In this age of information overload the need to know how to be more productive is growing as we struggle with focus and productivity. According to a recent study by Harvard Business Review, 73% of leaders feel distracted from their current task either “some” or “most of the time” . The findings also pointed out that 67% of leaders describe their mind as cluttered with the result being that they usually fail to complete their tasks. Not surprisingly, 96% of those leaders surveyed said that “enhanced focus” would be extremely valuable.
Staying productive is certainly a challenge given all of the distractions we are faced with these days. In this guide we will look at six simple steps for improved performance and effectiveness.
Plan Your Day and Make a To-Do List
Consider the main tasks or projects that you need to complete for the day ahead. Then break each one down to the individual tasks and activities you will need to do to complete each one.
Apply a rough estimate of time to each task to allow you to create a more realistic to-do list. You might like to try using a productivity technique. Personally I use the Kanban approach where your to-do list is split into things you need to do, things you are working on and things you have finished. Trello is a great free tool to help you manage this.
Or you might like the Pomodoro Technique where you are encouraged to break your project down into small segments and set a timer for 25 minutes taking a 5 minute break once the timer goes off. During the 25 minutes you must ignore Facebook, email etc.
Determine Your Own Success Habits
We often come across articles and posts about the habits of highly successful business people, only to feel deflated to read that they start their day at 4am, eat a raw vegan diet, avoid alcohol and meditate for two hours a day, or something like that. Well guess what, no two people are the same so what works for one may not work for another.
Try monitoring your focus throughout the day for a few days and you should begin to see a pattern. You can then use this information to plan your day, planning your most important activities for when you are most alert and focused, and more practical tasks for when it is weaker.
Block Out The Time Wasters
Last year, the average time spent on mobile devices per person was 3 hours 35 minutes per day in the US and just over 3 hours in the UK. So yes, we really do need to learn how to become more productive!
If you are serious about improving your productivity then you must consider blocking any time wasting websites and apps during working hours.
Apps to use for mobile:
- Offtime – (for iOS & Android) will block apps like Facebook and games and also includes information on how much time you spend on your smartphone.
- Moment – (for iOS) allows you to set daily limits and notifies you if you exceed them.
- Flipd – (for iOS & Android) for those of you who need a slightly more aggressive approach. This app will lock your phone for a set amount of time.
- Stay On Task – simply checks with you if you are still on track at different times throughout the day. Great for refocusing when you get distracted.
To block on Chrome desktop:
Search for “Block Site” Chrome extension >> select “add to Chrome” in top right corner >> click “add extension” (you should see a new icon at the top of your Chrome browser, an orange shield with a circle and diagonal line through it) >> visit the website you would like to block >> click on the orange shield >> click “Block Site”.
To unblock, click “Edit your List” in top right corner >> click the minus button for the site you wish to unblock.
Control Your Notifications
We are constantly distracted with emails and notifications and often find ourselves jumping from one task to another thereby losing momentum and our train of thought.
Turn off email notifications and commit to dealing with your inbox only at certain times during the day e.g. once in the morning and once in the evening. Consider turning off your mobile if working to a tight deadline or use one of the above apps.
Take Care Of Yourself
Never underestimate the power of a good nights sleep and the impact it will have on your productivity. Lack of sleep not only destroys your focus and concentration but it lowers your mood making it much harder to stay motivated.
Of course, it’s not just lack of sleep that can make your focus and judgement suffer. Exercise and what we eat play a big part too. Feed your body well and do a little exercise. Not only will your body thank you for it but just watch how much more alert and focused you become.