You’ve got an awful lot on your plate these days. There’s an almost constant stream of emails demanding your attention, phone calls waiting to be answered, colleagues seeking your input, and clients needing who knows what. It’s enough to make anyone lose their mind — let alone their focus.
But amid all that noise, you still need to keep both intact. While my advice may not keep you from flipping your lid, it can help you with keeping your focus.
So, try the following to become more focused and productive throughout the day:
1. Avoid checking email first thing in the morning. It may sound like a little thing, but little things can do a lot to improve your focus and productivity. By waiting to check email, you actually control one of the most common self-made distractions.
Give yourself a good 30 to 45 minutes to work on something important before opening that inbox. If possible, stretch it out even longer. Don’t put yourself in a position where you get wrapped up in “busy work” before higher priority items.
2. Allocate time deliberately. A big mistakes people make is not being deliberate with their time. Giving yourself a fixed time frame to work on a project or make a decision not only allows you to focus on that given task but gets you into the zone to complete it in a timely manner.
Ever heard of Parkinson’s Law? “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion,” meaning you’ll take all the time available to you. But by putting time constraints on a task, you add an urgency to complete it within the allotted time.
3. Eliminate distractions. We can all come up with something to distract ourselves from our work. After all, procrastination is the thief of time. It’s best to cuff him while you can, so sleuth out the biggest offenders.
Turn off those email notifications. Put your phone on airplane mode — unless, of course, you work in customer service. It probably wouldn’t sit to well with the boss. Try limiting these distractions for a set time, like 50-minute blocks, to maintain your focus.
4. Leverage technology. Technology has done a lot to create distractions, but it’s also done wonders for limiting them. Take advantage of resources like Freedom (formerly Anti-Social) to block apps, social media, and other distractions.
Focus is another option. This app is a time-management tool that encourages you to work in “focused” intervals, helping improve productivity and reach your goals. You’re also able to use Focus Sessions, which times out breaks to encourage creativity.
5. Allow failures to push you. Failure is inevitable. What can set you apart from the rest is how you deal with these types of situations. Don’t allow failure to deter you. More importantly, don’t let it take away from your focus.
Learn how to turn your greatest obstacles into assets that push you forward. Allow failure to motivate you to continue. Be it good or bad, every situation is an opportunity to learn. What can a failure teach you?
6. Know your agenda. Do you know what you want to accomplish today? Do you know what you want to work toward this week? What about over the next month? Randomness does nothing to get you closer to your goals.
Establish a defined outline for what you plan to do today, tomorrow, the next day, and the day after that. That plan serves as both your map and rudder not just to understand your direction but to get you to your destination.
7. Find your flexibility. Each day doesn’t always go as planned. The same can be said for the week, month, or year. You need to remain open and flexible if you ever hope to roll with the punches. Otherwise, it can lead to disappointment, which can do a real number on your focus.
As with anything, start small and expand from there. With each step, you’ll find yourself getting into a routine, and that feeling like your forcing yourself to focus will subside. Eventually, it’ll all become second nature, and your focus will develop a deepness you’ve never experienced before.