How to Focus Your Mind to be More Productive
Read time: 5 minutes
Everyone knows that when we are able to focus on the task at hand, we can be amazingly productive. Once we get in the zone, we get mountains of work done. But when the spell is broken — and it eventually is — it can be really hard to get focused on the task at hand. To make matters worse, everyone has work that they simply can’t excited about, and even thinking about the task, never mind being focused on it, becomes a lost cause.
So what can we do to make us be more productive professionals? Well, there’s no miracle fix, but here are a few tricks to make it easier to find that focus and let you get your work done.
Often, being able to focus on the task at hand is all that is needed to stay on top of our work load. This post has some tips on how to do that.
I’m a creative, and this is my favourite tip, by far. Sometimes I can’t seem to focus on the task at hand, no matter how prepared and organized I am. It’s like my mind has a mind of its own, and ‘professional’ me just can’t boss it around. So I run away. Only for a short while, mind you — but I completely give up, and take my brain elsewhere. Sometimes all i need is a 2 minute escape, and sometimes i need an hour. I work with what my schedule allows, but I can usually do something that lets me come back refreshed and able to focus.
Most of us are good about taking these little breaks and understand that they are an essential part of a good life/work balance: we eat a candy, close our eyes, go for a walk, have lunch an hour early. But we do it furtively; secretly. I say go ahead and ask your friends and co-workers what their escapes are. It’s a good way to increase your escape options, and you might be surprised at just how much everyone else does this too!
Switch to a Task That Matches Your Energy Level
Sometimes an escape is not what we need or want. We have a lot of work to do, and it is not an option to stop working. But sometimes we just can’t connect to the task at hand. The work is right there in front of us, and we aren’t getting anywhere. Maybe it’s some copy we have to write, or those expenses that must be filed by the end of the day. And we have the feeling that we would be productive doing anything else.
It might be our mood, or our energy level that is keeping us from getting focused. Or sometimes we just don’t like doing the task at hand. And switching to another task — if only there was one ready to go — would help us get back to getting our work done.
As you’ve probably guessed, the trick here is to look at your to-do list for the day, and see which tasks make sense to do when your energy is low, or that will serve as a nice ‘break’ from some other task that is hard to focus on.
Here’s How To Do It
Get all your tasks for the day out in front of you in a list.For each task, guess how hard it will be to stayed focused on it. Keep it simple, something like ‘easy’, ‘medium’, ‘hard’. Remember that the familiarity, simplicity and pleasantness of the task will all contribute to making it easy to stay focused.If you keep a paper to do list, jot down your assessment beside each item. If you use a digital productivity tool to manage your tasks, you can add your assessment directly, or just grab a Postit and make micro-lists of easy, medium and hard items.
As long as you can find a new task at a glance, it will be much easier to switch to another task quickly. Also, this doesn’t take very long to do. I include it in my normal daily review of what I have to do for the day.
Once I know what tasks are likely to give me trouble staying focused, I can try to arrange my work so that I do easier tasks between the hard tasks. As well, if I am working on a task that I know is hard for me to focus on, I may be able to put it on hold and get something else done. Switching gears can leave me refreshed and I’m still getting my work done. Of course, sometimes everything on my list is hard to focus on, but at least I’m more aware of it, and know I need to just buckle down.
At the end of the day, we all turn to whatever works to get things done. Most of use tricks of organization like those described above. When we combine these with good organizational tools, it is much easier to clear your mind and be productive. Share your ideas on how to be more productive with us!
This article was contributed by former Function Pointer, Trevor Cowley.