Competitive Advantage

Delivering Tips, Insights and Resources for Success

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Competitive Advantage

Delivering Tips, Insights and Resources for Success

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Sharpening your focus — tips to stay on track for multi-taskers!


Prepare for a work meeting tomorrow. Pick the kids up from school. Get them to practices and games. Pick up dinner. Study for a test in your class…

The never-ending mental to do list plays repeatedly in your head.

At the end of an extra-long work day there are still hours of juggling life’s responsibilities. You wear the badge of multitasking proudly. You’ve got this – right?

Except for the stress, the sleeplessness, and the feeling that life is spinning out of control.

Hold on a minute — now is the time to take a moment to breathe…

And realize that maybe multitasking is the problem, not the solution.

One Thing At A Time

Multitasking is often seen as the solution to managing our busy lives, but the real key to time management is focusing on the task at hand, one task at a time. Give the people talking to you your full attention. Be in the present moment.

Sounds simple, right? Except that as a non-traditional college student you have less time and more family and work responsibilities. And now you’ve added college classes and studying to your “To Do” list? But before you question your sanity, realize that while it might be tempting to do two things simultaneously, often multitasking does more harm than good. Research shows that about 98% of people are less productive when they multitask as they are not focusing on a single task. That’s because the human brain can only focus on one task at a time, according to most recent studies.

What we think is multi-tasking is really multi-focusing — shifting back and forth from one task to another. It’s a work meeting or class session with everyone on their phones or laptops, reading texts, checking emails, and typing reports instead of listening to the speaker. But since you only half listened to all these tasks, information needs to be repeated. You have to reread presentations and reports. Nothing ever seems to get done and projects start piling up as deadlines loom.

Recent studies show distraction is a part of our daily lives:

  • Adults check their phone up to 150 times a day, or every six or seven minutes
  • More than half of adults and teenagers do not let an hour pass without checking their phone.
  • Three of four mobile users feel panicked when they cannot find their phone right away
  • One in two check their phone messages as soon as they wake up, while they are still in bed
  • One in three check it in the bathroom, while three in ten check it when they dine with other people.

WHOA! When it comes to shifting from multi-tasking to “single-tasking” we definitely have a problem. But luckily, there are simple solutions:

1. Use technology to organize and make the most of your home and work time. Remember – time management is NOT multitasking.

  • Block distracting websites. If you’re like most of us, distracting websites and apps can be the death of any productive, focused studying session. You sit down to study and before you can even begin, you get a notification or a headline catches your eye. Seemingly small distractions like these quickly steal minutes and then hours. On average, it takes 23 minutes to refocus on your work once interrupted. You may think you’re getting so much done while you are multitasking, but in reality, you are 40% less productive. Try a site blocker like Freedom, these programs allow you to temporarily block distracting sites and apps across your Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, Chromebook, and Linux devices. Select what sites or apps you want to block while studying, choose your devices, select for how long, and voila – all your worst distractions are blocked. With Freedom, you can even schedule recurring blocks that align with your scheduled study sessions to help make focusing a habit.
  • Use organizing apps such as to simplify your goals, tasks, and projects into actionable lists. One of Todoist’s coolest features is its ability to make your daily to-do list for you. Simplify your workflow by connecting Todoist to your email, calendar, and files. Todoist keeps track of both professional and personal projects and tasks. You can make lists, collaborate at work, and keep track of family and kids’ responsibilities.
  • Automate tasks using online services for banking, bill paying, responding to emails, and scheduling appointments. It’s hard enough to get through our tasks each day without nagging reminders to pay rent or send an invoice. Thankfully, you don’t have to do that anymore. You can use technology to handle these recurring tasks, freeing up precious energy to focus on whatever needs undivided attention.

