (project) on top. The work I do now as a writer involves way more paperwork.

        When computers arrived, I was lost without that hard copy but I've become more used to the digital world now. Except it's caused another problem... I have so many file folders on my computer I frequently lose stuff.

        That "thing", if I'm reading you right, is an "Accordian File".

        Originally Posted by George Wright View Post

        Great list examples Sylvia. Mind maps using your examples would be awesome.

        George Wright
        I haven't learned about Mind Maps yet, even though I did purchase something recently that I never got around to figuring out.

        Originally Posted by garyv View Post

        Wow - Great post Sylia! Looking over your post again, I'd pay just to see your project todo list. You should consider putting together a detailed explanation of everything you do to get a product up and running - and put it up in a WSO. I'd definitely pay to see it & use it.
        Interesting you should say that, Gary. I was thinking the very same thing when I was writing the OP and realizing how much better it would be with actual samples. As I get my lists built, I'll look into it.

        It's good to see so many people benefiting from my post.

        Sylvia
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        • Profile picture of the author garyv
          Originally Posted by sylviad View Post


          Interesting you should say that, Gary. I was thinking the very same thing when I was writing the OP and realizing how much better it would be with actual samples. As I get my lists built, I'll look into it.

          If you decide to do a WSO on this, please PM me so I can buy it.
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        • Profile picture of the author Mary Laine
          This is a great post, I have printed it out and am going to implement, but...I'll be looking for that WSO
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        • Profile picture of the author Wendy Maki
          Originally Posted by sylviad View Post

          [B]
          That "thing", if I'm reading you right, is an "Accordian File".

          Sylvia
          OMG, *of course* it is. DUH. ( I read it and couldn't stop laughing.)

          A little trouble focusing there...

          Wendy.
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          • Profile picture of the author sylviad
            Originally Posted by Wendy Maki View Post

            OMG, *of course* it is. DUH. ( I read it and couldn't stop laughing.)

            A little trouble focusing there...

            Wendy.
            It's late, I guess. But I have to admit I was tickled that you actually wrote the word and didn't recognize it.

            Sylvia
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            • Profile picture of the author sylviad
              It's interesting that so many people saw the benefits of this idea. I've been accused of going overboard with my lists. But even lists need organization. Until I came up with this method, I made lists that got lost under my other work. So these forms have really helped because they are all in one place, rather than scattered around my desk.

              Sylvia
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              • Profile picture of the author garyv
                Originally Posted by sylviad View Post

                It's interesting that so many people saw the benefits of this idea. I've been accused of going overboard with my lists. But even lists need organization. Until I came up with this method, I made lists that got lost under my other work. So these forms have really helped because they are all in one place, rather than scattered around my desk.

                Sylvia
                I know what you mean. I've been struggling with ways to stay on task. Recently I've been using a small white-board with erasable marker. It seems to work pretty well for me so far - when I can find the marker.
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  • Profile picture of the author EcoverGuru
    Wow, Sylvia..this is a great information for me...the details! Gonna print it out and applying it daily ^_^ Thx!
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  • Profile picture of the author Ben_Curtis
    Funny. I read Steven's post last nite and I made a list for today, too! LOL
    The check list is a great idea, but I'd like someone (you?) to do it for me, because of the time that would take. Organization saves you time, but only after you're organized-lol!
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    • Profile picture of the author sylviad
      Originally Posted by Ben_Curtis View Post

      Funny. I read Steven's post last nite and I made a list for today, too! LOL
      The check list is a great idea, but I'd like someone (you?) to do it for me, because of the time that would take. Organization saves you time, but only after you're organized-lol!
      Your wish is granted, Ben! See my sig.

      Sylvia
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  • Profile picture of the author lassitermarketing
    Great lists. I definitely need to get more organized with my IM efforts.
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    Susan Lassiter-Lyons
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    Have fun. Create value.

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  • Profile picture of the author garyv
    I just purchased your WSO - and your lists are great. I look forward to putting them to good use.

    Here's Sylvia's WSO if you haven't seen it yet :
    http://www.warriorforum.com/warrior-...tml#post263095

    It's well worth $5 - so BUY IT!
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    • Profile picture of the author sylviad
      Thanks Gary,

      Glad to have been able to provide this useful tool. I find that the article tracker one is great for seeing where your efforts are making a difference. Plus it helps me to keep track of what articles I did. They tend to get buried in my growing pile of articles which makes it difficult to know when I did what. The form that includes the directory submissions helps me to make sure I targeted all the top directories. I tend to miss some when I do them.

      Another thing I realized is that while there are tons of directories to send your articles, only a few actually bring clicks. I used a submission service that send them to several hundred databases. In the end, only a few actually got results.

      Sylvia
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      • Profile picture of the author mjbmedia
        great thread Sylvia
        Lists are awesome, as long as you tick them all off in the time set and as long as you dont spend the valuable time just writing the list. ie do it in the evening when the PCs off, some rubbish is on TV and the other half is asleep on your shoulder!

