Information overload is everywhere we look. Every day we are being bombarded by information. Millions of peoples are competing with one and other for our attention. So, It is no wonder that in the last decades, our ability to focus has dramatically diminished. Learning how to unlock your ability to focus is paramount to your success as an entrepreneur. It’s a skill that takes training and practice. It requires intention and strategy so that we can make the most out of our time!
Time is our most precious resource. And it’s slipping away, never to be replenished. Not being able to focus and use our time efficiently has a negating effect on our lives.
Let’s begin by examining the “Focus Killers” that make us less productive. We will discuss tips and techniques to help improve your focus. And we’ll create your step by step plan to improving your productivity!
Identify your Focus Killers
Focus will happen when you’ve said yes to one thing and ignored all others
Focus killers are the things that sidetrack us from what we want to be doing. Time killing activities are “noise”. That kills our ability to focus. To have “Laser Focus” requires you to get rid of all distraction while you focus on the task at hands.
The key to focus is to determine one thing you want to do and get rid of anything that is not essential to complete the job.
To help you get started on your journey on maximizing productivity, let’s identify those things that are distracting you from completing your work. Tomorrow morning when you start work, try taking written notes of every time you got distracted and wandered off doing something else. Keep a tally.
We’ll use your list of “FOCUS KILLER” for your step by step plan later in this article. We will look for ways to set boundaries to prevent it from happening in the future. Here are the most common distractions and how they affect our ability to stay focused.
Your Mobile Device
It is with you when you wake up, while you are driving, in meetings, at dinner, and by your bedside at night. Our mobile devices have become another appendage to our bodies. Some people find it challenging to be away from their phones, even for a few minutes. Constant notifications from apps and texts can quickly distract you, causing a delay in getting your attention focused back on your task.
Some mobile devices will track how many times you pick up your phone a day. You’ll be horrified at how much time you spend on your device. But once you are aware of it, you can make some adjustments and spend your time on more proactive activities.
Some people use multitasking as a badge of honour. They feel that the busier they are, the more things they are getting done. Yes, we can work on more than one thing at a time, but just not as well. It takes time for our brains to shift between tasks, which results in time wasted. How often are you multitasking? Write it down if you feel that multitasking really makes you feel. Do you feel more or less accomplished?
Social Media Traps
Have you ever been so engaged with Instagram or YouTube that you find yourself on there for hours? It happens often. The chemical rewards we get from our brain when we get likes and comments on our posts keep us engaged.
As consumers, we enjoy viewing the millions of videos and content posted every day. However, as entrepreneurs, this is a hindrance to our productivity. The best way to stop this focus killer is to set boundaries for social media.
- Put time on your calendar for checking/posting social media.
- Use the time limit features on the apps to set daily time limits. It will help you realize when you are past your limit.
- Turn off ALL social media notifications so that you are in control of when you go and not the other way around.
Putting Too Much on Your Calendar
Do you ever feel the need to fill up every time slot on your calendar? There is no reward in having a calendar full of events. Too much of a schedule can hinder your ability to complete the most important things to get done for the day.
To limit distractions, make sure only essential events are on your calendar. A final product review with your team or doctor appointments are examples of events that are essential to attend. Allow the rest of the time to work toward your goals. It will allow you to complete your tasks in however long it takes, which brings us to the next BIG focus killer!
Learn How to Say No To Drugs & Yes To Tacos
Many people struggle with approval addiction or have a difficult time telling people no. It leads to having more things to put on your schedule than you need or want. If you’re going to take back your time; sometimes, it means turning down meeting requests or even invitations from people you care about.
As I said before, your time and energy are valuable. If you don’t respect it, then neither will other people. The best thing to do is, to be honest with them. Let them know you are working on an important project and will get back in touch with them later.
It is hard to say no; however, it is a necessity when you need to focus. Find ways to collaborate with others using methods like email, online conferencing or conference calls in place of traditional meetings.
