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Ask the Entrepreneurs: 15 Techniques for Actually Getting Work Done While On the Go

Ask the Entrepreneurs: 15 Techniques for Actually Getting Work Done While On the Go


    Ask The Entrepreneurs is a regular series where members of those involved in the Young Entrepreneur Council are asked a single question that aims to help Lifehack readers level up their own lives, whether in a area of management, communication, business or life in general.

    Here’s the question posed in this edition of Ask The Entrepreneurs:

    How do you stay focused when working on the go — in airports, co-working spaces, Starbucks?

    1. Time Your Work Sessions

    Andy Drish

      Set a timer for thirty minutes and commit to not doing anything else during that time. No phone, no email, no Facebook. Setting a timer frees your mind to focus on the single task at hand without distractions.

      Andy Drish, Referral Squirrel

       

      2. Try the Pomodoro Technique

      Juha Liikala

        The Pomodoro technique is a very effective work-pause-work method invented by Francesco Cirillo in the late ’80s. Each work sprint of 25 minutes is followed by a 5-minute break. First, choose a relatively simple task to accomplish, focus on the task for 25 minutes and then take 5-minute break to grab another cup of coffee. Then, start again. Works like a charm, especially if you’re on the move!

        Juha Liikala, webVehicle Oy

        3. Take Breaks to Network

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          I live by a structured schedule, but it’s hard to concentrate when there’s a lot of opportunity around when I’m working. Scheduling work blocks and breaks is a great way to “reward” myself with time to network, get distracted and enjoy some freedom while still accomplishing my tasks.

          Kelly Azevedo, She’s Got Systems

          4. Reliable WiFi with MiFi

            The danger for me when working on-the-go is the lack of reliable Internet connection. When the connection is spotty, I may get distracted with my phone, a newspaper article and more. Having a MiFi device has been an amazing solution; you’re guaranteed to get a fast and fail-free connection so you can work anywhere, anytime.

            Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.

            5. Prep Your Offline Workload

              We tend to have a lot of reliance on Internet access, but sometimes when WiFi is spotty or just unavailable, make sure you have plenty of work you can do offline. You can still upload it online later, if needed. Just thinking about Internet problems can be distracting, so by eliminating the need for Internet access, you can focus more energy on getting your work done.

              Danny Wong, Blank Label Group, Inc.

              6. Set Three Clear Goals

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                When I work away from my desk, I usually list out three things I have to get done. I can network or do anything else I want as soon as I finish that work. I make a point of not doing anything else until I finish that work. I’ve never had a problem telling someone that I simply must get something emailed off before I chat — fellow entrepreneurs in particular often understand!
                Thursday Bram, Hyper Modern Consulting

                7. Artificial Deadlines Really Work!

                  I use a product called Grid-It! by Cocoon to keep my “mobile office” organized. The Grid-It! is a board with a zipped storage compartment on one side and a mesh of elastic bands on the other. The compartment holds paperwork and discs, while the bands hold everything else (cables, gadgets, hard drives, etc). Simple concept, but it’s made my carry-on bag far more manageable.
                  Colin Wright, Exile Lifestyle

                  8. Remember The Milk

                    When traveling, you generally only have a few minutes here and there to really accomplish anything. The way I get around that is to have my to-do list, which is housed at RememberTheMilk.com, stare at me in the face with Priority 1 projects. I then shut the email off so no new distractions come my way. That combination allows me to get things done and then enjoy the world around me.
                    Greg Rollett, The ProductPros

                    9. Wunderlist Stops the Wandering

                      The best tool I have used to help me stay focused on the go is Wunderlist. I can sync my laptop, iPad and iPhone up at all times. If I’m using my phone, I can see the same list of priorities for each client that needs to get done as when I’m on my computer. I think that when you can’t visualize everything that needs to get done, you become easily distracted.
                      Steven Le Vine, grapevine pr

                      10. People Don’t Bother Busy People!

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                      John Hall

