Are you a professional that skips from task to task at work without focus? Or do you spend a significant amount of time without getting to today’s most important task? Keep reading to learn the seven things you could be doing to improve your focus and productivity.
1. Use The ‘Touch It Once’ Rule
When you consider a request for you to do something, such as from an email, use the 4 D’s – delete it, defer it (schedule for later), delegate it to someone more appropriate, or DO it. Don’t over-commit. The ‘touch it once’ rule means you should complete a task from start to finish the first time that you touch it, rather than starting on a task and leaving it before its finished and go on to another task. If you commit to following this rule it will eliminate most opportunities for procrastination.
2. Respond, Don’t React
Immediately reacting is something we feel like we have to do. A new email? Read, react and hit reply. New to-do pops up on your project management system? Do it immediately. STOP. First, unless something is … Immediate Action Needed Now… it can probably wait. Stop reacting immediately, focus on today’s most important tasks. Then when you are ready, take time to work through, think, and respond.
3. Start with Hardest First
Get the toughest or most undesirable tasks done first thing in the morning. What Brian Tracy calls ‘Eat that Frog’ <https://www.briantracy.com/blog/time-management/the-truth-about-frogs/>. This will get it out of the way so you can stop procrastinating to avoid that unbearable task.
4. Make a To-Do List
Establishing a game plan for your day is possibly the most valuable tool you have at your disposal. Simply knowing what you need to do and what other commitments you have will give you a clear view of what your day will look like. A piece of paper will do the trick or your digital to-do list or appointment scheduler. Try and limit today’s to-do list to no more than three most important items. Rather than multitasking, give one task your full attention until it is completed before moving on to the next. When a to-do list is in your head it is little more than something to stress over. There’s something about writing down a list of tasks that makes us more motivated to complete them and tick them off the list one by one. When a to-do list is written down it becomes a plan of action.
5. Stop Time-Sinks
Time-sinks come in many forms. Notifications, social media, emails, phone calls, and interruptions by colleagues, are great examples. You are giving up your valuable time to things that are not that important and can wait, and instead, most likely creating a backlog of tasks for your important projects. Do whatever it is you need to do to reduce or remove the temptation and get to work on what is important now.
6. Work in Time Blocks
Break your day up into blocks or chunks of time. Working for forty-five minutes with a fifteen-minute break will not only make the day go by faster but will also help you learn to gauge how long specific tasks take and where your time is being used. Use a timer to keep you on track.
7. Determine When You Are Most Productive
Some professionals are at their most productive in the early morning hours, while others may do their best work later in the morning or in the middle of the afternoon. Determine when you personally are at your most productive and use those hours to their full advantage for the most important tasks.
Improving your focus at work is about training yourself to work, respond, and plan your day in a way that is most useful to you This will look different for everyone, but with time and practice, you can become an effective and productive professional.