Do you have a “Focus Killer” not listed here? Make sure you jot those down in your notes so that you are mindful of them. Let’s create barriers around those distractions to help you stay focused on completing the essential tasks of the day.
Here are a few critical “mind hacks” to help you improve your focus.
Taking Care of Yourself First
Our priority should be making sure we are whole, healthy human beings. When our physical and mental health is declining, there is no way we can give our business our full potential. Here are some critical self-care tips to improve your focus.
- Make sure you get enough rest (7-8 hours of sleep). Your brain will not function at a high capacity when you are tired. While you sleep, your body can re-set and heal.
- Eat well-balanced meals. Healthy snacks help your brain function at its best. Try superfoods and increase your amount of green leafy vegetables. Meal planning is beneficial, as well as trying to go to the grocery store only once a week. Use stores that offer online pickup or delivery for extra productivity points.
- Drink more water. Dehydration can cause loss of concentration and focus, according to a study at Georgia Tech. Most authorities recommend at least eight 8-ounce glasses a day.
- Exercise regularly. Moderate exercise can increase alertness and energy that will help you be more productive at work. Regular exercise is also vital to prevent diseases that can cause you to lose precious time. Thirty minutes per day, five times a week.
- Spend some time outdoors. Being in nature helps us bring our mind and body back into balance. Take time out to walk outside. Look at the trees, listen to some water flowing, or just rest in the sun.
- Try meditation. Mindfulness is a great practice to help clear the mind of clutter and be in the present moment — paid apps like Headspace and Calm that can help you practice mindfulness in under 10 minutes a day.
Clear Your Space
Declutter the space around you to declutter your mind. Set up an environment in your office that promotes focus.
Begin with clearing out your work area from all paper and materials not related to the task you are currently working on. Organize documents into folders and set them aside for later. But don’t go overboard with this! Just reducing the clutter in your workspace will help reduce the number of distractions around you.
Check to make sure the temperature in the room is not too hot or too cold. Having a pleasant and comfortable space can increase your productivity by up to 15%.
It is also a part of self-care. Our mind can get tired. Sometimes, taking a short break from a task helps us to rejuvenate so that we can come back with a fresh perspective.
We guilt ourselves into thinking that the harder we work, the more we achieve. However, we are cheating ourselves and our dreams by not being kind to our bodies.
Working without taking breaks leads to a decrease in performance. Take at least a ten-minute break to bring some clarity to your mind.
Practice the Two-Minute Rule from entrepreneur Steve Olenski, who says completing short tasks right away takes less time than having to go back and do it.
If you see a task that can be done in under 2 minutes, do it immediately.
Listen to Some Music
Turn on your favourite music station and plug in your headphones! Music is inspiring. It keeps our brains engaged and helps to keep us motivated. Music also engages the part of our brain that drives our attention. For maximum focus, you may want to stick to classical or music with no lyrics.
Burnouts are very real. We can come up with the best ideas for being more productive, but it won’t help if you get burnout and quit. Below you’ll find some practical hints to help you manage your time and decrease your chances of burnout.
Compact Your Daily To-Do List
Creating a to-do list is integral to time management, but often we create too large of a list with unreasonable expectations for the day.
Create your list with the top 3-5 most important things to accomplish that day. That goes on the top of the list. Next, you list out a few items that can be done that day but are not as important or urgent.
Right before you finish working for the day, create your to-do list for the next day. That way, when you get to work, you will be ready to start!
Deep Work is the ability to concentrate without disturbance on a cognitively challenging task if you have an important task or project that requires a lot of focus, set aside a few hours in your calendar with the intent of not being disturbed unless there is a space invasion.
Shut down your email and switch your mobile to “not disturb” mode. I would even go as far as leaving it out of reach. Minimize all possible interruptions during this time.
Set up intervals during your day to check email outside of this period where you will solely focus on one task.
Find Your Peak Work Period
It’s the time of day where you are physically and mentally more focused. It may be different for every person. For some, it may be first thing in the morning. So trying to get a vital report done right before bedtime may not be optimal because it’s not there peak work period.
