Say “no, thank you.”
Get clear on what you really want to achieve. Choose deliberately. Prune your to-do list. Declutter your schedule. Shed meaningless tasks. Forget about goals that no longer serve you. Switch gears or change the channel. Drop, delegate or barter assignments that don’t cater to your core strengths and true purpose.
Having too much on your plate weighs you down and creates leftover mess. Tackle three essential tasks to complete on a given day or three major goals to accomplish in a week. When something isn’t right for you, say “no, thank you.” This will give you more time and space to commit to things that matter.
Mentally rehearse the task.
Visualize the ideal process, instead of obsessing over desired results. Picture yourself performing the task brilliantly and with ease. See yourself overcoming obstacles and maneuvering around hurdles. How will you feel when the deal is done? Elated? Excited? Evolved? Use these positive vibes to inspire you, pull you in, and take focused action.
Keep your energy up during breaks.
When you’re in a state of flow, it’s invigorating to stay on task. But forcing yourself to soldier on, when you’re drained, impairs your creativity and productivity. Regular breaks, for as little as 5 to 15 minutes, can do wonders. Take a walk, chat with a friend, grab a healthy snack, or get some fresh air.
Without consistent renewal and rejuvenation, it’s hard to stay alert and maintain focus. Set a regular bedtime routine and get a good night’s rest to avoid zoning out. Step away from the task when your interest in it begins to plummet. Go back to it when you refuel your energy.
Doing multiple things at once or switching rapidly between tasks is the opposite of focus. So pick one important task and fully engage with it. Before you move on to the next thing, pause intentionally, take a deep breath, and bask in gratitude for the thing you just did.
If you tend to get bored doing one task, you could set a timer to perform it in short bursts of 15 to 25 minutes. Or you could batch together similar tasks that require the same resources. For example, run your errands, file paperwork, reply to emails, and return telephone calls in designated time blocks.
Boost your willpower.
Focus requires self-control and the ability to resist short-term temptations for long-term gains. Breath-work, yoga and meditation are among the most effective ways to boost your willpower. These mindful practices help you take deliberate action, regardless of your shifting thoughts and volatile emotions.
You don’t have to follow through on each thought or act on every emotion that arises. You can simply sit with it without getting carried away by it. Come back to your breath. Do a body scan. Return to the present moment. Honing your willpower helps you stay focused rather than get distracted by mental chatter and unwanted feelings.
Make it automatic.
Develop regular habits and simple routines to make a task more automatic. Lay out the tools you will need to complete it. Pick a specific time to perform it. Set up reminders to work on it and reward yourself when you do.
When an action step is part of your routine, you are bound to resist it less. This helps you preserve your energy and attention span for more difficult tasks that aren’t easily automated.
Create a supportive environment.
Constant interruptions and unnecessary distractions dilute your focus. Arrange your work space to discourage unscheduled visits. Plug in your earphones and listen to soothing music or white noise. Move to a quieter place if you can’t block out office banter. Schedule time blocks to focus on the task at hand.
If you want to complete a challenging project, turn off your phone, mobile devices and email and IM notifications. Disconnect from the Internet. Optimize your environment to keep your focus, find flow in your work, and experience real progress.
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Use one, all or a combination of these strategies to overcome internal busyness and reduce external distractions. Review what works for you. Make use of your preferred techniques to stay super focused and get meaningful things done.