Advertising

Last Updated on February 16, 2021

9 Ways To Focus and Be Super Productive At Work

9 Ways To Focus and Be Super Productive At Work
Advertising

In this modern age, our working environment requires much more creativity and patience. However, it is also much easier to get distracted with the internet and our phones which moves us further away from being productive while working. Here are 9 ways to focus and be super productive while working:

1. Remove Distractions

This includes distracting websites and co-workers.

Research has shown that after an external distraction such as a co-worker trying to start a conversation or checking email notifications, it takes nearly 25 minutes[1] to re-engage with whatever you were doing. This is important because it’s remarkably easy to get distracted while working. If we keep giving into distractions, then it increases the amount of time we have to spend to complete tasks and reduces the amount of enjoyment we get from it.

Removing distractions makes it easier to focus on difficult tasks.

How can you do this?

  • Turn off email notifications.
  • Ask co-workers (kindly) not to distract you while working.
  • Remove digital clutter (unneeded open tabs, half finished documents on your desktop).

2. Focus on one task

We can’t multi-task too well.[2]

We’re better off focusing on one task at a time, especially if our work is cognitively demanding. We’ll get more done during our allocated time, enjoy it more because we’re more engaged and spend less time feeling frantic. When we try focusing on more than one thing, we tend to do both of them poorly. It leads to more mistakes and as a result, we need to correct ourselves more often.

Advertising

How can you do this?

  • Remove distractions.
  • Prioritize tasks and work on the most important at the time.
  • Move smaller tasks to later in the day.
  • Practice being more mindful while completing the activities.

3. Focus in Short Bursts

Focusing hard can be difficult. that’s why we do it in short bursts.

Welcome to the “pomodoro technique”. It’s rather simple. We focus on a task for a short time without distractions and take a break. Then repeat until the task is completed. It understands that focusing on difficult tasks is both efficient but tiring.

  1. Work for 25 minutes.
  2. Take a break for 5.
  3. Repeat 4 times.
  4. After 2 hours, take a longer break.
  5. Start again.

By doing this, we’ll have more energy to focus on the tasks we have instead of becoming extremely tired and falling into the trap of pseudo-work. That is, working for long hours without accomplishing much of value. You’ll feel busy and tired while having done much less than you could have.

How can you do this?

  • Set a timer for 25 minutes.
  • Remove distractions.
  • Take frequent breaks.

4. Check email less

Email is very good at distracting us with things that might be important but often aren’t. It’s extremely tempting to keep our email open because we think we have to be connected to other people all the time.

We don’t need to check our email so often. If something is so urgent that it needs your immediate attention, communicating by email is a bad choice. They’ll call you instead.

Advertising

How can you do this?

  • Disable email notifications.
  • Assign email checking time. Either in the morning, just before lunch or in the middle of the afternoon. The rest of your time is for working.
  • Keep emails to five sentences or less. You’ll spend less time with emails and free up time for more important tasks.

5. Find the most important activities

This is often known as the 80/20 rule in many productivity circles. It simply says that 80% of your results come from 20% of your actions. For example, 20% of paying customers might give 80% of your revenue.

If we do this, we find the tasks we want to focus our time rather than doing tasks that require a lot of work with a low payout.

How can you do this?

  • Make a list of all the things you need to do.
  • Ask, if you could only do one activity here, what would it be?
  • After you’ve compiled a short list of activities, aim to focus most of your energy there.

6. Make a procrastination list

With this in mind, it’s helpful to make a list of less important tasks you can still complete while you put off the most important task. This way, time spent procrastinating does not always mean browsing the internet mindlessly – time can still be used somewhat productively.

How can you do this?

  • Make a list of tasks.
  • Prioritize them on a scale of one to five (one being the most important).
  • When you find yourself procrastinating, start doing the second most important task on your list.

7. Go outside and walk around

More often than not, while working, we’re sitting down in a room with a lot of artificial light. It’s remarkably helpful to spend some time outside during breaks.

Advertising

Firstly, changing your environment and getting some fresh air is a great way to reduce stress. If we find a problem difficult, going for a short walk gives us a good chance at returning to the problem with a relaxed mindset and new ways to approach a problem.

Secondly, a lot of research is coming out about the hazards of sitting down too much. In a study of nearly a million people,[3] it was found that it increases our chances of diabetes and cardiovascular problems.

Thirdly, most of us should simply exercise more. A short walk during a lunch break can be a useful starting point to increasing our energy levels through the day.

How can you do this?

  • During short breaks and lunchtimes, move away from the desk and go outside.
  • Have lunch outside.
  • Change location completely and work in a public garden.

8. Be Kind to Yourself

We are our harshest critics. Russ Harris, author of The Happiness Trap, claims that 80% of our thoughts are negative in some way.

You’ve probably noticed yourself being extremely critical over small things. Forgetting to reply to an email or complete a task, doing poorly in an exam, or even smaller things like saying “you too” when a server says “enjoy your food”.

They occupy our mind and make us less likely to try again because they’re very easy to believe. If we’re kinder to ourselves, we’ll spend less time criticizing ourselves over simple mistakes.