2. Be in Control of YOUR Schedule — Plan YOUR Day, YOUR Way

  • Create a dedicated workspace where you’ll go to work and leave once you’re finished. Find a space at home that you can make your own office. Clear away clutter and make sure all your most-used tools are organized and within reach.
    A good place to start is having a pre-study ritual that involves things like clearing your desk, closing your door, grabbing all the materials you’ll need, putting on some headphones, and creating a to-do list. Taking five minutes to set up your workspace will not only physically prepare you to study, but also help train your brain to focus more efficiently. With the space around you clear of distractions, your mind is free to focus on what is most important.
  • Plan work sessions and take regular breaks. It’s hard to stay focused on the same thing for a long time, so make things easier on yourself by working in short bursts such as the Pomodoro method that consists of working in 25-minute increments with 5-minute breaks in between each session. 
  • Batch or group related tasks together and get them done at the same time. Instead of cooking every night, for instance, you could do some bulk meal prep on Sunday evening and not worry about it the rest of the week.

3. Make self-care a priority — You wouldn’t drive a car cross country without first making sure it had a tune-up, good tires, and a tank full of gas. But often we expect our brains and bodies to function without the basics of healthy living. By getting 7–9 hours of sleep, eating right, and exercising daily you ensure you have the right frame of mind to start your day. You focus best when you feel your best and can then complete the task at hand refreshed. Schedule time each day for a moment of self-care such as:

  • Reading your favorite book
  • Creating a relaxing nighttime routine before bed
  • Journaling
  • Exercising
  • Going for a walk
  • Meditating

Scheduling breaks between work sessions actually helps maintain concentration and efficiency. Even the most disciplined people can’t stay focused for an entire workday. Without regularly scheduled breaks, you run the risk of becoming distracted and inefficient. Breaks give you something to look forward to — and a chance to recharge.

Ask for Help: You Can’t Do It Alone

Your C2C coach is your safety net — they can connect you with resources and strategies. C2C alumna Kimberly Luckett thought she could do it alone. But after 18 years, she was overwhelmed with life’s challenges, and made the call to C2C. Her C2C Coach and the program’s resources turned her life around and led to her earning two degrees. Read about Kimberly’s full success story!

The Complete to Compete program offers coach support services, the C2C Grant, tailored degree programs, and more that can help qualifying adult students in Mississippi. However, each of the 24 community colleges and public universities also have local services available such as online degree programs, support labs, virtual tutoring, childcare and adult learner organizations. These services exist to help non-traditional students succeed in college. But first you need to reach out and gather the people and resources you need:

  • Homework Help — If you don’t understand a particular assignment, ask the instructor for help. Collaborate with others in your classes – form study groups
  • Sharing is caring — Get family to help with cleaning, cooking, errands, and other chores at home
  • It really does take a village — find friends to help with carpooling and getting kids to activities. They can also be a great source of motivation and moral support.

Be Kind to Yourself and Enjoy the Ride

Remain committed to giving all of yourself (including your focus) to what is in front of you at any given moment. Avoid, at all cost stressing over getting everything done at that moment. Remind yourself that you are working towards YOUR dream and making progress each and every day. Don’t look on college as another burden. Look at it, for what it is… YOUR opportunity to learn, grow and refine the skills you’ll need to achieve life success. This is your time to prepare and position yourself so you can bring about your dreams of a better life. All the scheduling, planning, and reaching out to get the help and resources…all those tools, skills, and experiences are what will propel you along life’s winding road to success.

It’s Never Too Late!

It’s never too late to learn. No one who earns a degree or lands a great job after returning to school has regrets. Look at it this way: You’ll be 35, 45 or 65 years old whether you return and complete your degree or not. Why shouldn’t you make the most of those years?

Embrace this experience, look forward to crossing that stage on graduation day, and never lose sight of your vision of a better tomorrow.

C2C — The Boost You Need to Get Your Degree!

C2C helped provide a lifeline for thousands of Mississippi adults. Many, like Kimberly, are realizing their goals of higher pay and career advancement. Others did it to serve as an example for their children. Whatever your reason, take it from Kimberly, “You don’t have to do it alone!” Connect with C2C. It just may provide the boost you need to finish your degree with a plan that fits your life, circumstances, and needs. Whether you are returning to complete an associate degree, bachelor’s degree, or both, C2C can help!


C2C is a state program that helps Mississippi adults who previously attended college earn a degree and create a brighter future.