Performance in the 21st century is no longer a function of how long we spend doing something. Time is no longer key to being productive. Focus and attention matter more than anything, but these two resources are constantly being stretched by our modern day work environment.
Focus is the key to getting more done. An hour of focussed work is easily worth almost twice that in distracted work. But so many things get in the way of our ability to focus every day. Email, interruptions, our own thoughts…. The list goes on.
Focus takes effort. But it’s not all about self-discipline and hard work – sometimes the way we manipulate our day and our environment helps us to work with more focus as well. Here are some tips.
This is absolutely the most important thing to do if you want to work with more focus. Plan every hour of your day so that you know exactly what is going to happen and when. We all have ‘inflexible’ time – things like meetings, school pick ups and other appointments. But managing your ‘flexible’ time is the most important thing you will do. These are the moments where you choose what is going to get done and if you don’t have a plan, then you are likely to just do what pops up in front of you – or what’s comfortable – instead of what is important. So plan the tasks and projects that need attention in each of those ‘flexible’ times throughout your day.
One of the most common things that stops people from focussed work is that they aren’t clear about what to focus on at given points through the day.
Our Focus Planner is perfect for this.2. Use a Timer
Nothing gets us focussed like a deadline. And If you plan your day well, then you will have mini deadlines throughout the day to get tasks completed. If you want to take this to the next level, then also have a timer that runs during these deadlines. Simply be clear on the task you want to do and the timeframe, set a timer for that amount of time and get working. You will notice after you do this a couple of times that you start to treat the timer like a real deadline…. Your focus and productivity will go up as a result.
Here’s an extra hint – make sure you can actually see the timer counting down. If it is on your phone and the screen is locked so that you can’t see it, it doesn’t have the same effect.3. Clean Your Space
Visual cues are all around us, distracting us and reminding us of other things we need to do. If you are looking around your desk and being constantly reminded of other things that need your attention, it becomes hard to ignore those cues. To work with more focus, you should have only the materials that you need for that particular task in front of you. Take everything else and put it somewhere out of sight.
Not surprisingly, as we learn to work with more focus, we start to build our capacity for focus. This not only helps us in work, but also outside of work – in relationships and our own personal downtime – by being able to focus on those things when we need to as well.
** Tony Wilson is a Workplace Performance Expert focussed on helping leaders build the environment for high performance. His insights into performance science and it's application in the workplace will make you re-think the way that you approach leadership, culture change, high performance and productivity. Tony has an MBA and a BSc majoring in physiology and combines the two for a different perspective. He is also the author of Jack and the Team that Couldn't See and delivers workshops and keynote presentations around the globe.