Recently I wrote a post about How my New Schedule made me Super Productive, which became quite the popular post.
Now that article was specific about how I block my time for certain tasks which has allowed me to get larger amounts of work done and also increased my focus (believe me, I was a true scatterbrain normally).
Apparently, I was not alone when dealing with the issue of focus and I received feedback from people both on this blog and in emails from people telling me the difficulty they have in getting things done.
I decided today’s topic was going to discuss some advice I have for aiding focus and being more productive in general.
So, here are my 10 tips for helping you stay focused on the tasks at hand and get more stuff done!
This one is simple but can be hard. One way to get focus is to cut out all the useless things that are clogging up your life. We all have them, projects, chores, ideas, items that are just serving us no purpose.
They lurk in our subconscious, and we need to purge them. So be ruthless. Cut out things that are not helping you. Here are some examples:
Random apps on your phone? Delete them, don’t continue to swipe through to the ones you actually use. Save space on your phone and just delete them. Now.
Got a list of task that has been on your to-do list forever? Make a decision right now, do you honestly a) need to do it b) want to do it c) have to do it? There will probably be some that just aren’t that important. Delete.
Books you won’t read. Look I get it, I’m a book hoarder but even I had to step back and decide to clear out dozens of books I just knew I’d never read. Maybe they were gifts? Maybe they were on offer and you can’t miss a bargain.
If you are always passing them over for another choice, just get rid. Sell them, donate them, just get them out of the house and free up space.
Have a wardrobe full of clothes and still select the same 12 outfits? Same with the books, just let the rest go.
These might seem small things but they can make a big impact in giving you more focus. Sounds strange, but trust me on this.
02 Think Minimal
No one is saying go minimal, (unless you want to) but there are some benefits to having a more minimalist system/home.
There is a reason Steve Jobs wore the same outfit often. It removes the time taken to choose an outfit for the day. There’s a reason the capsule wardrobe is becoming more and more popular.
Got 10 different kinds of cereal? 18 pairs of earrings? 16 bags? Every time you have multiple quantities of something, you have created extra decisions.
Too many decisions lead to Decision Fatigue. We have a finite amount of decision-making power every day. Every time we make a decision no matter how big or small, we move closer to decision fatigue.
Ever had those feelings were you just can’t make ANY decisions? At those times, you’ve hit decision fatigue and your brain just can’t process any more.
No one is saying pare down until you have one of everything (unless you want that) but maybe think carefully about what you have and consider if you could reduce.
The idea of is to keep how many mundane decisions you have to make to a minimum so you have more decision-making power for the important stuff.
03 Decide what is really important
I have always had a ton of project ideas swirling around in my head. Now the truth is, we only have a finite amount of time in life and truthfully we don’t know how long that’s going to be.
Morbid but true.
So take some time to really think about what you want to do, now and in the future. Look through all the things you want to work on, and start to prioritise what you’ll work on now.
Consider using the 5 Task method – I discuss it in my There’s So Little Time – A Hard Truth article.
Give that your complete focus and stop dividing your time loads of projects and tasks.
04 Manage your time
We waste a LOT of time and I don’t just mean when we’re sitting watching TV. Even while working on tasks, chores and projects we waste time.
A good method to reduce wasted time is to do a time log. Spend a week to two logging your time.
Everything you do, write it down when you started and finished. It’s not easy and it is a little tedious but it really reveals just how much time we waste and where/when.
I remember reading an article where someone made a great point how we all claim to be busy, too busy to do XYZ but if an emergency happens if your boiler breaks or your pipes burst you will find the time to deal with it. Something will be sacrificed, something will be put on hold.
This usually means you have things that in truth can be pushed to one side every now and then (or completely).
Use your time log to tighten up your schedule. Do you get stuck waiting in the dentist’s office? Then make sure you have some ‘need to read’ articles stored on your phone or have quick access to the links.
Commuting to work? Get yourself some audiobooks on topics you’re interested in and use that time to listen to them.
Fit other tasks into these “dead times”.
05 Track your energy levels
Throughout the day you will have dips and rises in energy. The best thing you can do is track them and then plan your day accordingly. (Track them at the same time you are doing your time log, saves time).
Most people (but not all, hence why you need to track this yourself) have more energy in the morning. So plan you active, high-energy projects and tasks for these times. This should be when you do your high-focus work.
Often we fall into bad routines. We could have oodles of energy in the morning and what do many of us do? Chores. You can waste your best focusing time doing something that needs almost no focus.
Work out your own energy timetable and go with it.
06 Be prepared to let go
I made the hard choice to let go of some courses I had paid for years ago. They were in subjects I had originally been interested in and had never completed them. I had been clinging onto them for years thinking “someday”.
I think it was the fact I’d spent money on them that made it hard to let them go. But having them hanging over me was unhelpful. They were just some of many things vying for my attention and focus.
Sometimes clinging to the someday/maybe tasks can really be damaging. We don’t like not finishing things, we don’t like giving up on something we’ve given time to or paid money for.
But it’s better to let them go and get them out of your head so you can focus on things you really love than have them lurking at the back of your mind, stealing small amounts of your attention.
07 Be strategic
In everything from work, projects, chores…you need to be strategic. Do you have errands to run? Then block them together and plan the most efficient route.
Have to make some calls? Group them all together and do them in a block, take the time to gather all relevant paperwork, numbers and then just get through them.
I’ve seen both family and friends make multiple trips to town on the same day. Instead of taking the time and thinking about different places they needed to go, they just went out the moment they realised they needed milk or to post something.
Then they’d come back and 2 hours later realise they needed pet food or to pick up a prescription so off they’d go again. This is not strategic, it’s knee-jerk reacting.
All you need is to take a little more time to consider what else you need to do while you’re out. Who else you need to speak to when you’re making calls.
08 Keep a schedule
I don’t care how organised you think you are or how great your memory is, don’t waste time keeping everything in your head. Use a schedule to keep you organised.
Whether that is a family calendar that tracks were everyone is meant to be regarding appointments, meetings, activities or a content calendar for tracking what’s happening on your blog.
Create a working schedule and use it.
09 Learn in the field
This means not waiting to learn everything before you start. Take some time to learn the basics, give yourself a good foundation but then start.
I have been guilty of this. I’ve had projects I want to start but I can spend months reading up on everything about doing it before I started just so I can start strong.
Sometimes it can be good to just jump in with what you know and learn the rest as you go.
I did this with my blog and I even did it with my business. You make some mistakes, you learn, you adapt and you get better.
10 Forgive yourself
You’re going to mess up. You’ll lose focus, forget your schedule, miss appointments, try and take on too many things etc.
It’s okay. It’s not about perfection, it’s about making small changes that can help you. Over time these will become habits and you can find better methods for efficient productivity.
In my article regarding my new schedule, I admitted that the first week was hard. I was forever catching myself reaching for other tasks, opening too many tabs to just “check something”.
There are times when even the best-laid plans fail miserably. Just get up and try again. If you try something and it doesn’t work for you, then let it go and try something new.
Don’t try all the above at once, maybe try one thing. Get comfortable with one thing and then add in something new.
We all look at other people and think “OMG how do they get so much done?” but we all have our own ways and we don’t know what other people are dealing with. Just work on trying to find the best methods for you.
What is a tip you have for being productive and getting things done?
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