                        Staying focused outside of the office is all about the environment, so I put on headphones and listen to some light music. Not only does it block out ambient noise, but people are less likely to distract you if they think you can’t hear them anyway.
                        John Hall, Digital Talent Agents

                         

                        11. Bring Those Headphones

                        Heather Huhman

                          When working outside of an office or your house, it can be easy to get distracted by the immense amount of noise at coffee shops or in the airport. Investing in a nice pair of headphones is a great way to stay focused on the task at hand and tune out the things going on around you.
                          Heather Huhman, Come Recommended

                           

                          12. Divide Tasks by Location

                            When I’m traveling, I divide tasks by location: sitting in the airport, riding in the car, waiting in line, during ascent and descent, and cruising altitude. This requires a bit more planning, but I find that it makes keeping up with email, phone calls and projects relatively easy. The ease and efficiency of never having to wonder what to do now helps me to invest the time wisely.
                            Elizabeth SaundersReal Life E®

                            13. Which Tasks Are Location Independent?

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                            Lucas Sommer

                              If I have to do work in an airport, lobby or Starbucks, I do my best to schedule what I will be working on in advance. Processing data and doing routine tasks is far easier than being creative in these environments. Set yourself up with tasks that you can accomplish given the time, resources and environment.
                              Lucas Sommer, Audimated

                               

                              14. Do a Little Dance!

                              Derek Shanahan

                                Okay, not really dancing; listening to music is kind of a must for me when I’m working in public, while traveling, or otherwise surrounded by people. Let We Are Hunted or The Hype Machine’s Popular list drown out the world, especially in the presence of abundant distractions.
                                Derek Shanahan, Foodtree

                                 

                                15. Keep Co-Working to Truly Work

                                Caitlin McCabe

                                  Working on the go regularly will help train you to focus while outside your own office. A few years ago, I never would have been able to get four emails done as I walk from gate to gate at the airport, but it’s something you can really get good at.
                                  Caitlin McCabe, Real Bullets Branding

                                  (Photo credit: Man Travelling with Read Bag at Airport via Shutterstock)

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                                    Last Updated on October 22, 2019

                                    How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

                                    How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

                                    We live in a world of massive distraction. No matter where you are today, there is always going to be distractions. Your colleagues talking about their latest date, notification messages popping up on your screens, and not just your mobile phone screens. And even if you try to find a quiet place, there will always be someone with a mobile device that is beeping and chirping.

                                    With all these distractions, it is incredibly difficult to concentrate on anything for very long. Something will distract you and that means you will find it very difficult to focus on anything.

                                    So how to focus and concentrate better? How to focus better and produce work that lifts us and takes us closer towards achieving our outcomes?

                                    1. Get Used to Turning off Your Devices

                                    Yes, I know this one is hard for most people. We believe our devices are so vital to our lives that the thought of turning them off makes us feel insecure. The reality is they are not so vital and the world is not going to end within the next thirty minutes.

                                    So turn them off. Your battery will thank you for it. More importantly though is when you are free from your mobile distraction addiction, you will begin to concentrate more on what needs to get done.

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                                    You do not need to do this for very long. You could set a thirty-minute time frame for being completely mobile free. Let’s say you have an important piece of work to complete by lunchtime today. Turn off your mobile device between 10 am and 11 am and see what happens.

                                    If you have never done this before, you will feel very uncomfortable at first. Your brain will be fighting you. It will be telling you all sorts of horror stories such as a meteorite is about to hit earth, or your boss is very angry and is trying to contact you. None of these things is true, but your brain is going to fight you. Prepare yourself for the fight.

                                    Over time, as you do this more frequently, you will soon begin to find your brain fights you less and less. When you do turn on your device after your period of focused work and discover that the world did not end, you have not lost an important customer and all you have are a few email newsletters, a confirmation of an online order you made earlier and a text message from your mum asking you to call about dinner this weekend, you will start to feel more comfortable turning things off.

