Being productive is a contributor to success, and for good reason. A productive worker is on top of their to-do list, controls their time, and creates extra moments during the day to get even more stuff done. Basically, you’re kicking ass and taking names.
There’s a lot of advice on the internet detailing how to be more productive. Most of it, though, is built around doing more: Get up earlier, exercise more, work harder, stay later, and so on.
But while all of these tips might be effective, what if you’re already totally maxed out on time? Allow me to introduce you to a productivity trick that often gets overlooked: focusing. In other words, being fully committed to the task at hand and nothing else.
Focusing on what’s in front of you and ignoring everything else is a well-kept secret to productivity. Here’s how it works: If you’re prospecting, dedicate 100% of your attention to prospecting. If you’re setting up a deck for a client, tune everything else out that doesn’t have to do with setting up that deck. Double down on what you’re doing and ignore everything else.
Unfortunately, this can be tricky to do. But don’t worry -- we’re here to help. Here are five keys to tuning out the distractions and staying focused.
1) Set up your calendar with specific times for each task.
According to the author Laura Vanderkam, when we schedule our tasks and set goals, we’re 50% more likely to execute on or achieve them. So that means by simply plugging in a block of time into our calendar and setting up a reminder, we’re 2x as likely to be successful.
Here’s your opportunity to allocate the time you need to achieve your goals. Using a tool such as Google Calendar or another calendar app can be helpful here.
Schedule your day according to what you have to get done. For example, you might schedule prospecting from 9 to 10 a.m. Record this in your calendar and the app will not only remind you before your task starts, it will also prevent you or others from scheduling a meeting during that block.
2) Make time for the fun stuff.
And don’t just make time for productive tasks -- schedule time for the stuff you want to do on your downtime as well, whether that’s checking your texts or browsing social media networks. Several studies have shown that taking breaks during the day can actually lead to being more productive. In light of this, be sure to schedule yourself some “me” time.
Now, you don’t want to take 45 minutes every hour to check Twitter, but steady breaks of 15-20 minutes throughout the day can make a tremendous impact on your productivity.
3) Keep yourself organized.
During the course of the week, it’s easy to let things start to slide. Whether it’s forgetting to log data into your CRM, schedule that final meeting, or send that follow-up email, sometimes things just slip through the cracks.
No big deal, right?
Unfortunately, this really hurts our productivity. One study from Brother International suggests that workers waste up to two weeks every year trying to find misplaced items if they start to get unorganized at the office.
And the bad news doesn’t stop there. Office Depot conducted a study of 1,000 professionals and found that when people aren’t organized they are much less productive. In fact, 47% of survey respondents said that being unorganized resulted in lost time, and 16% said they were late to meetings due to poor organization.
Two tips to stay organized:
Prioritize your inbox.
When an email comes in, decide right then and there whether or not it needs your attention. If it does, respond to it and check it off the list. If it doesn’t, leave it unread and return to it later when you’re ready to give it your full attention.
Create to-do lists.
Whether you use Evernote, Wunderlist, Todoist, or just plain old sticky notes doesn’t matter, but research shows that writing down our goals for the day allows us to focus on the tasks we have to get done. By creating a to-do list, we can clearly see every task in front of us and decide what we need to focus on next.
Meditating has made its way into the mainstream for good reason: There are a lot of benefits, including better focus. Several studieshave shown that slowing down and focusing on just the task at hand (meditating) vastly improves a person’s ability to focus.
Meditation is built on the idea of letting thoughts come to you, recognizing them, and then moving on. Imagine if you were working on a task, saw an email come in, recognized it, but just decided to keep doing what you were doing. Your productivity would skyrocket, and your ability to focus would improve as well.
5) If all else fails, block the internet.
This might sound a little scary, but it might be just what the doctor ordered. Think about how many tabs you have open on your computer when you’re working. I have my email open, texts sent to my Mac, Twitter up, and different chat services going at all times.
If it ever feels like you just have too much going on, there are a few ways to block the internet and specific websites to improve your focus. I recommend both Freedom and Block Site. Freedom enables you to ignore the internet for eight to nine hours, while Block Site allows users to set a personalized interval.
Having the ability to truly focus on the task at hand is one of the most important skills you can develop, especially in sales. Instead of trying to accomplish several things all at once in the limited time you have, by identifying one task you need to complete, putting all your effort into it, and then moving on, you’ll be in a much better position for success. Trying to multitask benefits no one. It just slows you down.
Originally published Nov 18, 2015 8:00:00 AM, updated February 01 2017