Do you ever think how amazing it would be to do everything you set out to do each day, so you could relax and know you’ve accomplished your daily goals? However, we often face a mountain of work and feel overwhelmed and unproductive. By day’s end, we throw in the towel, feeling defeated by our to-do list.
Take charge of your time and energy, and learn what to focus on and what to let go. These 18 proven tools will help you stay focused and amp up your productivity so you can kill it every day.
1. Set daily goals
Get organized by dividing your day into goals, each with a clear purpose. Think of this as a detailed to-do list of prioritized daily tasks. Keeping a to-do list is the simplest and easiest proven tool to ensure you stay focused and increase your productivity. Set reasonable targets for each day. All you need to get organized is a pen and paper, or even just an app on your smartphone.
2. First things first
You only have so much time and energy, and chances are you’ll never have enough of both to accomplish everything (you think) you need to do every day. What you really need to do is focus on the most important tasks first. Not everything on your list is urgent.
3. Set deadlines and stick to them
Deadlines can be a great way to control procrastination, but research has found that self-imposed deadlines don’t work for true dawdlers. Instead, hard deadlines that are evenly spaced out are most effective. So, if you’re struggling to find your mojo for a project, set firm deadlines with your boss or client, and make sure they are reasonable and sufficiently spaced out to accomplish the task.
4. Compartmentalize your time
Zoom through your tasks by giving yourself some “do not disturb” time. Tell those you work with that you won’t be available for meetings or appointments during this time. Carving out focus time minimizes interruptions so you can engage in deep work.
5. Put away your cell phone
Our smartphones and mobile devices have become a pervasive part of our lives, to the detriment of our productivity. Research has found that U.S. consumers spend at least 5 hours a day on their mobile devices, with about half that time spent on social media, messaging and entertainments apps. By simply putting your phone away for periods of time, or at least turning off notifications, you’ll gain hours of productivity and focus.
6. Practice mindfulness
Practising mindfulness meditation has been shown to increase the ability to focus and enhance learning and memory. Research shows it can even prevent age-related mental decline. According to one 7-year study, practising mindfulness meditation is associated with improvement in sustaining focus and attention. Even more important, participants had increased feelings of emotional well-being and performed better on tasks.
7. Know your body clock
Schedules give our days structure and a timetable to revolve around. However, not everyone functions on the same timetable. We all have natural rhythms that influence our ability to focus and produce.
The key is to match your highest priority work to your most productive hours of the day. Pay attention to your body clock. Most people tend to be most alert in the morning, and our concentration often starts to slide in the afternoon.
8. Take mental breaks
A strategic break can be an amazing boost for your brain. Even a short break can give you that burst of inspiration and creativity you’ve been looking for. Taking a brief break from work allows your mind to reset and restores your motivation. When you feel mental fatigue setting in, try stepping away from your desk for a few minutes. You can try stretching, going for a walk or spending a few minutes outside enjoying nature.
9. Exercise often
We all know exercise is good for our bodies, but it’s also good for our brains. Working out has been shown to be an effective way to improve our attention, increase our learning potential and boost our memory. Exercise improves our mood and reduces feelings of stress and anxiety. But studies have also shown that people who work out have greater volume in the parts of the brain that control memory and thinking.
10. Declutter your workspace
A clean and tidy space has a way of putting your mind at ease and increasing your ability to focus and go full-bore throughout your day. A desk in disarray will make your brain feel as cluttered and overflowing as your inbox.
11. Use the two-minute rule
If a task will take less than two minutes to complete, do it right away. Don’t let these tiny tasks build up for another time, and don’t add them to the bottom of your list. Take two minutes and just do it. You may be surprised by how many things you can accomplish in just a few minutes, such as sending an email or cleaning up your desk.
12. Switch tasks
Have you ever been hard at work on a project, feeling totally focused, but after a while you feel like you hit a wall? It’s like your brain just locked up. It could be you’ve been focusing on one thing for too long, and now your brain needs a change of topic.
Try switching tasks to something else for a while. Switch it up by working on an entirely different task. Giving your brain a variety of things to work on can help you stay alert and productive for longer.