How to Stay Focused & Get More Done
Strengthening our focus, attention, concentration and productivity skills could very possibly be the single most effective batch of skills that make the biggest impact on our time. Figuring out how to get more done in less time is the goal - but how do we do that effectively and efficiently? Read below for my insights onto this very topic!
Getting laser focused during the time you need to get stuff done or work is a crucial skill to build. Nowadays, with social media, we have almost been programmed to focus in small little spurts (seconds to only minutes at a time), when we have notifications etc. There has been some evidence that states the usage of it may be having a fragmenting effect on our brains and effects our ability to focus long-span in one sitting. Now, social media is both a tool and a weapon. It's within our power to use it as an incredible impeccable tool, instead of a never-ending browsing barrel or a popularity contest. *Hint* I'll probably be covering social media in an upcoming podcast and blog as I think it's a great and important conversation to be having.
We all want to be more focused, efficient and productive. The goal is to get more done in less time and use the time we have to work to its utmost potential! This way, if we get more and more done than as expected (being realistic, though - that's important too), we'll end up having more whitespace or time to actually live. Being busy is one thing, being intentional is another. It starts with intention and setting up an intention on what it is you have to get done prior to sitting or getting started.
In between goals is a thing called life, that has to be lived and enjoyed. -Sid Caesar
I am assuming the work you're about to begin is something you're done the heavier mental work on beforehand. It's necessary and it's worth it. Trust me, it'll save you years, in some cases. So now that you've got some work to do, let's see if we can amp up the work output and reduce the work time involved.
11 ways to more focus
1. Set The Intention
Intent and setting intention is a game-changer! Before you sit down to work or get ready to complete a task you've set out to do, set the actual intention to do so in your brain and mind. Actually say OUT LOUD or in your head (I recommend doing it out loud) what you are going to achieve in this block time you have set aside for yourself. Don't say "finish book." Say, "finish the table of contents and jot down notes about each chapter..." Don't say "_____ project." Say, rather, "this part of the project is what I will complete and work on, specifically these things..." Being specific is key here. Next time you get ready to get to work on something, try taking two beats to set the intention and see for yourself, the difference it will make. Our brains and minds are all about priming and intent. If we can set out days up in a way where we can set triggers, intentions and condition our brains and minds to know exactly what you focus on, YOU will have more focus, too. It's all about setting up practices and habits - so try it out and let me know if this tiny little change makes it worthwhile for ya'!
2. High School, College or Uni
Think of your time to work as you would have went to a class in High School, College or University. Ever wonder why they could cram so much into us within a day, semester, or year? It's because for that 1-2 hr period of time, ALL we were focusing on was a particular chapter/area of exactly 1 topic. For example, we didn't go into math class or science class (insert any class you relate best to here), with our prof's or teachers saying "Hi Class. Today we are going to cover math." We went in, with our teachers having a curriculum to follow, which was carefully mapped out for the entire year, then - having reverse engineered the curriculum to the very day you sat down at your chair, you found yourself learned, "basics of trigonometry," or "the periodic table" to use basic examples. It was always specific and what made it even more effective was that, it was the only thing we focused on for a block time period. And then, once we were done focusing, the bell conditioned us after the class was over to move onto the next class or topic. It's so simple, but so effective! Think about it, by the end of the year, we covered some crazy ground in 5-10 different subjects. Setting up your work flow in a way where you think of it as back in school really does wonders! Try reframing it as if you're stepping into a 1.5 hr block period of time or "class" on whatever subject it is you will be working on, then, reverse engineer the exact things you will be covering (curriculum) for that time. Set this up, weekly, daily, monthly, yearly and you'll be laser focused and will find yourself getting so much more done and doing so much more than you ever thought you could!
Sometimes, all it takes are simple switches in the way we see things, setting up small practices and reframing certain aspects in our brains and minds to enter the next level in our productivity.
3. take breaks often & pomodoro technique
Breaks are everything! The pomodoro technique is a very famous technique in which you work in intervals followed by short breaks - the classic is 25 min chunks, but you can do 45 min or 1 hr too. There are tons of apps you can download for the pomodoro technique! I personally love the technique and use my own phone timer and clock to set up soothing alarms once my chunk of work time is over. Then I time a 5-10 min break for my break time. Play around with time chunks and find what works best for you! I highly recommend not working over 1 hr at a time without a short 5-10 minute break though. Taking breaks actually keeps you more focused at the task. Short breaks also help big time with eye strain, hydration and mental fatigue. I recommend getting up (if you're sitting), jumping up and down, walking around, drink some water, close your eyes and do some breath work. Easy right? Makes a huge difference though. Both in your focus during the time chunks, and in your efficiency and productivity with how much you actually get done during those times. AND, your body will thank you for the self-care in between the work chunks. I covered breaks in my energy blog here, too.
