“If you don’t pay appropriate attention to what has your attention, it will take more of your attention than it deserves.”
― David Allen
For those of us who often find ourselves having a million and one things to do on a daily basis, it is all too easy to fall prey to a sense of overwhelmingness that hinders us even further from getting the job done. Having had experienced this situation countless of times in the past, I find that these simple yet effective tricks that have proven to be successful in helping me to stay focused – even during the most hectic and chaotic kind of days. I hope they’ll prove to be as useful for you as they are for me.
1. Do One Thing at a Time.
Having faced with a lifetime of having my plate of responsibilities way too full, my ability to multi task, tackling up to 4 actions and/or tasks simultaneously, was certainly something that I pride myself in – that is until I realized just recently that I get so much more done when I decide to focus on one task at a time. Numerous research showed that females have an innate tendency to handle multiple tasks at the same time so it came to no surprise that I had an initially difficult time believing that I would get more done doing one thing at a time rather than if I were to multi-task.
With that said, though it was not easy, I managed to suppress my tendency to multi-task in order to successfully practice investing my attention to one task at a time. The result? I found that not only was I able to get things done more efficiently but I was able to do so more effectively.
As it turns out, by focusing our 100% attention to that 1 task as opposed to dividing our attention to multiple tasks, we are able to better ensure that we exert our very best effort into that particular task hence we are able to produce better results than if we had been taking on other tasks at the same time.
2. Get Rid of Distractions
When we are at work, it can be a challenge to focus on getting things done when there are so many distractions at the office, to begin with. In addition to having colleagues, clients, visitors etc. constantly around us during business hours, we are also faced with the distractions of our gadgets. While we may not be able to shut out the people around us, we can minimize the distracting effects of our gadgets. Make a point to only check your personal media accounts at a minimum – it can wait. We can also make a schedule for checking emails both for work and personal emails. Prioritize on only attending to emails that require our immediate attention when you are pressed for time, this will greatly reduce the amount time wasted so you can focus on tasks that needed to get done more efficiently.
3. Make a Daily Schedule and Stick to It.
At the end of the previous or at the very start of each day, make a list of the main things to get done for that day – this includes everything from tasks to meetings. If possible, make it as detailed as possible and be sure to give yourself a realistic amount to get each task and for each meeting (base it on your previous experiences). Though it’s true that we often can’t quite pin our days to stick to the schedule we’ve set for ourselves because things changes unexpectedly, if you make a point to set deadlines and divide your time accordingly, you will much less likely to waste time as you have a clear plan as to how your day will and should play out.
4. Give Yourself Designated Breaks
Giving yourself short breaks in between tasks is crucial as it helps you to refresh your mind and to give you a burst of relaxation. Think of these breaks as well deserved little rewards to keep you motivated. These breaks though brief can help you to build mental endurance over a period of time and help you accomplish that long to do list of yours with greater ease. Whether you choose to spend it to take a 10-minute brisk walk outside, to indulge in a delicious snack or to give a quick call to our loved ones – it helps to give yourself the ability to step away from all that you have to get done to maintain a productivity momentum throughout the day. Note that it is probably best not to spend your break on checking your personal social media accounts as it can often take way too much time from our busy day – that time is much better spent tackling your to-do lists. If you must, be sure to set clear boundaries to yourself as to how much time you can spend surfing the web or on social media otherwise it will be all too easy to fall prey to the all mighty procrastination.
5. Cultivate Meditation as a Daily Habit
It may sound counterproductive to add on yet another thing to our already endless list of tasks to get done but I personally have found that meditation to be one of – if not the most – effective ways of staying focused no matter how busy my day gets. By just setting aside as little as 10 minutes a day to clear our mind, preferably in the morning before we start our morning routine, enables us to practice mindfulness and helps us to be more present in the now.
For many of us, the reason why we continuously struggle to be as productive as we hoped to is cause consciously or not, we often let our mind wander while tackling tasks – as opposed to giving our full attention to the task at hand. When practiced on a regular basis, meditation helps us to center our thoughts in the present moment, enabling us to set aside feeling of worry and anxiety that surfaces as we go through our days, hence allowing us to successfully focus our efforts and attention on whatever we have set out to achieve.