Table of Contents
- Accountability and reward for progress
- Walk away for better focus
- Work and no play distort perspective
- Be prepared and plan ahead
- Schedule everything
- Prioritize your frogs
- Break tasks into chunks for better time management
- Skippable – My Personal Story
- Just ship it
- Outsourcing where it makes sense
- Create content first, edit later
- Clear the distractions
- Multitasking makes you unproductive – maybe even stupid.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the best tips on staying focused to help increase productivity.
This is an in-depth article so, by all means, pick and choose to your heart’s content. We have everything organized in the Table of Contents and outlined for easy skimming. That’s just how we roll baby. 😉
If you’re here just for the list of tools, that’s cool too. I’d encourage you to check out the article at some point but, on this blog, you’re the boss. Kind of.
Accountability and reward for progressBe true to your word. When you say you'll do something - do it. Here are the keys (as I see it):Click To Tweet
☑ Don’t be afraid to make commitments.
☑ Don’t abuse the process.
☑ Tell the right people.
There’s some real value in the form of motivation when we’re at risk of letting someone important down.
An accountability partner can be a friend or family member that will help keep you on target, a mastermind group, or someone you partner with exclusively for accountability.
Sometimes putting it out there for everyone to see can be a powerful motivator as well. If you announce a goal or plan publically, you’ll feel the pressure to follow through because you know others are watching.
Rewarding your success and achievement
Hey, want another story? Sure you do. 😉
I can remember, back in the day, when my Father decided to quit smoking. His doctor told him that he should reward himself for quitting.
My Father loved woodworking in his garage at the time, and he took some of the money he saved from not smoking and bought himself something instead. That advice probably saved my father a few years of life to live because it totally worked for him.
Be specific with goal setting, including exact deadlines. Now be just as specific when setting the reward for that achievement. 😉
Walk away for better focusThere's scientific support that walking away helps improve focus. #productivity #focusClick To Tweet
EVERY TIME I take my dog, Sadie, outside, either for a walk or just to do her thing, things get clear to me. I’ll come up with fresh ideas or remember something that I meant to accomplish or think of an improvement on whatever I’m working on. Seriously, walking away from the pressure seems to help focus; ride your bike, wash the dishes, take a shower, or maybe even just a nap will help.
There’s scientific support that walking away helps improve focus. Almost three years after this post, I was listening to a Science Friday podcast (To Master Test Material, Give Your Brain a Break) and, low and behold, experts are explaining why taking a break helps focus. I don’t see a way to embed the audio so I’ll embed my tweet so you can have a listen if you like; the first few minutes of the podcast will explain much of the idea.
— Brian D. Hawkins (@HotBlogTips) September 9, 2014
Follow One Course Until Successful
Work and no play distort perspectiveFew people seem to have mastered the perfect balance of work and play. Where do you fit into the equation?Click To Tweet
It can’t be work all the time.
There seem to be two types of people, those that allow work to encapsulate our lives and those that don’t give work a chance to take root. Ironically, the results are often the same – very lacking.
Few people seem to have mastered the perfect balance of work and play. The challenge is that there’s no single solution for everyone or all of the time.
Gary Vee seems to hit it hard most of the time. John Lee Dumas worked like a madman until he was able to allow systems to help and now he plays as hard as he works. Few people are truly suited for the literal four-hour workweek of Tim Ferriss.
We have to figure out where our sweet spot is in the balance and then be in that presence.
We need to be aware and accept that circumstances will alter that balance from time to time, but consistency is what will take us to the finish line.
You’ve got to stay focused without being boring – because all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Skinny, but dull. ~LL Cool J
Many successful people schedule the transition between work and play. (See “Schedule Everything“) We’ve heard people like Leslie Samual, Cliff Ravenscraft, and Micheal O’Neal talk about the importance of setting a time to shut down and living life.
Be prepared and plan aheadMentally and physically preparing for upcoming tasks seems like a no-brainer but many of us just 'shoot from the hip.'Click To Tweet
I hate to admit it, but I’m one of the people. I have to force myself to prepare, even for some of the most important tasks. I have over 200 videos to prove it. 😉
Here’s a simple example that has been working wonders for me.
Each night, before I allow myself to head to bed, I write down the most important task that I need to accomplish the next day.
Schedule everythingI won’t get in your face, but you’ve heard it before, “If it’s not on the schedule, it doesn’t exist.” Write it down. Everything.Click To Tweet
A few years ago I almost went to blows with a mechanic that got in my face and screamed, “If it ain’t written up, it ain’t broken.” That dude almost made me lose my religion. LOL
Well, I won’t get in your face, but you’ve heard it before, “If it’s not on the schedule, it doesn’t exist.” Write it down. Everything.
