Focus and Productivity

Technology has makes it nearly impossible to stays focused. There are so many things coming at us in the course of a day that it’s hard to keep focused and be productive. We’ve trained ourselves to react to just about everything that comes at us. Everyone is different too, we all have things that distract us but the good news is, there is a way to train ourselves to become more focused and thus increase the quantity and quality of our work. Here are some tips to help re-train your brain to become more focused and highly productive.

Get in a Routine

No day is the same – that would be way too easy. So, I find it best to sit down at the end of the day and figure out your next day. Start by making a list of everything, I mean everything – exercise, making a dr. appointment, picking up the kids, checking email, breaks, etc. you want or need to get done. Once the list is complete, go back, prioritize and set goals for each task. I suggest taking on the biggest task first (Eat That Frog!) Based on the list you created, start to chunk out your day.

You know yourself so think about it, do you work better first thing in the morning or do you need to get that workout in or else it doesn’t happen. Create your day…yes, things might have to be adjusted and that is ok. You at least have a foundation and a plan. The next morning, take 5 minutes, review your list and adjust as needed and start your day! A daily routine will reduce stress, create more “focus” time and a more productive you.

Turn off notifications

When it’s time to start a project, turn off any notifications (email, Slack, Twitter, Facebook, etc.). Don’t worry, it’s ok you aren’t going to miss anything that important, plus if you chunked your time accordingly you will have time to check email, social media accounts, etc.  Shutting off notifications will help stop some of the distractions that decrease focus and productivity.

The one distraction that is difficult to shut off is ourselves. How many times have you been working on something and thought of something else, work-related or not? If that happens to you, take second, grab a notepad, write it down and then get back to the task at hand. Done – it’s out of your head, it’s written down so you don’t forget about it and you can add it to your list of things to do at another time or move it to the next day, week, etc.

Listen to Music

I am a big believer in this. When I need to really focus and get a task done (big or little), I put my headphones on and pick a playlist. Listening to music helps me get in the zone, I am so much more focused and not distracted by little things (yes, I have my headphones on right now listening to one my favorite playlists while I write this post).

Studies have shown that music affects mood, blood pressure, heart rate, helps retain information and increases focus and productivity. Choose your music wisely. Don’t pick something that is going to put you to sleep or the latter, it gets you so excited or pumped up that you can’t focus.

Stop Being Too Busy to Take Breaks

In general, we over glorify “being busy”. We think busy = success and we don’t look at the quality of time put in. We need to break that stigma an accept that if we need to take a break and go exercise or just take a 5-10 break, it’s ok. Breaks help avoid burnout, reduces stress and gives you a fresh start. Especially a break during a day filled with tasks, meetings, kids sporting events, etc. Take that time to reset, rejuvenate and just breathe. Get up walk around, get some fresh air and come back in 5-10 minutes. Sometimes a break is the best thing you can do to get your focus back. If you aren’t feeling fully focused – a break is a perfect solution.

Exercise and Eat Right

I think we are all aware of the physical aspects of exercise (lower blood pressure, healthy heart, lower risk of diabetes, etc.). More and more studies find not only does it improve our physical being it improves our mental and overall being. If you exercise, you know what I mean.  Harvard Business Review published an article called Regular Exercise is Part of Your Job. The article talks about the mental benefits of a regular exercise routine.

The article stated that regular exercise will:

  • Improved concentration
  • Sharper memory
  • Faster learning
  • Prolonged mental stamina
  • Enhanced creativity
  • Lower stress

Try to incorporate some sort of exercise into your daily routine. If you have a meeting – make it a walking meeting. Or take half of your lunch hour, go on a walk and use the second half to eat that salad (healthy eating is addressed below).

Eating right and exercise goes hand in hand. Take a look at what and how much you eat and drink. Eating too much at lunch will make you tired and unmotivated. Look at how much water you are drinking. Humans should drink a least a half gallon of water a day (more if you exercise), are you getting enough? Dehydration can make you feel sluggish and less focused, making it hard to concentrate and complete tasks.

Next, look at what you are eating. Healthy eating also impacts the way we feel and behave. A diet high in sugar and saturated fats affects the way we think, can cause depression and anxiety and impacts the way we remember things. What changes can you make to your diet so that it is healthier?

I exercise 5-6 days a week and eat relatively healthy. I am a big proponent of healthy living and would be able to accomplish half of what I do in a day because of it.

You Can Do It

I hope you take some of these ideas and start to implement into your daily life. If it seems like a lot, start with one, notice the difference it makes then keep the momentum going, build on the change you see and add another change. It is possible to re-train your brain and yourself to a more focused and highly productive life!

What do you do to stay focused and productive? We’d love to hear from you.

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