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Why Focus is Your Competitive Advantage at Work (plus 19 ways to actually do it)

Multitasking is killing your productivity

 44% of work distractions are self-inflicted and another 23% come from emails.

That means you have complete control to cut out (or at least drastically reduce) 67% of the productivity-killing distractions that derail your entire workday.

The number one skill that will set you apart from 99% of the world’s highly distractible knowledge workers is the ability to ruthlessly single-task. 

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Why Focus is Your Competitive Advantage at Work (plus 19 ways to actually do it)

Why Focus is Your Competitive Advantage at Work (plus 19 ways to actually do it)

https://doist.com/blog/how-to-focus-better-at-work/

doist.com

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Key Ideas

Statistics about multi-tasking

  • Trying to focus on more than one thing at a time reduces your productivity by as much as 40%. That’s the cognitive equivalent of pulling an all-nighter.
  • The average desk job employee loses 2.1 hours a day to distractions and interruptions. That adds up to over a full day of work every week.
  • On average, employees who do the majority of their work on computers are distracted every 10.5 minutes.
  • Being distracted by incoming calls or emails can lower employees’ IQ by as much 10 points.
  •  44% of those work distractions are self-inflicted and another 23% come from emails.

When you single-task...

  • you tend to work on the right things. Effective single-tasking requires planning. Starting your day without a plan is just asking for distraction and inefficiency.
  • you accomplish more in less time with less stress: Intentionally focusing on one task at a time has been proven the most efficient way to move through your to-do list.

4 essential components of effective single-tasking:

  1. Cutting out distractions.
  2. Make a single-tasking plan you’ll actually stick to.
  3. Dealing with unavoidable distractions.
  4. Getting back on track when you’ve fallen off the single-tasking band wagon.

Cutting out distractions

  • Use apps that block online distractions.
  • Turn off notifications and see the difference in your productivity.
  • Use two computers: one for the things that are distracting and one for the focused work.
  • Only keep one tab open at time.
  • Use separate desktop spaces.
  •  Work offline whenever possible.
  • Schedule your email time.

Making a single-tasking plan

  • Keep a to-do list with focused, actionable items.
  • Visualize your to-do’s one at a time, by writing them on sticky notes.
  • Schedule your daily to-do’s.
  • Create unrealistically short deadlines: it forces you to stay focused.
  • Keep a timer on your tasks.
  • Theme your days.

Dealing with interruptions

  • Procrastinate on purpose: you can limit distractions' impact on your productivity by simply adding them to your to-do list to come back to later.
  • Keep a “read later” list for the helpful articles you come across.
  • Keep a “bright ideas” repository: keep a running list of thoughts you want to come back to later (using an app or paper).
  • Set aside exploratory time. Unfocused, agenda-free thinking time is essential for creativity and professional development.

Getting back on track

  • Take regular breaks throughout the day. Our brains simply did not evolve to focus on one thing for extended periods of time - the longer we work without the breaks, the more prone to distraction we become.
  • Forgive yourself when your day doesn’t go as planned. Ruminating on the past one of the least productive things you can do.

Multitasking is killing your productivity

 44% of work distractions are self-inflicted and another 23% come from emails.

That means you have complete control to cut out (or at least drastically reduce) 67% of the productivity-killing distractions that derail your entire workday.

The number one skill that will set you apart from 99% of the world’s highly distractible knowledge workers is the ability to ruthlessly single-task. 

Single-task benefits

  1. When you work on one thing at a time, you tend to work on the right things, because you have to plan your tasks.
  2. When you single-task you accomplish more in less time with less stress. Intentionally focusing on one task at a time has been proven the most efficient way to move through your to-do list.

Cut out distractions

  • Turn off notifications or at least turn on priority notifications.The time and mental focus lost in attention-switching even for a second adds up throughout the day.
  • Use two computers - one for doing work and productive things, the other to do unproductive work.
  • Only keep one tab open at time

    It’s a concrete way to make sure that you’re only working on what you intentionally decided to be working on.

  • Use several separate desktop spaces as an alternative to one tab. One for communication, the other for different projects planned for the day.

  • Work offline whenever possible.

  • Schedule your email time

    Handle any emails that will take 2-minutes or less. Add everything else to your to-do list to focus on later.

Make a single-tasking plan

  • Keep a to-do list with focused, actionable items.
  • Visualize your to-do’s one at a time.
  • Schedule your daily to-do’s. Each task gets a specific time slot when you’ll only work on that one item on your list.
  • Create unrealistically short deadlines to  force you to stay focused.
  • Keep a timer on your tasks.Tracking how you spend your time at work forces you to commit to one task at a time.
  • Theme your days. By doing this, you give your mind clues as to what to place precedence on each day.

Dealing with interruptions

  • Add interruptions to your to-do list to come back to later.
  • Keep a “read later” list. whenever you come across a tempting article.
  • Keep a “bright ideas” repository. Instead of following up on your ideas immediately, keep a running list of thoughts you want to come back to later.
  • Set aside exploratory time for your “read later” and “bright ideas” lists.

Getting back on track

There is always a temptation to multi-task that will interfere with your focus.

  • Take regular breaks throughout the day. Studies have shown that the longer we work without the breaks, the more prone to distraction we become.
  • Forgive yourself when your day doesn’t go as planned. Redouble your resolve to put the single-tasking strategies into practice.

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  • Knowing what you have going on well in advance could help you relax and sleep better the night before.

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