PRODUCTIVITY

5 Ways to Focus Your Mind and Maximize Productivity

It only takes a few distractions to eat up half of your workday. Here are 5 ways to focus.
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You may believe that you're productively multitasking as you bounce between your smartphone, tablet, and laptop. The fact is that you're just being distracted. The words productive and multitasking should not be allowed in the same sentence. Single-minded focus is key to productivity.

Distractions like texts from employees or "urgent" emails from clients are time-consuming all on their own. But did you know that it takes up to 28 minutes for your brain to refocus after being interrupted? Wow! A two-minute interruption can lead to a full half-hour gone down the drain. Eight little distractions and half your day is shot.

These 5 steps can send your productivity levels through the roof, and none of them involve multitasking--or email.

1. Set expectations for yourself.

It's easy to drift off into social media, get stuck cleaning out your inbox, and even be drawn to mindless computer games. This is most common when you are unclear or uncertain about your next steps.

Update your task list on a regular basis and assign each item a few very specific, actionable steps leading to completion. With this powerful weapon in hand you will not have to make any decisions about your next steps. This alone will boost your productivity exponentially.

2. Set expectations for others.

If you create a culture that says your door is literally always open, you are asking for trouble. We teach others how to treat us. If your employees, clients, family members, and friends get a favorable response from you each time they interrupt, they will continue to steal your time and attention. You and your business deserve better.

Create specific times for your open door policy and stick to it. Go ahead, have those difficult discussions with the people in your life--being self-employed doesn't mean you have leisure time on your hands seven days a week.

3. Be aware.

Multitasking is nothing more than a procrastination technique. When you are uncertain about your direction or unhappy about having to take on your next task, an interruption feels like a relief. You may tell yourself that a client needs an answer right away or that you'll disappoint an employee if you're not available immediately, but you know it's not true. If you are constantly jumping from one thing to the next without completion you are avoiding something. Ask yourself why. Once you have your answers you can take meaningful action to do and complete more.

4. Turn off notifications.

If you're working on your computer, close any windows you don't need. Then turn off social media notifications, and shut down email, for goodness sake. There are very few things that can't wait an hour or two. It feels good to be needed, but it feels better to be successful.

5. Use a timer.

Your brain can focus intently on a task for up to two hours at a time. Imagine what you could achieve in two uninterrupted hours! Many of my clients say that once they apply these productivity rules they accomplish more in a single morning than they previously did in an entire week. Set an old-fashioned timer for one hour and get to work. Then, set it for five minutes and take a break; stretch your legs, change your environment. Take the timer with you so you don't wander off or get stuck in an unnecessary conversation. The timer rules! Now, give yourself one more uninterrupted hour and feel the magic!

IMAGE: Corbis
Last updated: May 28, 2014

MARLA TABAKA

Marla Tabaka is a small-business advisor who helps entrepreneurs around the globe grow their businesses well into the millions. She has over 25 years of experience in corporate and start-up ventures and speaks widely on combining strategic and creative thinking for optimum success and happiness.




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