The most focused to-do list may be derailed by the smallest distraction. Killers of productivity are everywhere.

Like a dog that sees a squirrel or a child who sees dessert on the counter before supper, we often discover ourselves off track even as we have a pressing responsibility or desire to work on other priorities.

Productivity as a corporate buzz word is tossed around while discussing employee effectiveness and the bottom line. However, productivity is a lot more than merely how much work is accomplished in a specific amount of time--and it goes beyond the corporate realm. Being productive actually means that we're working on tasks that are meaningful and will allow us to more quickly reach our goals--both at home and at work.

As you putter away your morning surfing the Web, you are not being productive (unless your responsibilities include checking your Facebook wall and then Liking your friend's update on her child's most recent sports win). Productivity means embarking on tasks that strategically align with your objectives. The strategic alignment may be professional--similar to when you have a project that is due and you consciously write a strategy to complete it that pulls in resources to make it happen by your deadline. The strategic alignment may be personal--similar to when you have a goal of paying off debt before you send your kids off to college. You consciously opt to cut out the day-to-day fancy coffee drink or those must-have shoes that you actually just want and do not actually need. You consciously opt for one decision or activity over another to get you closer to your objective.

Productivity is all about more than merely getting work accomplished. It is about getting the proper work accomplished for the proper reasons to reach your goals. However, between the frequent ringing, beeping, blinking, and dinging of our forever-on technology and work demands, family must-dos, and polite requests, it often is difficult to remain productive despite our best intentions.

Here are 7 ways to keep yourself on the task at hand as your productivity is suffering:

1. Do something else.

It seems counterintuitive, but if you step away from something you must concentrate on, you'll return with a newfound energy for and new perspective on your project.

2. Add a deadline.

Tasks with no time frame connected to them often get pushed down and off the priority list. Instead, develop a fast and hard deadline for completion of necessary tasks to kick you into high gear.

3. Delegate.

Occasionally, we just are not inspired by some the responsibilities that mark the rush of our day-to-day lives. Whether it is that boring project at work or the mundane task of decorating your home with holiday lights, life is chock-full of drudgery. In these instances, find partners who are able to be of assistance or completely unload the task to another person.

4. Rename your project.

Sometimes things just sound foreboding. Nobody wants to run a week-to-week sales report. Nobody has a desire to do the laundry. However, it is exciting to say it is time to uncover the week-to-week money opportunities (week-to-week sales report) or to refill your closet (do your laundry). Get creative and relabel those mundane tasks to make them more fun.

5. Ditch that list.

If you feel overloaded, toss out your list and allow the most critical tasks to rise naturally to the top. What will need doing most is going to pull for your attention, as well as action, leading to productivity.

6. Always reward yourself.

The job well-started will be more likely to wind up the job well-done. As you take that initial step on a massive project, reward yourself with a long lunch break, a visit to the coffee shop, a night out for a movie. Build in those little rewards throughout your project to keep you motivated to complete it.

7. Start over.

If you get pulled down an unproductive or negative road while doing a massive project, it can often feel like you're lost or stuck. When this occurs, start over. It is better to lose a bit of time and work than to spin off in the wrong direction for a poor result.

Published on: Mar 13, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.