One of the best ways to improve your productivity is to increase your focus. Focus is a skill that has been eroded due to constant distractions and interruptions by notifications on mobile phones, trying to multitask, not getting enough sleep, stress and a whole lot more.
As a little sidenote, the myth that our focus is now less than that of a goldfish is exactly that: a myth. Several studies were taken completely out of context. If it were true, we couldn’t read books, watch a movie or hold a conversation that lasts longer than 2 sentences. You would have already stopped reading this article by now and I would have stopped writing after the first sentence. And absolutely no-one could binge watch their favourite series on Netflix or spend hours on World of Warcraft. To finish this point, not even goldfish have a short attention span, or a short memory. If you’re interested in the subject, you can find studies that show a goldfish’s memory to be at least 6 months.
Your ability to focus very much depends on the task and your enjoyment of it. If you’re bored or find the task difficult or not enjoyable, you’ll be more easily distracted, even by your own thoughts. You’re much less likely to give into those distractions if you’re having fun.
Of course, work can’t always be fun. Some tasks just need finishing in order to get things done, move a project forward and bring to a successful completion, whether you’re running your own business or working for someone else. If you can delegate or outsource those tasks, great; but that’s not always an option.
So what can you do to improve your focus at work overall to increase your productivity?
1. Turn off all notifications
This is probably the best tip I can give you. Turning off your notifications will cut out the largest chunk of distractions that we get nowadays. Go into your phone settings and find your notification settings for all the social media channels and switch them off. The same goes for email notifications if you have them on your phone. Then do the same on your computer.
You don’t need a ping and a window popping up every time an email arrives or some random connection posts about anything at all.
This means you can now concentrate on the task at hand without being interrupted. If your phone rings a lot or you get a lot of texts and other messages, switch it off or set it to flight mode.
Another option is to set it to silent but also turn the vibrate function off. And turn the phone upside down or put it into a drawer so that you can’t see that the screen is lighting up with something coming in.
When you have finished your task or you’re taking a break from it, you can then pop back on and see what you have missed in the meantime, returning any calls or messages.
2. Work in focus sprints
Now that you have “cleaned up” your environment in this way, set a timer to work on your task for a certain amount of time. If you’re not used to working solidly without interruptions this will be a game changer. You might want to start with 20 or 30 minutes of focus time; then give yourself a 5 minute break. Rinse and repeat.
You could try the Pomodoro Technique that alternates 25 minutes of focus time with 5 minute breaks. I have explained it in detail in this YouTube video.
People have used this technique to write books, work to achieve their degrees and much more.
You can also build up from the 25 minutes if you feel that you can focus for longer. Some people prefer working for 50 minutes, then taking a 10 minute break.
Setting a timer will do two things. Your brain knows that it only has a certain amount of time to work on this task, so that alone will focus your thoughts. You also know that there is an end to this period of hard work with a bit of a reward at the end (the break) so that you’re more likely to keep going.
3. Take regular breaks
Even if you don’t use the Pomodoro technique, make sure that you take regular breaks to give your mind a chance to recharge.
Have a little break mid morning to get off your desk walk around for few minutes, maybe get a drink and give your eyes the chance to look at something other than your computer.
Have a good size lunch break (at least ½ hour; one hour would be better), again making sure it’s away from your desk. No, just having a sad sandwich while keeping working definitely doesn’t cut it.
Then you need another break in the afternoon, same as the one mid morning.
Properly finish at night. Don’t check your emails just before going to bed. Your brain needs a proper rest. Once you finish for the evening, that should be it. Enjoy your evening by doing something fun and relaxing.
Take a proper weekend. Don’t work through it, if you don’t want to head for burnout at breakneck speed.
That’s it, 3 tips that will make a huge difference to improve your productivity and you will see those changes very quickly.
How can I help?
These are only 3 tips out of dozens if not hundreds that I can offer as a Productivity Coach. A lot of changes require changing your habits which can be difficult to achieve on your own. All my clients receive guidance and accountability and a very personal approach so that the changes you’re making really work for you and stick long term.
Why not start by downloading my complimentary Weekly Productivity Planner that can help you on your journey to get more done and get your evenings and weekends back from the clutches of your endless to do list.