Advertising

Why bother being more productive if we hate ourselves in the process?

How can you do this?

  • Label needlessly negative thoughts as unhelpful (they rarely inspire you to try harder or try something new).
  • Remember that they’re simply reactions to a task in front of you. Not facts.
  • Talk to yourself as if you were a friend.

9. Practice Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is the act of focusing all of your attention onto your breathing and your nearby surroundings.

It helps you engage with tasks quicker and with greater consistency. While meditating, you’ll practise noticing a distraction and calmly returning your attention back to your breath. When we experience external distractions (co-worker popping in to say hi) and internal distractions (I feel like browsing the internet again), we’ll slowly learn to let them pass and return to our work in hand.

If the fact you’ll concentrate isn’t enough, meditation is extremely calming. Our overall stress will reduce, we’ll become more immersed in the present moment and enjoy our journey to being more productive and creating more.

How can you do this?

  • Sit (or lie down) in a comfortable but alert position.
  • Set a timer for 2 minutes.
  • Focus on your breathing.

At first it’ll be difficult. Thoughts will fly into your head and it’ll be difficult to just focus on your breathing. With practice, you get better at returning your attention to your breathing.

Advertising

Productivity is much more enjoyable when we experience greater focus, fewer distractions and more engagement with our tasks.

Featured photo credit: Viktor Hanacek via picjumbo.com

Reference

More by this author

Focus and Productivity 9 Ways To Focus and Be Super Productive At Work 8 Things to Remember If You Love Someone With Chronic Pain

Trending in Focus

1 5 Simple Steps to Creating a Productive Daily Schedule 2 Can’t Focus? The Mistake You’re Making and How to Focus Better 3 7 Best Noise-Canceling Headphones For Productivity Boost 4 Why Making Yourself a Priority Boosts Your Productivity 5 How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Published on August 3, 2021

5 Simple Steps to Creating a Productive Daily Schedule

5 Simple Steps to Creating a Productive Daily Schedule
Advertising

These days, it’s harder than ever to focus on your daily tasks and stay productive. There’s just too much going on around us. Between endless social media notifications, mountains of emails, and the latest must-watch content on countless streaming media services, staying focused isn’t easy. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to maintain a productive daily schedule.

You might be shocked to find out that there are some simple tricks you can use to take back control of your day and get everything done. It all begins with organization. If you plan out your days in the right way—taking distractions into account in advance—you can eliminate some of the unexpected diversions that rob you of productivity.

Of course, you’ve got to commit yourself to following a schedule every day. And if you aren’t willing or able to do that, you can stop reading right here.

But if you are willing to learn what it takes to build a productive daily schedule, you’ve come to the right place. We’re going to go over the five simple steps you can use to maximize your output, eliminate wasted time, and work at peak efficiency every day. If you’re ready to take back control of your day, let’s get started.

1. Discover Your Optimal Work Schedule

Before you can decide how to make the best possible use of your day, you need to understand how your physiology and personal work style play a role in your productivity.

For example, if you’re a morning person, it might be best for you to put your most important tasks right up front in your daily schedule. Conversely, it would be a disaster to leave those things for the end of the day.

But you can even go further than that.

Advertising

To discover your optimal work schedule, you must first collect some data. Start by tracking your work habits (whatever they currently are) for about two to three weeks. Make note of the times of the day when you get the most done, and log any external distractions that may be interfering in your work. The idea is to discover when you’re at your natural energy peak and filter out external factors working against you.

This accomplishes two things. First, it will help you to zero in on your most productive hours. Second, it will identify which distractions rob you of the most time. And once you know those two things, you will be in a much better position to build a schedule that maximizes your productivity.

2. Block Off Your Productive Time

After you’ve figured out what times of day are the most productive for you, the next step in creating your new schedule is to block off that time and reserve it for your most important work—and by blocking it off, I mean you have to arrange for those times to be distraction-free and preserved completely for working.

If that means you have to configure your Wi-Fi to shut off during those hours to keep from falling down the internet rabbit hole, so be it. If you have to set an auto-responder in your email to let everyone know they’ll have to wait for a response at a later date, do it. If you’ve got to turn to a time-locking app to prevent you from taking too many smartphone breaks, that’s fine, too.

In short, you need to create an environment where you can concentrate on the tasks at hand and see to it that you only have the tools you need to complete those tasks. Then, you can schedule your most important work each day into those time slots and you can be reasonably sure you’ll get all of it done.

If you think that’s extreme, let me assure you, it isn’t—and I can demonstrate why.

Just look at the repeated studies that indicate that the average worker is only productive for about three hours per day.[1] Now, go ahead and look back at your data from step one. I’d wager that you came up with average daily productivity that’s somewhere close to that number.

Advertising

If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be reading an article looking for the path to a more productive schedule. You’d be writing one, instead.

In any case, you should now understand why it’s so critical to jealously guard your most productive time in this way. By maximizing what you get done in those hours, you’re maximizing your total output. It’s that simple.

