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9 Ways To Focus and Be Super Productive At Work

9 Ways To Focus and Be Super Productive At Work

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 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. (Which is supported by study after study after study).

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.

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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.

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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.

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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, 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.

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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.

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

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019

10 Best Ted Talks About Procrastination That Will Ignite Your Motivation

10 Best Ted Talks About Procrastination That Will Ignite Your Motivation

There are two types of people in this world; one who wants to complete their work as early as possible and one who wants to delay it as much they can. The first category of this depicts ‘precrastinators’ and the latter one are termed as ‘procrastinators’.

Much has been researched and published about procrastination; most of the studies terming it as detrimental to one’s health and adding to stress levels. Though, there are ‘procrastinating apologists’ as you would call them who proclaim there are a few benefits of it as well. But scientists have argued that the detriments of procrastination far outweigh the short-term benefits of it.

Everybody procrastinates, but not everybody is a procrastinator. Procrastination is habitual, not situational.

For an employee, it means piling up work until the end hours of their shift and then completing it in a hurry. For a student, it means not studying for an exam that is due the next week and cramming up the whole book one night before.

If you fall into this category, do not worry, there have also been articles published and speeches given by successful leaders on how procrastinators aren’t so bad after all.

Here are 10 of the best Ted Talks about procrastination that will help you regain motivation:

1. Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator, by Tim Urban

Tim Urban gives his funny uptake on procrastination and dives deep into how a procrastinator’s mind functions. He goes ahead and tells the audience about how ‘precrastinators’ have a rational decision-maker in their mind but in a procrastinator’s mind, there are two other entities existing — the ‘instant gratification monkey’ and ‘the panic monster’

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From the video, you will learn how to stay aware of the ‘instant gratification monkey’ whenever you have to complete a task.

2. The Surprising Habits Of Original Thinkers, by Adam Grant

In this video, Adam Grant builds on the concepts of ‘instant gratification monkey’ and ‘the panic monster,’ and marks a balance between ‘precrastinators’ and procrastinators giving existence to a productive and creative persona.

He talks about how a lot of great personalities in the course of history were procrastinators giving an example of Martin Luther King Jr. delaying the writing of his speech. ‘I have a dream’ was not in the script but was an original phrase by the leader; he opened himself to every possible avenue by not going with the script.

You can learn about how one has to be different and better rather than be the first-mover, going deep into the correlation between original thinkers and procrastinators.

3. An End To Procrastination, by Archana Murthy

According to a survey,[1] 20% of Americans are chronic procrastinators. Study after study shows chronic procrastination isn’t just laziness and poor time-management, but is actually a byproduct of negative emotions such as guilt, anxiety, depression and low self-worth — which is different from the contrary belief.

Archana Murthy gives us an insight into the procrastinator’s plight and provides ways to help the procrastinator in you.

For a fellow procrastinator, you should check out her good advice on how to end it.

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4. Why We Procrastinate, by Vik Nithy

Vik Nithy has already found 23 companies before coming to give his speech on procrastination. He puts forward the structure of our brain, showing the prefrontal cortex as the intelligent one telling us to complete the assignment due next day.

Procrastinators are threatened by complex work which gives them anxiety and that is where Amygdala comes in telling us to find pleasure in other activities.

Going ahead, you’ll from him how to overcome procrastination i.e. planning for goals, time, resources, process, distractions, and for failure.

5. Trust The Procrastinator, by Valerie Brown

Frankly, this is one of the best speeches on procrastination given on the TedTalks platform. Valerie Brown tells us that we live in a society where every body wants everything right now and procrastinators aren’t in those ‘right-now’ people.

She gives us an example of great procrastinators like Leonardo Da Vinci, who regarded himself as a failure at one point of time and took 16 years to complete the Mona Lisa. She gives us another perspective on procrastinators that it isn’t necessarily bad for one’s career or health.

6. Procrastination Is The Key To Problem Solving, by Andrea Jackson

Andrea Jackson gives us her two categories of procrastinators: the accidental procrastinators and the deliberate procrastinators. She puts Leonardo Da Vinci in the former category and Thomas Edison in the latter one.

There is a part where she labels procrastinators as unlocking a supersonic jigsaw puzzle in their head when they procrastinate; it means bringing thousands of ideas in one’s head when one procrastinates and keeps thinking about it. She calls Salvador Dali and Aristotle as deliberate procrastinators where they used to delay work in order to achieve a more creative result.

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In this video, you’ll learn a new perspective about procrastinators.

7. The Vaccination For Procrastination, by Bronwyn Clee

Bronwyn Clee takes us in the psychology of a procrastinator, telling us that fear stops us taking up new work.

She shares how she taught herself to be a decision-maker and not to fear if she will be able to take an action or not. From this video, you will learn how to bring the change in yourself and end procrastination.

8. I’m Not Lazy, I’m Procrastinating, by Victoria Gonzalez

Coming from a millennial, this is more relatable to the younger generation.

Victoria Gonzalez tells us that procrastination has nothing do with time-management skills. In fact, a procrastinator puts off work but with an intention to complete it; lazy people are the opposite of that who don’t even try.

9. Change Anything! Use Skillpower Over Willpower, by AI Wizler

Al Wizler, cofounder of VitalSmarts, gives us an example of her mother’s smoking habits which she wanted to quit but she just couldn’t even after trying for years. Eventually, she died of cancer.

He reminds us to the need to take control of the forces that influence our decisions, rather than letting them take control of ourselves.

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In this video, you’ll learn the importance of self-reflection, identifying your behaviours, and getting to work on it.

10. How To Motivate Yourself To Change Your Behaviour, by Tali Sharot

Tali Sharot, a neuroscientist explains how we behave when put through alternating situations.

She has found that people get to work when they are rewarded for an action immediately. Procrastinators can get themselves to work and reward themselves for it, which will lead to a change in their behaviour if they actually start that process of working sooner and completing it.

In this video, you’ll learn about the role of celebrating small wins and tracking your progress when you’re trying to reach your goals.

The Bottom Line

Procrastinators can find all kinds of advices on TedTalks.

A few of them, defending the idea and proclaiming that it actually allows for a more creative process and one that people shouldn’t feel so guilty about. Some of them, giving suggestions on how to put an end to it and making you a faster worker.

It all depends on how you want to perceive it and if you want to, you can find the cure for this ailment.

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Featured photo credit: Han Chau via unsplash.com

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