        When i had a JOB I never had an issue getting the work done. I had a pile of stuff and as i was getting thru it i could see that it was gettign done and that was 'motivation' to keep going.

        Now working from home theres not an actual pile of stuff so i never felt i was gettign much done, even tho i was.

        So now i actually have a pile of cds relative to the number of things Im to do that day, and as i finish each one, i take one of the cds off the pile and see the work load reducing and realise what i have actually acheived that day, well it works for me.
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        Mike

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        • Profile picture of the author sylviad
          I know what you mean. It was so much easier keeping track when everything was kept in file folders on my desk, rather than in cyberspace. It took me ages to adapted to this "invisible" work environment. Heck, I spent 40 years in the "hard copy" world. With file folders, each contained a project and when it was done, the file disappeared. It provided a tremendous sense of accomplishment.

          Sylvia
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  • Profile picture of the author Jacob7
    thanks for the info!
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  • Profile picture of the author Habitat
    I do the same thing but less in depth. Great post Helpful info. SAVED
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  • Profile picture of the author Sadat Ali
    What I love about checklists is that they are simple to follow. And just doing each step and crossing it out as you go along gives a very satisfying feeling as well as providing clarity. Thanks for sharing Sylvia.

    Sadat
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    • Profile picture of the author Rod Cortez
      I love check lists. They're effective and they work. Though I knew I was going overboard with the CLs when I had a check list of my check lists........

      RoD
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      • Profile picture of the author sylviad
        Originally Posted by Rod Cortez View Post

        I love check lists. They're effective and they work. Though I knew I was going overboard with the CLs when I had a check list of my check lists........

        RoD
        rofl

        That'd be me... when I created this checklist WSO I caught myself wanting to do another list off one list that referred back to the first list. What's perhaps sadder is that I have checklists created years ago that pop up here and there - and they are for projects I have yet to complete. Interestingly, these projects keep coming up on subsequent lists, so I've been on this perpetual circle of list building without action.

        My partner had a response to my lists: "Why do you need a list? You make too many lists. Just get busy and do it." Well, that was fine for him. He only had to worry about one thing... making sure the STOL aircraft would get off the ground fast enough. I, on the other hand, have tons of research and they all require yet another list telling me what to do with all that info.

        Sylvia
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  • Profile picture of the author karlp295
    This is a real problem for me but I think planning too much would take away valuable time from the actual tasks that I need to do, it's a balance
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  • Profile picture of the author Bigsofty
    I have a much better system; at the end of the day I write down everything I've done that day.

    That way I get everything on my list finished.




    B.
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  • Profile picture of the author Angela V. Edwards
    Great post, Sylvia. This really IS a good way to stay focused.
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  • Profile picture of the author John Henderson
    Sylvia,

    I was struck by the way that your Project Check List consists of a list of tasks which are then broken down into sub-tasks each of which may be broken down further into sub-sub-tasks... and so on.

    This "hierarchical" structure can be replicated in a mind-map or (if you're more text-minded than graphically-minded) an outline (Confession: I'm a huge fan of outliner programs!).

    Here's a screen grab of MS Word in 'outliner mode' showing exactly what a text outline looks like:



    You'll notice how "Chapter 1" is split into topics "1a" and "1b", and also how their subordination to the main chapter heading is shown by an indent. But then "1a" is itself split up into "steps" and they are indented with respect to "1a" to show their subordination. The steps are then split.... and so on.

    If you want to try creating your to-do lists as outlines there's an online outliner program specially for "to-do" lists, called... "Todoist"

    Here's a review and a link: Task Management: Todoist online task manager

    Edit: there's another outliner that's online, and it's called "Loose Stitch"... http://www.loosestitch.com/
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    • Profile picture of the author sylviad
      Thanks for the suggestion, John.

      What I like about my system is that it's easy to add things either on the computer or by hand as they come to you while you are working. When I first used this new system, I had a list of steps but soon realized that I'd missed a few things and ended up squeezing them sideways on the page.

      So I redesigned them into a proper form with columns. At the end are empty slots to add things as they come to you. If you're using them directly on the computer, you can insert a row where necessary to keep the list in order. When you do another similar project, you can use the same form which gets better with each project because you keep improving on it by adding things.

      As you go, you are modifying my templates to suit your own needs which makes them far more effective for each person using them.

      Your method is good to get a basic guideline down. And of course people work better with different systems. So something for everyone I guess.

      Bigsofty

      VERY smart. That's what I should do.
      But tell me... at the end of the day, can you remember all that you did?

      Sylvia
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  • Profile picture of the author MikeAmbrosio
    Thanks for this Sylvia.

    A couple of years back, when I worked my day job, it seems I was able to do twice as much with my on line business in half the time as compared to these days.

    Then while reading your post, it hit me...

    I ALWAYS used to have a 3-ring binder in front of me to make lists, jot down ideas, etc. Now I don't.

    But by the end of the day I will have one again.

    Mike
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  • Profile picture of the author Shevd
    Excellent Post

    I have saved this post in my treasure chest
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