If you talk about it, it’s a dream, if you envision it, it’s possible, but if you schedule it, it’s real. ~Anthony Robbins
So make it real and write it down.
By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. ~Benjamin Franklin
Here’s a hot tip: Add the obvious.
By that, I mean, schedule things like your breaks, lunch, phone calls, research, exercise and, dare I say it? Yes, even family time.
The more we see heading our way, the better prepared we’ll be to handle.
I like to add “cushion time” to my schedule
Prioritize your frogsDeal with it by eating the biggest frog first. A little Brian Tracy for you.Click To Tweet
Since we’re scheduling everything, prioritizing is imperative. We need to find that one thing and work down from there.
There will be days when we can’t get everything done. If you’re like me, most days are like that because I get a little too ambitious.
Things happen. That’s life. We can not anticipate every little thing, as hard as we try.
The power will go out, the internet will hit a wall, you’re going to electrocute yourself by rubbing your feet all over the cables behind your desk, and a hundred other things.
When it’s time to quit – quit.
This has always been a tough one for me. To be completely honest, it still is.
We need a time to clock out. Just because we’re working from home doesn’t mean we should sit at our desks until late in the evening, or worse.
Break tasks into chunks for better time managementHey, I know it sounds boring and about as creative as a cinder block, but that is what helps me be creative when it comes to content creation.Click To Tweet
My schedule this morning, after my tri-morning ritual (more on that later), had a four-hour block of time to create this blog post.
Within that four-hour block of time, I scheduled five short breaks (about 10 minutes) and 20 minutes for breakfast.
The Pomodoro Technique
I won’t go too deep into The Pomodoro Technique here, even though it fits perfectly into the topic, because I recently covered the technique just a few months ago in December.
Basically, you use a timer, and this is a proven and widely accepted practice, to schedule 25-minute blocks of work time with short breaks in between.
There are several benefits to using the Pomodoro method, but I love the idea of getting up and moving around more often. That alone is worth giving this a try but, seriously, you can get a lot more accomplished with a balanced and fresh mind than you can by overloading it under continuous thought and stress.
Give it a try. If it doesn’t work perfectly for you, tweak it a little until is does work.
See “The Pomodoro Technique May Not Work For Everyone – All Of The Time” from just a few posts ago.
Now, I’m not a Psychologist, but I play one on the internet. LOL
Even a truck driver can see what’s happening with these clear deadlines.
I only have four hours to get this written before I have to move onto the next task. I will be done. Now, If I allowed myself six hours, that’s exactly how long it would take.
Now, back to your regularly scheduled content.
Get the most important task started as early as possible.
I’m not going to bother looking it up, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find scientific evidence that we’re smarter after we wake up than we are after a long day of work.
Personally, I need to wake up a bit before I’m ready to take on the world, but I am more productive earlier in my day. I’m avoiding terms like “in the morning” and “in the afternoon” for night owl readers.
By the time I pee, let my dog out, and finish my tri-morning ritual (exercise, read, and meditate), I’m ready to focus. Well, with a cup of coffee. 😉
That’s me. We all have to find our sweet spot.
Just ship itWe all have other things to do and places to be. You're fooling yourself if you think even a small percentage of people are reading every word.Click To Tweet
This is another tough one for me. Perfectionists struggle big time when it comes to content creation. It’s rarely good enough. Even after I publish a post, I have to resist going in and making multiple edits.
Recommended Reading: Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? By Seth Godin
How was it possible to brainwash billions of people to bury their genius, to give up their dreams, and to buy into the idea of being merely an employee in a factory, following instructions? ~ Seth Godin in Linchpin
Many marketers call it the Minimum Viable Product (MVP). Usually based on user feedback, a product only needs to be of enough value to trigger a purchase. There’s time to improve, or even complete, the product later.
Think of your blog posts in that term (MVP) when you’re getting bogged down and running out of time. It’s good enough to offer value, and I’m just going to ship it.
Real quick, I’m going to share a little secret. Ready? Few people are reading every word of your blog posts. (If you saw me write that before, thanks for reading.)
I hate to be the one to tell you that, but it is true. We’re in an era of skimming content. I say era because I don’t believe it is generational.
I’m over fifty [he clears his throat] and I find myself ready to leave a blog post when it doesn’t load in a few seconds. If I, after growing up waiting for my black and white tube TV to warm up, can’t wait, I can only imagine how fast younger generations are going to bounce.
Outsourcing where it makes senseI decided that taking care of our half an acre of grass every weekend was really getting in the way of my genius.Click To Tweet
You’ve heard it over and over – outsource things that don’t require your personal touch.
That’s great advice, right?
