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PRODUCTIVITY

Productivity Tip: Fine-tune Your Focus

Use these three simple steps to increase productivity at work and boost your accomplishments.
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There are two types of people in this world: those who make lists and those who make piles. You know what I am talking about. A list person's office is always meticulously organized. And then there are the pile people. You walk into their office and it appears it has been ransacked by covert forces looking for critical documents in some espionage case. But if you ask a pile person where something is, nine out of 10 of them can walk over to a complete mess, shove their hand in it, and pick out what you are looking for.

Myself, I am a list person. As my company has grown I have found it increasingly important to manage the day-to-day functions of my ever evolving job with detailed lists of daily, weekly, and monthly tasks to make sure our operation runs smoothly and efficiently. Nevertheless, from time-to-time even a list person can get distracted. In any given hour I can receive about 40 emails, be interrupted by five to 10 co-workers, or need to take call after call.

So even if you have a list to guide you, or a pile as the case may be, how do you make sure you get through your assigned tasks and do not get distracted from the voluminous things that can take your focus away. Simple, teach yourself to hyper focus. Here's how:

1. Recognize What Is Important

On a day-to-day basis I may have up to 40 critical tasks that I must accomplish in the course and scope of my work. I keep a list of these so that I know what needs to be done.  But often times a list can become so long that you can lose focus, or worse yet, ignore it altogether. So the first step in hyper focusing is not to lose focus on the list. Recognize that it must guide you in what needs to be done on a day-to-day basis  and work to accomplish the things on the list.

2. Lists and Sub-Lists

Once you have your list, or general knowledge of what needs to be done if you are a pile person, be prepared to make sub-lists on a continuous basis? Why? Sub-lists keep me on focus during segments of the day such that items off of the main list can get accomplished in an orderly fashion. For instance, I know that I have those 40 things to do today, but I cannot do them all at once. So I pull out a sticky note and write down six things, in order, I will accomplish from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m

Many of you may doubt the productivity of creating multiple lists. What does this accomplish? Simple. It lets you break down your day into smaller units where you can focus exclusively on those tasks at hand--hyper focus. As you then work through a sub list make a new sub list and continue until your main list is completed.

3. Ignore Distractions

You must ignore all distractions and focus on the sub lists while you are working through them. Once you start on a sub list if someone comes into your office, tell them to come back later. If the phone rings, let it. Concentrate on the sub list no matter what. You will be amazed at how much more you can get done in a day.

Last updated: Jan 10, 2013

MATTHEW SWYERS | Columnist | Founder, The Trademark Company

Matthew Swyers is the founder of The Trademark Company, a Web-based law firm specializing in protecting the trademark rights of small to medium-size businesses. The company is ranked No. 138 on the 2011 Inc. 500.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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