                                    2. Create a Playlist in Your Favourite Music Streaming App

                                    Many of us listen to music using some form of music streaming service, and it is very easy to create our own playlists of songs. This means we can create playlists for specific purposes.

                                    Many years ago, when I was just starting to drive, there was a trend selling driving compilation tapes and CDs. The songs on these tapes and CDs were uplifting driving music songs. Songs such as C W McCall’s Convoy theme and the Allman Brothers Band’s, Jessica. They were great songs to drive to and helped to keep us awake and focused while we were driving.

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                                    Today, we can create playlists to help us to focus on our work. Choose non-vocal music that has a low tempo. Music from artists such as Ben Böhmer, Ilan Bluestone or Andrew Bayer has the perfect tempo.

                                    Whenever you want to go into deep, focused work, listen to that playlist. What happens is your brain soon associates when you listen to the playlist you created with focused work and it’s time to concentrate on what it is you want to do.

                                    3. Have a Place to Go to When You Need to Concentrate

                                    If you eat, surf online and read at your desk, you will find your desk a very distracting place to do your work. One way to get your brain to understand it is focused work time is, to use the same place each time for just focused work.

                                    This could be a quiet place in your office, or it could be a special coffee shop you use specifically for focused work. Again, what you are doing is associating an environment with focus.

                                    Just as with having a playlist to listen to when you want to concentrate, having a physical place that accomplishes the same thing will also put you in the right frame of mind to be more focused.

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                                    When you do find the right place to do your focused work, then only do focused work there. Never surf, never do any online shopping. Just do your work and then leave. You want to be training your brain to associate focused work with that environment and nothing else.

                                    If you need to make a phone call, respond to an email or message, then go outside and do it. From now on, this place is your special working place and that is all you use it for.

                                    Every morning, I do fifteens minutes of meditation. Each time, I sit down to do my meditation, I use the same music playlist and the same place. As soon as I put my earphones in and sit down in this place, my mind immediately knows it is meditation time and I become relaxed and focused almost immediately. I have trained my brain over a few months to associate a sound and a place with relaxed, thoughtful meditation. It works.

                                    4. Get up and Move

                                    We humans have a limited attention span. How long you can stay focused for depends on your own personal makeup. It can range from between twenty minutes to around two hours. With practice, you can stay focused for longer, but it takes time and it takes a lot of practice.

                                    When you do find yourself being unable to concentrate any longer, get up from where you are and move. Go for a walk, move around and get some air. Do something completely different from what you were doing when you were concentrating.

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                                    If you were writing a report in front of a screen, get away from your screens and look out the window and appreciate the view. Take a walk in the local park, or just walk around your office. You need to give your brain completely different stimuli.

                                    Your brain is like a muscle. There is only so much it can do before it fatigues. If you are doing some focused work in Photoshop and then switch to surfing the internet, you are not giving your brain any rest. You are still using many of the same parts of your brain.

                                    It’s like doing fifty pushups and then immediately trying to do bench presses. Although you are doing a different exercise, you are still exercising your chest. What you need to be doing to build up superior levels of concentrated focus is, in a sense, do fifty pushups and then a session of squats. Now you are exercising your chest and then your legs. Two completely different exercises.

                                    Do the same with your brain. Do focused visual work and then do some form of movement with a different type of work. Focused visual work followed by a discussion with a colleague about another unrelated piece of work, for example.

                                    The Bottom Line

                                    It is not difficult to train your brain to become better at concentrating and focusing, but you do need to exercise deliberate practice. You need to develop the intention to focus and be very strict with yourself.

                                    Set time aside in your calendar and make sure you tell your colleagues that you will be ‘off the grid’ for a couple of hours. With practice and a little time, you will soon find yourself being able to resist temptations and focus better.

                                    More Resources About Boosting Focus and Productivity

                                    Featured photo credit: Wenni Zhou via unsplash.com

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