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12 Ways To Be More Focused And Get More Things Done Quickly

12 Ways To Be More Focused And Get More Things Done Quickly

No matter what kind of lifestyle you lead, chances are that you could do with a little fine-tuning in the productivity area, including how to be more focused. We all do – it doesn’t matter if you’re a high-flying economist, a writer working at home, or a working parent who has to juggle childcare and work.

So, here are twelve top tips on how to focus more efficiently, remain focused on the daily to-do list, and get through those tasks much quicker while still ensuring great quality.

1. Get an early start

Getting up an hour or so earlier than normal may seem like cruel torture. But push yourself to buy more time – particularly time in the morning when everyone else is sleeping – to go and knock things off the to-do list more quickly, without other people around to distract you or get in your way. Plus, you can get some of your private to-do list items (morning yoga routines, applying skincare products, dancing like a thing possessed in your kitchen to your iPod) out of the way without anyone being any the wiser.

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2. Have a solid breakfast

You should always have a great breakfast to set you up for the day, but health benefits aside (you’re generally healthier and more likely to lose weight when you eat breakfast in the morning), it also ensures that you’re running on plenty of fuel and working at your tip-top best to plow through whatever the day may hold. Nothing too heavy, but filling – many suggest scrambled eggs on toast, museli, porridge, or fruit for a perfect breakfast.

3. Get your ‘hardest’ task done first

Go and hit the hardest task first whenever possible. Not only will it get the biggest hurdle or obstacle out of your path, it’ll give you such a positive rush that focusing on tackling those smaller tasks will seem like child’s play, and you should crush them with ease.

4. Factor in time for procrastination

It’s hard to focus all the time and to try and make sure that every minute of every day is entirely focused and full of productivity is impossible. Chances are you’re going to procrastinate at some point – we all love a great article, a fantastic new song, or a singing cat video, after all. Just factor in the fact that you’re going to procrastinate and you’ll be much more realistic about accomplishing your goals.

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5. Go outside for a break

Take time to go and stretch your legs, breathe in all that fresh air. If it’s summer, you’ve got a great excuse to go and soak up the sun; if the weather isn’t great, pack up an umbrella and go for a brisk walk. It’ll provide your mind with a mental break and chance to recuperate and hit the rest of those tasks stronger and harder.

6. Make a proper list

I personally cannot go through a big day without making a big list of everything I need to accomplish or do – it might be a mental trigger, but I always work stronger, better and faster when I have a pre-written list of everything I need to.

It means that I can maintain a visual dialogue of where my day has gone, what needs to happen in the meantime and what actions I can take. It doesn’t have to be huge, but it does have to be portable. A notebook or a list-making program on your phone can work just fine.

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7. Avoid multitasking

Multitasking is one of those buzzwords that gets thrown around so often it seems as though if you can’t write an article, answer a phone call, do yoga stretches, balance your online checkbook and think of what to make for dinner at the same time, you’re desperately lagging behind everyone else.

In fact, our brains are only supposed to handle one thing at a time so that we pour all our resources into it, rather than being spread too thinly. Focus on one thing at a time and you’ll get through it much quicker and move onto the next thing, rather than trying to juggle four things at a time.

8. Treat yourself

There’s never too little time in a schedule to treat yourself, even for a few moments, and not only is it beneficial to your mental health, it also makes it much more likely for you to appreciate the treat and associate the positive feeling with getting a good job done, making it more likely for you to do it again in the future.

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9. Add a bit of exercise to your daily routine

Your body is meant to be active, so exercise is a vital part of making sure your body is at peak fitness for running around and completing everything that needs doing. I’m not talking about trying to fit a three-mile run into your schedule, but some stretches, a twenty-minute yoga program or even a walk around your neighborhood can help a lot.

10. Plan out as much as you can

I personally believe in planning the heck out of as much as I can – one trick is to break big tasks down into smaller and smaller actions so that accomplishing each one feels like a little victory. Make sure you can plan out and look ahead as much as you can – check the weather, the timetables, and check everything is prepared. That way whatever the day may bring, at least you should be able to handle it.

11. Get plenty of sleep

If you know you’ve got a big day ahead, it’s no bad thing to make sure that instead of doing what we’re all guilty of doing and burning the midnight oil, you go and get an extra hour or so in bed. Sleep recharges our bodies full of energy and to try and survive without it is a bit like expecting a car to run on petrol fumes. Treat your body right and get plenty of sleep.

12. Know your limitations

Know your limitations if you want to be focused. If you know you’re someone who procrastinates a lot, then don’t give yourself an Olympus to climb each day. There’s a difference between being realistic and shooting for the stars in terms of productivity, so choosing to recognize the likelihood of you achieving how much you plan to do in a day is an advantage.

Set yourself obtainable, attainable goals, and not only will you have a much higher chance of getting everything done, you will know how to be more focused on a daily basis.

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Chris Haigh

Writer, baker, co-host of "Good Evening Podcast" and "North By Nerdwest".

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Last Updated on March 21, 2019

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

“What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

1. Start Small

The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

Do less today to do more in a year.

2. Stay Small

There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

Why?

Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

Peter Drucker said,

“What you track is what you do.”

So track it to do it — it really helps.

But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

5. Measure Once, Do Twice

Peter Drucker also said,

“What you measure is what you improve.”

So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

For reading, it’s 20 pages.
For writing, it’s 500 words.
For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

6. All Days Make a Difference

Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

Will two? They won’t.

Will three? They won’t.

Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

What happened? Which one made you fit?

The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

7. They Are Never Fully Automated

Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

10. Punish Yourself

Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

11. Reward Yourself

When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

In the End, It Matters

What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

“Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

Keep going.

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More Resources to Help You Build Habits

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
[2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
[3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
[4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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