Your ability to Focus is more than just a worthwhile thing to cultivate–it’s a critical factor in your success or failure. Getting things done is imperative, and focus is the key to getting things done. People who get things have more organizational value. People who get things done become the go-to people for the most important projects. They are the people everyone one wants on their team or project.
Here are 10 tips to help you stay focused at work by managing distraction, drawing healthy boundaries, and eliminating opportunities for procrastination.
1. Have a Plan
Plan your week
Start by planning the priorities for your week. Spend 10 to 15 minutes on Monday putting the top 5 things into Focus5 that will ensure the week is a success. Prioritize them. Use the priority feature to move an item to the top of your list. If it is a number one priority that isn’t due until the end of the week, you should still keep it on top. Otherwise Focus5 will automatically put tasks in due date order. Know what meetings or appointments you need to prepare for. Schedule tasks in Focus5 appropriately. A good plan will significantly improve your success. Where do your priorities come from? From your strategy. Your strategy can be broken down into Focus Sprints which are shorter in duration.
Plan your day
Begin each day be reviewing your priorities and planning your day. Spend at least 5 minutes forming your game plan before you login to email. If you star your day reviewing email, the urgent little things soon consume your entire morning, robing you of your most productive time. Given your commitments, plan accordingly. Then check email.
When priorities change
Recognize that priorities do change. When a new priority arises, plan it into the mix, reprioritize your week and your day. Move the tasks needed to the next week. Very few plans go perfectly. Your ability to flex and adjust without becoming frustrated will be highly valued by your boss and peers.
Ensure your plans align with your Focus Areas
Make sure that the priority work is getting the attention it needs. If your documented Focus Areas are really the top priority, that most of your tasks should be able to be directly linked back to one of those Focus Areas. Use tags in Focus5 to mark your tasks and ensure you are working in the most important things.
2. Stay Focused – Be aware of what distracts you
Some of the biggest sources of distraction come from email, social media, and cell phones. If you want real focus, take yourself offline until you’ve accomplished what you need to do.
Tune Out the noise around you
One of the best ways to tune everything out is to tune in to music. When everything around you is distracting, shut the door, put on your headphones–find something that can serve as background music rather than music that holds your full attention. Music can help you concentrate, and the headphones signal others that you’re not available to chat.
Clean up your workspace
If your workspace is dirty, disorganized, or cluttered, invest some time in clearing it out so you can focus.
Multi-tasking is one of the least productive behaviors. Research shows that both quality and quantity of work suffer from multi-tasking. Stop kidding yourself, you are not a great multi-tasker. Multi-tasking leads to fragmented thought and divided attention.
Minimize Open Windows
Keep open only the programs you need for the project you are working on. It means less toggling and less use of your computers’ memory. It also means there is less chance of an automated reminder distracting you.
Know your own work habits
Schedule the hardest things that require the most focus when you are at your peak performance. For some of us it is first thing in the morning. For others it is later in the day. Know yourself and work SMART.
Take frequent breaks
Getting up and moving around for just a few minutes every hour will help your concentration. Good blood flow to your brain will help you be more attentive. You can also use this time to head off other disruptions.
Keep great notes in Focus5
Recording details of your accomplishments throughout the day as you complete segments of work or making notes with ideas for other aspects of the task will keep all your details and accomplishments in one place. Recording what you did and how you got there is rewarding in and of itself. Using Focus5 Tags will also allow you to tie associated tasks to a project and allow you to report and see the complete work history for that project. Just add a second tag to the task. This will allow you to set more realistic timelines and understand the work involved for similar projects in the future. Keeping good notes will also help you get back on track quickly when a necessary interruption does occur.
3. Break it down
Become a Chunky Monkey
When your task is large, spend a few minutes to break it down into smaller chunks of work that can be absorbed throughout your day. Most of us rarely have large blocks of uninterrupted time during a day to accomplish your work. Become great at chunking to make continued progress and have a greater sense of accomplishment.
4. Regularly review your habits and results
Reflect on your habits with Focus5 Performance
Use the performance tools in Focus5 to gain a better understanding of your work habits and distractions. You will have data for each day, each week and each quarter and for an entire year eventually. You will be surprised at the patterns and behaviors that are revealed when you use Focus5 to assess your own productivity.
5. Keep your goals in front of you
Review your progress on goals at least monthly
Know how you are tracking on each of your committed goals. Use your results to motivate yourself in areas that need improvement. If you have peers with similar goals find out where they are and use them as motivation to step up your focus. Aspire to become a top performer. Where you exceed your goals or peer performance, review how you got there and determine if there are repeatable patterns or behaviors that you can duplicate. Goals can be a great motivator to get more focused.
Leverage your Focus Score
Focus5 provides you with a weekly Focus Score. Measure your score over time and set a goal to improve your Focus Score. If you are hitting 100% every week, consider adding an additional task or two to further challenge yourself.
When you achieve breakthrough performance with your Focus Score or when you have other breakthrough achievements relating to the quality or quantity of your work due to improved focus, reward yourself with a special with a special treat in recognition of your personal achievements.
Remember that the real rewards of being focused is that both the quality and quantity of your work will exceed your peers. You will stand out as a star performer, and be highly desired for the most important projects or roles.
Focus5 will also provide you with a wealth of accomplishment data come performance review time. Use it to get the credit you deserve and the raise or promotion that you have earned. Get focused and get ahead!