You’d be surprised by how many people lose track of where their time goes. They might think they are focused on a single task, but are they really? One way to find out is to keep track of how you spend your time for a week. You might find out you’ve been wasting time on little things like checking Facebook once an hour.
Here are my strategies for improving your focus and increasing your productivity:
1. Track your time. Analyse the results after a week. Tweak and get rid of time wasters.
2. Plan your week. At the end of your week, find a quiet spot to plan out your week’s tasks. Write down key projects and the tasks associated with them. Don’t forget to add in family activities that you participate in as well.
3. Prioritise your list. Break down your tasks from most important to least important. Use a calendar to mark out blocks of uninterrupted time (anywhere from 15 to 60 minutes) to work on each one.
4. Eliminate what isn’t essential. Outsource what you can for things you need to do but which aren’t your strengths. This could be anything from mowing your lawn to hiring a virtual assistant to take care of your social media for the week.
5. Set your goals. Break down big or long-term goals into smaller weekly or daily goals to make them easier to focus on.
6. Set aside a specific amount of time each day for checking/answering email and social media. It could be the first 30 minute task of the day, the last 30 minutes of your work day, or maybe the 15 minutes before your lunch break. Only do it once a day though. Don’t be stopping in the middle of a task to check your email. The same goes for social media channels as well.
7. Do away with multitasking. It takes a while to learn how to focus on one project at a time, but stick with it and it will become a habit. Finish one project/task before moving on to the next one. Become laser-focused on one task at a time. This can really increase your productivity.
8. Make a distraction to-do list. The Internet has made it easy for us to become quickly distracted. As soon as we want to look something up, we hop on the Internet to do a search. “I wonder what’s happening on Facebook.” “What was the name of the actor in that movie?” “How long will it take me to drive to the zoo tomorrow?” Anytime we get distracted like this it takes about 25 minutes to get back to the original task. So instead, next time you want to look up something or an idea pops in your head, jot it down on a piece of paper (or, even better, use Evernote).
9. Learn to say NO. If you already have full day’s task list, don’t feel like you have to take on another project for someone else.
10. Create an environment that works for you. Do you need a quiet space, free from people, phones and television noise? Set up your office so it works for you. Decorate it in soothing colours, inspiring artwork and a comfortable chair. If you work best in a neat and clean area, make sure you put away or file papers and magazines. Get rid of clutter. If you focus better while listening to music or some kind of ambient noise, be sure to have a way to make that happen.
11. Take a break when needed. Short breaks help break up boredom and burnout when you’re working on a big project. Get up and walk around the room. Do some yoga stretches.
12. Break up or Chunk it. Break your tasks down into smaller more manageable chunks of time with short breaks in between. For example, work on a task in 15 minute chunks. For example, let’s say you’re writing an eBook. Don’t try to do the whole thing at once. Break it down. Take 15 minutes to write out your outline. Take a short break. Then 15 minutes to research the first chapter. And so on.
13. Use an app on your phone to boost your productivity and concentration. Apps like Evernote can keep you organised and keep track of distractions. An app like Brainwave can be downloaded to your iPhone. In this app, you can choose settings like Concentration Boost and Problem Solving, Brainstorming, or Memory Boost and Creative Thinking. There are other apps that help you stay focused and productive as well.
The strategies for becoming more focused are endless. Make lists. Remove distractions. Set up your ideal environment. You need to find what works best for your style of working.