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11 Unexpected Ways to Sharpen Your Focus And Boost Your Daily Productivity

11 Unexpected Ways to Sharpen Your Focus And Boost Your Daily Productivity
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The ability to focus may be one of the most important techniques to master in order to achieve big things in life. We all know that in order to focus we should switch off our phones, close our email and take regular breaks. But here are a few more unexpected ways to sharpen your focus and get more done.

1. Leave your Desk Behind

Getting away from the usual place where you work can help you to disconnect from all other work that needs doing. If you are not looking at the clutter on your desk or the people around you who need stuff done, you will be better able to focus on the job at hand.

2. Clear the Decks

If you are finding it difficult to concentrate, and getting started, an idea that moves farther and farther away with each breath. Take an hour to get on top of things. Process your email and paperwork. don’t be tempted to do the work, just plan it. Add tasks to your task list or calendar to be done at a later time. Delete emails that are irrelevant and file those that need to be kept for reference. By processing and planning your work, you can relax knowing everything is under control.

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3. Listen to Classical Music

They say classical music makes you smarter, but what it also does is relax your mind to help you concentrate better. The Mozart effect claims that listening to Mozart’s music may induce a short-term improvement on the performance of certain kinds of mental tasks.

4. Exercise

It doesn’t seem to matter what exercise you choose just as long as it makes your heart pump a little faster. Exercise reduces stress, increases well being and it is also suggested that large amounts of exercise give us healthy injections of dopamine, serotonin and other goodies for the brain.

5. Avoid Multitasking

The reality is multitasking is a myth, our brain can switch tasks at a rapid pace but it is not capable of multitasking. Switching from task to task means that we have to refocus our brain each time to regain the same levels of focus. Stick to one thing at a time. As Confucius said “He who chases two rabbits catches none!”

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6. Shrink your Mental Deadlines

We all know how quickly we can work when something is due tomorrow. If we give ourselves a week, it will take a week. Tell me it’s due tomorrow and see how my mind focuses on getting it done. Schedule time in your calendar and tell yourself it must be done in a shorter time frame. Make sure you eliminate all possibilities of distraction. Don’t check email in the middle of doing the work.

7. Get the Light Right

According to several studies, the amount of light we receive to the brain affects how alert and productive we are. The right amount of light and daylight if possible, will put the brain in its most alert and focused state.

8. Dangle a Carrot

No not a real one, well maybe if you really like carrots. If not, substitute the carrot for a night out with friends, a trip to the cinema or whatever reward will get you motivated.

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9. Create a Stop Doing List

Most of us create a daily ‘To-Do’ lists of some sort but how many of you use a ‘Stop Doing’ list? A list which outlines the things that you know waste your time. If I’m busy writing, I know I shouldn’t’ be browsing social media. If I’m working on a proposal, I know I shouldn’t be checking my email. A stop doing list outlines all the things that you shouldn’t’ be doing when you are trying to get work done. By writing these things down, it reminds you what not to do and helps you to focus on what needs to be done.

10. Take Time to Review

When we are sprinting to get everything done it often seems impossible to take the time to review the day. If you make time for this practice not only will you see what you have achieved but you will see how efficient you have been in getting work done. You can analyze and make changes necessary to work at maximum capacity.

11. Go to Sleep

Counter intuitive though it may sound, sometimes its the only solution. A power nap will eliminate any grogginess and sharpen your mind to focus and get more done.

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So if you want to boost your productivity and get more done, try out some of these more unexpected ways to sharpen your focus.

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Ciara Conlon

Productivity coach, speaker, blogger and author of Chaos to Control, a Practical Guide to Getting Things Done

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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