You're in an epic battle against distractions--and most of the time you're on the losing side. Here's how to fight back.
When you're at work, you are literally paid to hunker down and focus on something. So why is it that's the very place where you get so little done?
Recently I wrote an article about the habits of highly productive people. Based on the reactions to that story (and there were many!), here's the problem: You're in an epic battle against distractions at the office. And between your ever-pinging email, your buzzing cell phone, not to mention your 12 different social media profiles, most of the time you're on the losing side of that battle.
So here's part two of my conversation with Tony Wong, a project management black belt whose client list includes Toyota, Honda, and Riot Games, to name a few.
Below are his tips for getting your focus back:
1. Be punctual
First and foremost, know that simply being on time allows for more time to be productive. On a less obvious note: When you make yourself be punctual, you begin training your brain on the smallest level to deliver on your commitments. You can make a direct correlation between the people who are on time and those who successfully complete their projects.
If you find that you’re never on time, it’s because you’re over-committed. Sticking to a schedule will help you scale back and make only the commitments you know you can uphold.
It seems easy—but it’s not, because there are usually too many variables that define the success of prioritizing.
Being productive is not about doing everything on your list. In fact, it’s just the opposite— it’s about prioritizing the things that will get you to your goal and not doing the rest. If something doesn’t matter or isn’t relevant for you to get to your goal, don’t do it—the pressure is off. That’s the key to prioritization.
So, Identify four things you need to get accomplished today that will move you forward to accomplish your goal. Write them on an index card and keep it in sight. This way, if you do get distracted it’s a constant reminder of what you should focus on.
Tired of distractions? Eliminate them! If the hustle and bustle of office life is too loud, bring headphones to work. Only let yourself check your phone and email once every three hours—out of sight is truly out of mind.
Also, be aware that laziness can make us do a thousand unimportant tasks. You might feel busy, but you’re not achieving your goals—it’s counterfeit productivity. If you know this is true in your life, make a point to steer clear.
4. Choose accuracy over speed
Tony’s mentor, who also happens to be a Navy Seal, likes to say, “Speed impresses, but accuracy kills.” You can furiously throw out punch after punch, kick after kick, but it only takes one accurate blow to take out your opponent.
At work, often you can do the work of dozens of emails and meetings with one well-written message. When you’re feeling off, don’t communicate—don’t send emails, don’t schedule meetings, don’t call anyone. Those feelings of anxiety and stress will come through your communication. Wait until you’re cool, calm, and collected—then communicate. It will show confidence, credibility, and will create impactful communication.
This one may seem obvious, but how many people actually organize their workspace? Productivity thrives in a clean and tidy environment. At the end of the work day, put everything back in its place—that way, you can jump right into work tomorrow morning.
When you’re relaxed, not frantic and rushed, so you’ll be able to see what’s working and what’s not. You’ll see with clarity what you should work on and what you should ignore.
Being relaxed allows you to get into “the zone,” which is essential to gaining focus. If it helps with your golf swing, it will do wonders for your work ethic. We often think working is shoulders up, back tense, and furiously typing—but that’s simply not true.
7. Be healthy
This one is easy: Take care of your body. Eating breakfast, exercising, and actively recuperating do wonders for your workday.
Additionally, aim to sleep for seven to eight hours every night. People who don’t get enough sleep are less effective. They may not realize this, but it’s true. The way to a more productive, inspired, joyful life starts with sleeping well.
What other tips would you add to this list? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
ILYA POZIN is the founder of Open Me, a social greeting card company. He founded his first company, Ciplex, a digital marketing and creative agency catering to small businesses and start-ups, at age 17. @ilyaNeverSleeps