3. Schedule Appropriate Break Times

There is one thing—and one thing only—that you should allow to interrupt your most productive time: periodic breaks. As strange as it might sound, we tend to be most productive when we work in sprints. And even stranger, statistical analysis reveals that the ideal length of each work sprint is 52 minutes, followed by a 17-minute break.[2]

Yes, you read that right. And yes, this means you should allocate almost an hour of your standard 8-hour workday to doing non-work-related tasks. It will allow you to focus better during your work sprints and help you get more done. So, you don’t even have to feel guilty about it!

The best part is that this also holds during your less productive hours. That means you won’t be wasting the time before and after your peak productivity hours. And while you won’t be at peak efficiency, you’ll still get more done than you once did.

Before we move on, you might be wondering: isn’t this just the Pomodoro Technique by another name? The answer is—sort of.

That particular technique calls for working in shorter sprints—25 minutes, in fact—with even shorter breaks in between them. While it may boost productivity as well, it’s also quite difficult to build a schedule around. The reason for that is obvious: most peoples’ workdays include things like mandatory meetings and check-ins that last longer than 25 minutes (whether your schedule should include these is another matter we’ll get to momentarily). That means you’ll be trying to carve up your time in a way that can’t help but become inefficient.

Advertising

With a sprint time closer to a full hour, your options increase. You can cluster your 15-minute and half-hour meetings together to get them out of the way during one of your less productive hours and cluster your task-filled sprints together in your most productive periods. And once you get a handle on how long your average task length is, you’ll come to see why this works out well compared to the Pomodoro approach.

4. Schedule Availabilities in the Shortest Possible Windows

The trouble with what we’ve covered so far is that you won’t be working in a vacuum. That means co-workers, family members, and even phone scammers are going to do everything they can to interrupt your days and harm your productivity. They don’t mean to do it—except the phone scammers, of course—but the effect is the same either way.

To accommodate this, you’re going to have to schedule time in your day to deal with things like phone calls, face-to-face conversations, and email correspondence. But there are two tricks that can help you tame all of those time-draining tasks and keep them from overwhelming your day.

The first is to set aside specific times to handle such tasks and to let everyone around you know that you won’t be available at any other time. By doing this, you’re pre-empting many of the distractions that you’d otherwise have to deal with. If you warn others about your availability times in advance, you don’t have to feel bad about ignoring calls and emails as they come in—or sending them straight to voicemail or an auto-reply.

But none of that will stop people from making demands on your time, anyway. After all, you can’t eliminate every meeting from your schedule—even though there’s strong evidence to suggest you should try.[3] But what you can do is change the default conditions of those meeting requests.

To wit: if you have a calendar system where people can request meetings with you, try lowering the default meeting time in that system. This is possible in Google Calendar as well as in Microsoft Outlook, and likely other scheduling apps, too. Change your default to the shortest time that makes sense for your specific needs. For Elon Musk, this translates into 5-minute windows.[4] For the rest of us, something like ten or fifteen minutes should suffice.

The reason this works is that it forces people requesting your time to ask for more of it, instead of consuming it by default. And guess what? You’ll likely find that most people either won’t bother to ask or even notice that you’ve shortened your availability windows. That’s an instant time-saver for you.

Advertising

5. Avoid Multitasking at all Costs

Even though you may believe yourself to be an all-star multitasker, I have bad news for you—you’re not. Nobody is. Multiple studies have proven this again and again.[5] And the more you try to do it, the less efficient you’ll become. And you’re also likely to increase the number of errors you make in your work and have to waste even more time cleaning up your own mess.

From a daily scheduling perspective, the takeaway here is obvious. It’s that you should try to find a place in your schedule for every single necessary task you’re aware of, and try to avoid the temptation to squeeze unscheduled tasks into the mix. But you can do even better than that.

If you examine the reason that we humans are so bad at multitasking, you’ll find that it’s because our brains struggle to navigate switching between different types of tasks. This creates an effect that researchers call a switching cost, which means we unconsciously waste time fumbling to adapt to each new task. In other words, trying to complete two tasks at the same time will always take longer than doing them in succession.

You can use this knowledge to your advantage by scheduling similar tasks back-to-back in your individual work sprints. When you do, you’ll find that you’ll get more things done in each time window and waste much less time. When you add that time savings up over the course of a day, it’s a bigger deal than you think. Research indicates that switching costs rob us of up to 40% of our productivity, so reorganizing your task list in this way might almost double your productivity.[6]

Final Thoughts

If you’ve made it this far, then you should now know how to build yourself a daily schedule that maximizes your productivity. And if you can manage to stick to that schedule even as the world around you tries its best to get in your way, you’ll have a major advantage over your peers.

Just try not to gloat when you wrap up your work early and get back to your life while everyone else struggles to keep up. Instead, you should offer them your help with getting their schedules under control. They’ll be certain to appreciate some tips from an acknowledged expert.

More Tips on Daily Planning

Featured photo credit: Eric Rothermel via unsplash.com

Advertising

Reference

Read Next