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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
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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.

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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 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.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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