Side note: a lot of people love what they do for work and that's the ideal and the goal. It's my deepest passion in life to try to help others get there. To live and design a life that feels right (both work life and personal, outside of work life). It's all about balance.
Work tends to have a bad connotation nowadays with so many people being dissatisfied and unhappy with their work life. There are, however loads of people when they say work, it just means what they are doing for a career, and how they are serving others, it doesn't necessarily have to feel like "work" - that dreaded term that's stereotyped in a dreary way now. When I say work, I just mean when you're sitting down to complete something - and when I say, so you can live life afterwards, I don't mean you ain't livin' it up while working or that work is not living, it's actually where we derive a lot of meaning and purpose. But, I do hope something you so look forward to and love, and if you don't: either change it or change how you perceive it and try to make it more likeable and fun for yourself!
This is a hard distinction to make, especially with entrepreneurs because a lot of the time when they run their own business, they're so fuelled by it and love it to death. This is also the case for more traditional jobs when you love it. There is no better or worse or right or wrong, it's what you find meaningful and valuable and enjoy! Some people love having structure and safety and being managed by others and some people would crumble in that setting and need to be the one doing it all for themselves.
Setting it up so you get more done though during those work block periods, helps you get ahead for yourself during both work times and leisure time (which is so important, too! that's where a lot of growth and real life comes in, in between the projects and goals, in the celebration of small wins, in the stuff you do for yourself, others, and outside of work hours, too, regardless if you love your work or not!)
WORK HARD PLAY HARD
I truly believe working hard, must be followed by playing hard or resting hard to recharge your batteries, too. You must (emphasis on the MUST) take time to rejuvenate and that means, every couple of months, taking a vacay or even a stay-cation that gets yourself reset and refuelled with creativity and amped up to get back at it! If you've been feeling unmotivated or just burnt out, this may be what's missing for you - a break. And, if you don't want burn out to happen, take breaks! Both, during work time slots, and every couple months, just get away and detox from it all to recharge!
4. declutter & organize your workspace
This one bothers you even if you don't think it does. When things are a mess, our brains subliminally focus on them even just as background noise. To clear excessive noise in your brain, clean up your space! Now, I totally understand artists or creatives love to work in spaces that are inspiring and sometimes, crazy messy. That is actually a sign of genius! And if you're too organized and clean all of the time, and spending too much time on it, you aren't doing enough stuff that matters! But, if you set up habits and condition yourself to put things away, deal with them right away, etc, you won't even need to think about decluttering or cleaning up because you'll be doing it as you go, instead of having to spend days and days on it. This will actually save you time in the long run and soon, it'll just be second nature. I'll be for sure doing a blog and podcast on organization in the future, so keep a lookout for it!
As long as it's organized chaos, it's all good. It matters if it bothers you and your brain and mind. It needs to be a space where you are able to focus solely on the task at hand and what you need to work on. You can't be thinking of laundry, or what you need to pick up, the papers scattered around etc. And, this happens without you even thinking about it - so if you think it could be bothering you, try to take some time to clear it all up, even if you have to take a day - finish it! Then, set yourself up to stick to keeping an organized and tidy environment or your own organized chaos that inspires you and you are happy with. And, if you can't take an entire day to do it, do 10 minutes worth every time before you start working. Doing a little, is always better than doing nothing at all.
5. Put white noise or non-lyrical music
What really helps me and (I know, a lot of other people) is putting on white noise, or non-lyrical music that deepens focus and concentration while working. I love the playlist "Deep Focus" and "Stress Relief" on Spotify. There's also one, called "Whale Sounds with Music" (so so sooo beautiful!) that I'm obsessed with, too.
Of course, always, do what works for you. Some people love lyrical music and can totally block it out while working - do what gives you the most gain in mental focus. Experiment with it!
6. write a list
Writing out a physical list does wonders for your brain - but if you don't want to do this, write it out on your phone either in an evernote or on a notes app. Bonus points if you are writing it out in your calendar notes and schedule! When you know what to expect and can see it visually, it helps your brain hone in on what to focus on. I love to write out exactly what I'm going to accomplish too during the time I work, beforehand so I have a mini goal to check off mentally after it's done! It will give you a sense of pride, too :). And that sense of pride, will condition you to want to get more things done, focus harder and be more productive next time, too! Win-Win! Feels good and makes you get more done so you can enjoy living life to the fullest after your work time ;)!
7. turn your phone off or on airplane mode
Bonus points if it's not in the room (unless you need it for photos or something related to the work you will be doing)! Minimize all distractions - duh! And, no surprise here...your phone can be a HUGE distraction when it comes to work - the engineers behind most apps and all social media design them to be highly addictive and distracting! This fragments your attention and may even have an effect on your brain long-term in being able to focus more than a couple minutes at a time. I highly recommend turning all notifications OFF and turning either your phone on airplane mode or completely OFF while working.