Create a routine around your body clock. Perform the day’s most important tasks during the times where you are at peak conditions. It will train your mind to be ready for being prolific. Keep the assignments that do not require so much focus for later.
Focus on the Result, Not the Task
The key here is to commit to finishing the work. Focusing on just performing a task may result in having to complete the job over again, wasting more time. Start tracking the time that you are spending on tasks.
Chances are you are not correctly estimating the amount of time it takes to complete it. Concentrate on what it is that you want to accomplish. By focusing on the end goal, we make sure that the things we are doing are meaningful and make the best use of our time.
We are so much more productive when there is a deadline. Try to make short-term goals to work on. If you are writing a book, for example, set smaller goals. Like writing the intro over the weekend, and the next ten pages the following weekend. It is gratifying when you feel you have achieved a goal on time!
Use this helpful list of productivity tools that are designed to help you focus on what is essential to accomplish for the day.
- Hootsuite: cut down your social media time by scheduling your social media posting.
- Evernote: Take your notes with you wherever you go. It is cloud-based so you can access your notes from your phone, home, or office. If you can’t jot down your idea, try using the voice memo on your phone to remember to write your thoughts down later.
- Dropbox: Dropbox or any other cloud-based storage like OneDrive or iCloud will also help keep your most important documents close by for review and sharing at any time.
- Asana: This is a great project management tool for individuals and businesses. You can plan you plan and organize your work or choose a plan that will help you collaborate with a team.
- Rescue Time: This app helps track time spent on different applications to give you a sense of how you are spending your time. The paid version will even help to block distracting websites while you are working.
Productivity is a journey, not a destination
As an entrepreneur, you may feel that if you can get that speaking engagement, hit your sales projections, or open your brick and mortar shop that this event will signal your success. However, it is the commitment to the process that makes you successful.
It’s getting up every day and doing something toward your goal. If you want to master something, you have to practice it every day. You must love not just the outcomes, but the process that will get you there. Have some Fun. Don’t forget to reward yourself. Have celebrations after completing big projects, schedule that vacation or put that concert on your calendar. Having good times to look forward to is an excellent motivator for getting your goals accomplished.
Creating a Focus Plan
Now let’s create your action plan to improve focus and productivity. Research says it takes four weeks to develop a new habit.
So, let’s break down our plan into four weeks.
- Find out how you are currently spending your time. Productivity apps such as RescueTime will send you a report based on your activity. It will help you identify those focus killers. Otherwise, you can use a note pad.
- Find the screen time usage stats on your phone. See what apps you use the most and how often.
- Clean up your workspace. Organize tasks into folders or notebooks.
- Set your clock to wake up the same time every day.
- Review results from RescueTime or your results from screen time monitored on your phone.
- Start setting some goals. Write down some daily, weekly, monthly and yearly goals.
- Add dates to those goals and put them on your calendar. Try using Google calendar if you don’t have one already.
- Set one goal you want to accomplish over the next three weeks.
- Find someone to share those goals with. Accountability is a huge motivator to make sure you accomplish your goals.
- At the end of each workday, make a list of 3-5 things you want to do the next day. Only the most important goals that you need to accomplish.
- Find a helpful project planner notebook or try Asana or other project management apps.
- Practice some self-care. Plan your meals for the week and don’t forget to schedule some time for exercise.
- Review your calendar. Are they all essential items? Are there things you can take off?
- Time to celebrate! Tap yourself on the back when you complete the goal you set at week 2.
- Review your RescueTime and your phone usage stats at the end of the week to see how much time you have saved.
Creating and sustaining laser focus concentration takes practice and effort. The actions steps below will help you find ways to help minimize distractions.
Keep in mind that you’ll need to:
- Identify those time killers
- Don’t forget that the best way to be productive is to take care of yourself.
- Clear your workspace of clutter.
- Use some of the productivity apps listed.
- Practice Deep Work techniques that will help you focus.
- Don’t forget to reward yourself!
Congratulations! You are one step closer to becoming more focused, more productive and achieving your goals!
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