The modern world has so many distractions it seems like everyone has ADD. Multi-tasking is all but a requirement. Talking to someone while typing on your smartphone is totally normal. Ipads and Smart TVs are everywhere. Headphones are regular fashion accessories. If you consider the amount of email, texting, social media browsing, web surfing, phone calls, movies, shows, videos, music and general media that we consume every day, it’s a wonder anything gets done.
So how does a Superior Man stay highly productive in the middle of this information overload? It’s all about focusing your attention like a laser. Keep reading to learn how to cut through the chaos, concentrate your energy and become more effective than ever.
Create a Productive Work Environment
The first step to maximizing your focus is to set up the best possible situation for your particular kind of work. Engineers, artists, managers and salesmen will all have different needs but the core concepts are the same.
If your back hurts, your wrists aches and your eyes are squinting, you’ll never be highly productive. Talk to your company’s ergonomic specialist and get fitted for a desk, chair and monitor adjustment. If you don’t have access to an expert, read these tips from UCLA’s Ergonomics department about how to create your own setup. Whatever the initial investment is for your situation, the money will pay for itself hundreds of times over during the life of your job. Learn how to sit, what angles are appropriate (and which are damaging) and how your muscles, joints and skeleton should be used so you can work 40+ hours without pain.
De-Clutter Your Work Area
Productivity expert Barbara Hemphill says “Clutter is nothing more than postponed decisions.” Anything that is messy, dirty or disorganized is a small unfinished task. In addition to your trouble with organization, leaving those small items undone will subconsciously add stress to your day. To increase your overall productivity and clear your mind, take the time to clean your workspace daily. File the necessary papers. Organize your notes. If necessary, invest in some office supplies to help coordinate the tools of your work. Following this single step will give your productivity and work satisfaction a surprising boost.
Limit Sensory Input
A musician never records in a room where someone else’s noise would interrupt their session. The same thing should be true for a man who wants to create great work of any kind. Adjust the lighting, sound and temperature appropriately. If you are distracted and you work in an office, close your door and let people know you won’t be available for X amount of time. If you work in an open cubicle or other space with multiple people, consider using quiet music, white noise generators or noise-cancelling headphones. Some men – for example guys who work at home – may find themselves still too distracted. In that case it may be time to look for a new work environment like a coffee shop, library or even renting a small office.
Master Your To-Do List
A good To-Do list is one of the most important tools of a successful man. It enables him to keep tabs on all of his upcoming work projects, home projects, family events, shopping items, financial requirements – in short, everything he needs to do in his life. There are several forms of a To-Do list. There are custom designed list-making apps that can help, general note taking apps, several calendar programs and of course good-old-fashioned pen and paper. (Matt has compiled a list of some of your best options.) Whatever you choose, the important thing is that you have a system that works for you and that you use it every day.
write down everything you need to do
One of the most important skills of the modern age is learning how to prioritize our time. Because there are so many distractions, so many little things we could do, it is very hard to find the time to do the things we must do. In order to focus your time effectively, you need to know everything that needs be done and the best way to do that is to write it all down in your To-Do list. Trying to hold names, dates and details in your head takes time and mental energy. Offload that data into written form and free yourself up from the stress of memorizing all those things.
prioritize your tasks
Once your To-Do list is fully updated, block time for the most important things first: Sleep, food, exercise, time with your wife, activities with kids, time at work, etc. Next add important, less-urgent things: Spending time with friends, cleaning, organizing, studying, creating, etc. Then fill in the gaps with leisure activity like reading, surfing, motorcycle riding and other fun things. You’ll notice we didn’t include making time to watch TV or check Social Media in this list. Don’t worry – if you take care of all your more important priorities, you’ll be surprised how easily you can still squeeze in an episode of Game of Thrones while checking your Facebook page.
Here’s a great clip where 7 Habits of Success author Stephen Covey shows how prioritizing will actually INCREASE the hours in your day.
Set Up Appropriate Social Boundaries
People make everything better. Without an incredible girlfriend, an amazing family, great friends and excellent clients and co-workers, life would truly be without meaning. However there are times when your various tasks will need to take priority over all the people in your life. As much as you love spending time with your kids, if you don’t go to work they won’t be able to eat. No matter how funny your co-worker’s Taylor Swift dance is, you still have reports that are due. Go ahead and set some good limits. Tell people when you will and won’t be available. If possible, use email over phone calls to filter data and save time. Turn off your phone when necessary. You may need to have a few difficult conversations with people at first but if they understand you aren’t neglecting them they will adapt to your new work ethic (and most likely appreciate your new levels of productivity!)
Establish Daily Work Routines
All things in nature automatically move towards a routine and our bodies (and brains) are no different. If you set your alarm for 6am every day for a month, you will soon find your body waking up at that time even without the alarm. If you have a bowl of ice cream every evening at 8pm, it won’t be long before your sugar craving kicks in at 7:55pm. The good news is that we can program and re-program these routines at will, both at home and at the office. If you want to create a productivity routine, simply start doing a specific task at the office at the same time every day. For example, say you decide to do your biggest sales call every day at 9am. It won’t take long before your brain will begin to prepare you for that call in advance. In a matter of days you’ll find you have new ideas, insights and feel sharper every day before 9am.
Thanks for joining us today! Click here for Part 2 of our series on concentration and focus. We talk about the Pomodoro technique, the power of learning your Chronotype, the surprising truth about multi-tasking and how you can achieve success like a racehorse!
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