There is one thing between you and a productive day where you finish every task on your list, and that thing is overwhelm. Knowing the sheer amount of things that need to be done in a day is enough to make your head spin. Add on all of the things that you want to be doing after you finish what you need to do and your head just shuts down.
When you have a million things to do for your career along with wanting to watch that Netflix series you’ve been trying to make time for, needing to book plane tickets for your vacation in September and all the things in between, it’s hard to focus on getting any of it done. These 5 tips will help you better manage your tasks and make up for the class we all should have taken in high school on increasing productivity and focus.
Give yourself tunnel vision
Your first priority when sitting down to work should be to get rid of anything that will distract you from the task at hand. In order to finish something in a timely manner, you need to focus just on that thing, that’s it, that’s it, that’s it. Nothing else, just the task. You will be more productive if you are focused on a single thing.
For example, our biggest tip to finishing housework is to turn off the television while cleaning up. Having the T.V. on while doing house chores, or really anything, cuts your focus in half. The constant noise and thought of what is happening on the screen is distracting to your brain and takes away from doing what you need to do.
That also goes for people, phones, or other factors that may distract you. If you are someone that is distracted easily by other people, try wearing noise-canceling headphones to really get in your zone.
Detach yourself from your phone. One of the most simple and effective ways to keep your hands off your cell is to turn off push notifications. Try turning off all push and banner notifications to start, that way you won’t be tempted by the screen lighting up on your desk while you work.
Decide what needs to be done now
Even if you don’t classify yourself as a “list person”, try to keep a record of what you need to accomplish. You don’t need to micromanage -that is, don’t schedule snack breaks, but do have a fully formed idea of what must be done.
Start with the most difficult task on the list you’ve made (or imagined). You gotta bite the bullet and finish it up. Once you finish writing half of your book, writing a thank-you card will be cake, by comparison. If you decide to do all of your simpler tasks first, you’ll be feeling burnt out by the time you’re ready to tackle the hardest thing on your to-do list.
After you start finishing difficult things, your brain is going to reward you with a feeling of excitement and satisfaction for completing something hard. This will encourage you to continue your productive streak.
So you’re in an area free of anything that will take your focus away from your task. You know what you need to get done. Use the Pomodoro technique to actually get to the actual doing. This time-saving, focus-honing technique breaks your work down into small 25-minute blocks. After working on your task for the 25 minute block (called a Pomodoro), you should take a short 5-10 minute break before returning for another 25 minute Pomodoro. After working four 25-minute Pomodoros and taking three 5-minute breaks, take a longer break, around 25-30 minutes.
This technique has worked wonders for our team, and many entrepreneurs and students also praise the method. Working in small chunks allows you to focus singularly without worrying about Netflix, plane tickets, or your next task. Taking short breaks gives you a minute to recharge, whether that be your mind with a funny video, or your body with a walk to the coffee shop across the street.
We use Rocket Focus (formally known as Pomogiri) for the iPhone to keep up with our Pomodoros. We love it because because it builds on the Pomodoros technique in 2 great ways:
- Rocket Focus has incentives, albeit small ones. The basis of the app is that you are a space explorer. Every time you blast off, you take 25 minutes to find a new planet and 100 coins. You build up a solar system and can purchase new space suits and rockets with your coins.
- Secondly, this app keeps you off of your phone. If you leave the Rocket Focus app while exploring, your rocket ship will explode and you will fail the mission. Unless you use your phone for your work, it will help to have a reminder not to absently pick it up and scroll before having to regain focus.
Just like children learning to read and write, adults need to try and keeping trying (and trying, and trying) before they can master a skill. And a good skill to have is managing your tasks and staying focused on them.
Remember how slow you were typing on a keyboard when you were just starting? After consistently using computers and practicing the skill of typing, the average person can type around 40 words per minute. So, just because you haven’t mastered a skill or completed a massive task in a single day, week, month, or year, don’t sweat it.
If you are feeling down about how fast your skills are developing, think of new ways to stay inspired. Remind yourself why you started and how great it will be when you’re finished or successful. Try using social media to look at others that are on the same path as you and can empathize with your journey. We are all on our own path, and our travels are the greatest part of life.
Surround yourself with a team
Join a community that will support you in your endeavors. No matter what you are working on, there is almost a guarantee that someone, somewhere else in the world is doing something similar. Check around your local sources (web, newspapers, coffee shops) for groups that you can benefit from. Whether your goal is to read more, plan a wedding, learn to draw, or start an overwhelming project, there are people out there interested in going at it together.
It also helps to join our community by signing up for our email list where you will have access to exclusive productivity tips, products and resources.
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We love hearing from you! What is your kryptonite? We can’t help but binge-watch Food Network shows and reading way too many books -what distracts you?