For example, you write the content and your virtual assistant proofs, edits, and publishes the post. Either that VA or another one creates your images, a SlideShare, an infographic, and maybe even a does the promotions for you. Hello, sign me up, right? What a perfect world that would be.
We have to start somewhere and until our blogs generate a profit that can be reinvested, that’s a lot of money to pull from our family’s lifestyle. Am I right?
Sure, there’s the whole cart before the horse thing and the tail wagging the dog thing. Oh, and the car before the job but you need a job to get the car thing. And the chicken and egg thing. What? Forget it, now I’m confused. 😉
Here’s the deal. I know, I have a lot of deals but bear with me.
Just like we don’t have to wow the planet with perfection every waking moment (Your MNP, remember?), we don’t have to jump in with both feet when it comes to outsourcing.
For example, last year I decided that taking care of our half an acre of grass every weekend was really getting in the way of my genius. As it turns out, I did make enough online to cover the cost of having a crew stop by every Tuesday and taking that pain in the butt off my hands.
The result? Within the first month, I not only recovered that expense but doubled it by freeing up the time for more important things like product creation, marketing, list building and relationship building.
Am I saying that hiring a lawn crew improved my business and financial situation? You bet your sweet ass, that’s exactly what I’m saying.
My avatar has a sweet ass. LOL
Create content first, edit laterEditing while you're writing is a bad habit. It prevents flow and can rip a tear in creativity.Click To Tweet
I just finished a book called “The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance” By Steven Kotler. The book speaks to how “flow” associates with top performers.
That topic is too involved for this discussion but, as writers, we have all experienced that “flow” or “zone.”
What is Flow for writers? It’s when inspiration seems to connect with creativity and pure genius starts pouring from our fingertips. ~ Brian D. Hawkins
You know what kills that flow? Distractions.
Clear the distractionsLet me ask you a simple question. When's the last time you checked your email? Facebook?Click To Tweet
As tough as it is, sometimes, to stay focused, we have dozens of things competing for our attention at any given time.
I hadn’t opened Gmail since yesterday afternoon when I achieved inbox zero. I’m not bragging, just making a point.
Here’re a few helpful tips to avoid distractions:
☑ Clear your workspace and keep it clean.
☑ Take care of nature’s calls and grab what you’ll need before you get started.
☑ Turn off notifications.
☑ Throw your phone out the window.
☑ Close all of those browser tabs
☑ Tell people around you that you’re going to be busy for a while.
☑ Play a little wordless music or white noise lightly in the background.
☑ Know, exactly, what you’re out to accomplish before you start.
☑ Set a timer for your next break.
Multitasking makes you unproductive – maybe even stupid.In fact, some researchers might as well say multitasking makes you stupid.Click To Tweet
I’m not going to go as far as saying it makes us stupid, but we are stupid if we believe we’re “different” and work better on multiple things at a time.
Here’s my theory. Ready? This is going to blow you away with an ah-ha moment.
My oldest daughter is one of the smartest people in my life. And I’m not just saying that. She’s smart.
She also thinks she’s an exception and can multitask to get more done – better. Here’s why I believe she thinks that. Hey, I didn’t say she was smarter that I am. 😉
Oh no, not another story. Trust me, it comes together in a moment.
Once I got carried away in the Mountains of northern California and took a fully loaded tractor trailer down a 6% grade at over a hundred miles an hour. It was mostly a straight line but there was a gentle curve at the bottom. Gentle no longer describes the curve when you’ve hit triple digits with 80,000 pounds of steel.
I was young and stupid, but I did have enough experience by that point to know I would burn up my brakes if I tried to slow the truck to a reasonable speed in that short of space.
Worse, there was traffic. A lot of it. Mostly other trucks. And man, were they pissed. You should have heard them on the CB.
I managed to drop a couple of gears and get that rig just under a hundred MPH. I still found myself weaving through traffic like I was on a Harley.
I made it, luckily without hurting anyone. So stupid.
Here’s the deal, though. I felt in control. Even though common sense told me that any one of a million things beyond my control could have meant disaster, I wasn’t worried. I felt relaxed. Not exhilarated, I’m not the daredevil type. But I wasn’t freaking out, either.
Back to multitasking. I lost you, didn’t I? LOL
I believe my daughter, like many others, found they are great at performing under pressure. Multitasking creates that sense of pressure. False sense of pressure? Let’s call in self-induced.
My idiocy on the mountains was nothing more than an illusion of skill induced by the realization of working well under pressure. Now that’s deep, am I right? ?
I told you I was going to blog you away with that. Yes, I meant to write “Blog.”
Blog is the new blow. LOL
Now get in the pit and try to love someone!