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

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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.

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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.

More by this author

Chris Haigh

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

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Last Updated on October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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