Now, I know what you're thinking..."But! What if someone needs me, what if I miss out on an alien crashing into Earth and what if I miss out on that big sale happening..." Okay stop. Seriously. This false sense of urgency isn't real. Nothing will happen if your phone is off. If you want, tell your loved ones when these block time chunks are for you and let them know it's to be better and for them, too. It is selfless, not selfish. Think about it, the more you can focus on the task at hand and get it done, the more present and blissful you'll be when you spend time with your loved ones and the more time you'll have to do so!
If it's a real emergency, you'll deal with it, do not worry. If things are crashing and burning and there's a fire, you'll be notified. FOMO is a real thing, I know. I've been there, we all have it! But, don't let it distract you from when you need to get things done in a focused and concentrated way. Phone must be put away! I found even having the phone in the room had an effect on me (powerful little things aren't they?) it's crazy right. So, I started to not even have it in my room while working, and dang! It made a huge difference. Take a phone detox and diet while you work, your productivity will thank me later - you're welcome :).
8. play around with environments
Play around with where you work and find what gets you most laser focused. Some people love quiet rooms and office spaces where they won't be bothered and need dead silence, others LOVE noisy and busy cafes. Some top level CEO's work in the public library and small little nooks. It's what works for you and what gives you the most concentration, what allows you to enter flow, even. I glimpse over flow in this blog post here too! If you are wondering what it is, google it! It's an amazing place to be.
9. do not multi-task - it doesn't exist
(Other than when the second task takes zero-to no brain work to focus on or pay attention to, like autonomic responses, second nature or background stuff!)
Contrary to popular belief, multi-tasking ain't a thing. It's so funny that job postings still post "must be able to multi-task!" to me. Because, neurologically speaking, it's not really possible. We can only focus on one thing at a time in terms of attention and real focus. You will get so much more done if you solely focus on 1 task at hand at a time. Not skimming 3 or 4 projects, but going deep on 1. That's where the gold mine is!
Now, before you get all: "But, you just said to put on background music...while working...!" Putting on white noise or non-lyrical music ain't multi-tasking y'all. Because, that second thing you're doing (the white noise or non-lyrical background music) is aiding your focus and requires no brain focus space or resource power. It's the things that take away resource power from your brain's functioning that is a no-no to pair with. Things that are OKAY to pair:
Driving & listening to an audio book or podcast
Folding laundry or cleaning the house & doing the same ^ listening to something educational
These two examples ^ both have 1 autonomic or task that doesn't take any mental focus in terms of executive function in our brains and the other does take focus to pay attention to. I guess you could call those multi-tasking and the only time it's okay to multi-task (but the background stuff isn't really a task per say for your brain because it happens effortlessly for you), you got me? Ok, cool.
RECAP) You never want to pair 2 attention type tasks that take up brain executive function or brain resource in terms of focus together. You will actually end up getting way less done than if you just focused on 1 solely. You'll end up also, just getting flustered which isn't cute either. *chuckles*
Now, I could do an entire blog post on this alone. I'm going to leave it up to you to research all the amazing benefits of meditation! Ever wonder why the World's most successful top tier people do it daily? Cause' it's bomb!!! Meditate. Do it. Trust me. Just do it. There are so many ways to meditate and so many forms of it. Tons of apps too! Do your research to find the one you love, but I highly recommend meditating once to twice per day - it skyrockets your focus through the roof! You're essentially learning to train your mind to focus and quiet down. It's an incredible habit to build and will deliver tenfold results in almost all areas of your life.
M - E - D - I- T - A - T - E
11. avoid working in the bedroom or on the bed at all costs
The bed and bedroom should be associated with two things and two things only. I'm not going to spell it out for ya'...they both start with "s." Sleeping and s__. Okay, now that that's over:
No working in the bed! Working in it will associate the bed with work and what that will do when it comes time to sleeping is not let you sleep. Your mind will be racing and going into work mode. Not good for anyone. And, you'll probably feel sleepy and not as alert and energized or focused during the work you do do on the bed, because again, your brain associates it with the two "s" ' s above.
Okay, maaaybe ONLY if you're feeling sickie and that's the ONLY place where it's comfortable to get some work done - but even then! NO! *Hehe* Try to avoid this at all costs!
Sending you BIG love today & always!
My whole heart, ♡
The Happiness Approach Podcast
Want inspo-on-the-go? Listen to the audio version of this blog post here ♡
In this podcast episode, I share with you my tips and tricks on how to stay focused, get more done and some productivity hacks along the way. Listen in now if you want to amp up your focus and concentration during the day!
follow along on instagram ↴
Today's QT's: Quote-ables & Takeaways from today's podcast episode & blog ↴
“Getting more done in less time isn't about multi-tasking, it's about focusing on one thing at a time and setting up practices that work for you in getting there.”
“Multi-tasking is over-rated.”
“Focus more now, so you can play more later.”
“Find what works for you and do that.”