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What Not to do to Get More Done

What Not to do to Get More Done

    There are many great articles that tell you what to do in order to get things done. Some advocate very practical steps, like breaking the task into smaller pieces, or delegate more. Others are more high-level, about maintaining discipline or mindfulness and gratitude. For the record, I highly recommend such approaches, and use them myself.

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    Not doing gives you more time to do

    One of the most powerful tools I have found in my quest for greater productivity and effectiveness is to look for what I can stop or avoid doing, since this frees up time and energy which can be used for really important stuff. So, without further ado, if you want to get more done, try not doing the following:

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    1. Pointless email. I know, I know. You think every email you get is important, but really it’s not. Try cutting back checking your email to twice a day, and never look at email first thing in the morning, before you have a chance to set your direction for the day. Why? Most email really isn’t that important, but crafting thoughtful responses takes up a lot of time, and really doesn’t get much done. This is the junk food of  the productivity world, it fills you up without nourishing you. This goes for both personal and work email.
    2. Reading your pointless email during a meeting. As if email isn’t bad enough, now you’re reading it during a meeting, when you should be participating?! Total waste of time, yours and theirs. Get involved or get out.
    3. Useless meetings If you’re not contributing something or gaining useful insight, then speak up, or get out, or say no next time this person calls one. Chances are you aren’t the only person who thinks  that way, so you’ll be seen as a real get-things-done kinda guy or gal.
    4.  Complaining. So yes, it feels good to blow off some steam and vent about the boss, your finances, your spouse, but in the end, it only reinforces a counterproductive mindset: that they are the problem and you are a victim. So just stop. Instead, try to see things from their perspective, and start looking for a solution, instead of griping.
    5. Watching TV. There are some TV shows that actually improve your ability to get things, but for the most part, TV is an anaesthetic; it zones you out and leaves you more tired, not relaxed. So, rather than watch TV, go out and do something useful, put on some music and straighten up your desk, or write a letter or an article (or that book you’ve always dreamed of!), or practice a musical instrument. Think about it from this angle: no one, on their deathbed, wishes they had watched more TV.
    6. Hanging around negative people, or people who indulge in the above behaviors. You become more and more like the people you spend time with. Think about that. If you hang around with people who gripe and complain, or who work hard and don’t get much done (or don’t work hard and don’t get much done), you will become, and remain, one of them.
    So, what do you do if you are not doing these things above? That’s up to you, but you will find that when your time and energy isn’t being sucked up by trivialities you will be able to take on and accomplish the sorts of rewarding and satisfying challenges that you had previously only dreamed of.
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    More by this author

    Dave Kaiser

    An Executive Coach who helps people make better use of their time, from productivity to living their life's mission.

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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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