“There is time enough for everything in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once, but there is not time enough in the year, if you will do two things at a time.”Lord Chesterfield
In the fast paced world we live in today, we are constantly on the go and multi-tasking has become second nature. Catching up with your work emails whilst driving, having lunch and preparing for that meeting.
Yes, we are able to do two or three tasks at once. But what’s impossible is giving your full concentration to the multiple tasks at once.
Psychologists suggest that having fewer priorities and focusing on one task at a time leads to enhanced productivity. The brain struggles to transition from one task to another, simultaneously. This brain phenomenon is known as ‘switching cost’.
Therefore the only solution for you is to focus. You need to make it a point to follow your cause until completed. Here are 5 tips for you to stay focused and concentrated on the task at hand:
1. Stop Multitasking, As Multitasking Is A Myth.
This is the first thing you need to sort out if you want to finish what you started. Instead of rapidly switching between activities, commit to a single task at hand, focus on it until the end.
As stated earlier, it is possible for you to execute multiple tasks at hand, but that does not necessarily mean you are giving equal attention or concentration to each. Therefore, you may realize that the task completed would not be at par with what you expected it to be where you could actually perform better.
Doing more things at a time does not garner faster or better results. However, giving your undivided attention to one thing as best as you can, produces greater results. Many people mistaken productivity as getting a boatload of things done at a time. False. Why? Productivity is the measure of getting things done consistently.
2. Schedule Your Day, Plan Ahead
“People who plan to fail, fail to plan”. As cliché as this may sound, it is indeed true. Sometimes, you have 1001 things to be completed within a day (which includes work, house chores, exercising and the list goes on). The only way for you to maintain your productivity level and combating stress is by planning ahead.
Here are the two easy methods you can adopt in order to schedule your day and plan ahead:
i. Having A Planner To Amplify Your Productivity
Let’s face it, we can be caught up with things that need to be done and sometimes, we forget what needs to be prioritized. Therefore, having a daily planner will work wonders for you.
Even though there are virtual planners made available for you out there, from Google calendar to your iPhone’s planner, but let me suggest to you the best planner to use. The most practical and effective planner to keep you on track would be the traditional paper planner.
As paper planners gives you a visual and in your hand space for scribbling down notes whenever, wherever. Just imagine if you depend on your iPhone’s planner and suddenly the battery dies out? Not that practical anymore.
Make sure you use the monthly view for important dates; such as birthdays, public holidays or special occasions. Use the weekly planning sections for more general tasks, such as visiting your grandparents by the end of the week, or mowing the lawn.
Meanwhile, for daily planning sections, you jot down specifically what you want to accomplish or what needs to be done for each day. This can be preparing for a meeting, going out with a friend or going to the gym.
This will inevitably help you to focus on what needs to be done and you are able to prioritize your workload. You can also prepare yourself for the tasks planned ahead. Your planner will also help in breaking down big or difficult tasks to smaller, manageable steps.
ii. The Ivy Lee Method
If some of you are unfamiliar with this method, this method was established by a highly respected productivity consultant, known as Ivy Lee. This method was widely used since 1918 and proven effective to companies.
The Ivy Lee method comprises of 5 simple steps:
- At the end of each working day, list down the six tasks you want to accomplish tomorrow. Do not exceed six tasks.
- Prioritize these six tasks according to their importance.
- When you start work the next day, place your focus solely on the first task on your list. Complete the first task before you move on to the next one.
- Approach the rest of the task in the same fashion. Remember to only move on to the next task only when the previous task is completed.
- Repeat this process every working day
This will no doubt help you stay focused on the task at hand, and will also boost your productivity.
3. Use The Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique was invented back in the early 90s, by entrepreneur and author Francesco Cirillo. The method is fairly simple; when you need to complete large or multiple tasks, you break down the task into short time intervals. The most effective duration would be focusing on your task for a solid 25 minutes, and taking a short break of 5 minutes. The cycle repeats.
Using the Pomodoro Technique can help you charge through distractions, and it will help you focus to get things done in short intervals of time. It’s an effective way to train your brain to pay full attention to the work you need to complete. This technique also enables you to take necessary breaks so you don’t get burnt out or overwhelmed with the task at hand.
The Pomodoro technique ensures you are consistently productive and your motivation is kept in check by taking short breaks. All you need to do is to time yourself!
4. Eat Healthy To Retain Your Focus
One of the most important elements we take for granted is our eating habits. This contributes significantly to how our brain functions, which affects our attention span or focus.
In order to maximize your productivity and retain your focus, these are the dietary requirements or eating habits you may want to consider practicing; You need to keep the glucose level in your bloodstream steady. This helps your brain to focus for the long-term. This also fuels your brain and reserves the necessary energy needed for its mental functioning.
Therefore, researchers suggest a low-glycemic diet. What does a low-glycemic diet consist of?
i. Non-starchy vegetables; Leafy greens such as spinach, salads, broccoli and green beans.
ii. Nuts and seeds; Chia seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds and walnuts.
iii. Beans and legumes; Soya beans or red beans. You should have this in small portions about half a cup per serving.
iv. Yoghurt and other fermented diary; Greek or unsweetened yogurt, raw whole milk, traditionally made cheese.
v. Whole grains; Oats, brown rice, wild rice, granola and muesli.
vi. Fresh fruits; Stone fruits, blueberries, cherries and citrus fruits.
vii. Healthy fats; Virgin coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, nuts, seeds and avocado.
viii. Lean proteins; Salmon, turkey, skinless chicken breast, lamb and beef.
Meditation does not only serve a spiritual purpose, but research has also proven that meditation can boost your attention span as well as keeping you focused on the task at hand.
You don’t have to go meditate at a monastery or on top of a mountain. All you need to do is invest at least 5 to 20 minutes of your time per day. Close your eyes and inhale deeply, preferably at a quite place so you are free from distractions. Think of nothing. You will see how your focus and attention span improves just after 4 days. Try and practice meditation first thing in the morning before you start your tasks.
We have finally come to the end of the book. Now is your time, your call. Even if you have digested every single technique from this book, you are only able to boost or improve your productivity by taking immediate action.
Losing focus and procrastinating is easy, but to get back on track, retaining that momentum is the true test of endurance. Living in this digital era no doubt has its privileges, and it has given us a vast amount of amazing things to look forward to; our mobile phones, tablets, computers. But these things also come with a cost. Without us realizing, all of these gadgets are also our main distractions and makes us counterproductive. According to a research conducted by the Human-Computer Institute at Carnegie Melon University, it can take up to 25 minutes just to regain back your focus after being distracted.
Consequently, from all the power tips we’ve provided you with, it is now your job to create a productive environment for yourself. Create an environment that can motivate you to stay focused, distraction free and most importantly, boosts your productivity. What you need to do now is remove interruptions, distractions, chaos and all the clutter in your life that would not contribute to your productivity as well as completing your pending tasks. Boost your productivity, NOW!