Blog

3 Proven Strategies to Maintain Your Focus, Be More Efficient and Accomplish More

Focus Become More effective and efficient

Unless you’re a Buddhist monk, you encounter distractions from time to time that interrupt your focus and reduce your effectiveness in getting your work done.

The Internet is especially disrupting with emails, social media messages, status updates, and more. But distractions also include co-workers, family, and our own wandering minds.

You’ll realize it’s time to start paying attention to these distractions, when – for one week only – you decide to track where your time goes. You’ll be astonished and alarmed, when you see how your time vanishes in five-minute increments, throughout your day.

Even though you know that you won’t be able to get rid of distractions completely, you can reduce the amount of time you allow yourself to get distracted and lose focus.

When you become consciously aware that you are about to distract yourself, or have your attention taken off what you’re doing by those around us, you can take charge of the situation.

Rather than allow yourself to be distracted, you can choose to continue with the task at hand.  Making a better choice not only saves you time and keeps your focus steady but also helps you avert that gnawing feeling of disappointment, when you look at your ‘To Complete’ list at the end of the day and see how few tasks have been crossed off – even though you allocated sufficient time to complete each of them.

To help you make a better choice than be distracted, here are three strategies I teach some of my clients and I use every day.

Turn these three strategies into daily habits and watch how much more efficient and effective you become.

1. Use Time Limits

 a) Many years ago, I was introduced to a phenomenal productivity hack in the book The power of full engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz. Research has shown it’s one of the best methods to boost your productivity, enhance your focus and reenergise your brain. It’s called:

The ultradian rhythm.

It keeps you focused, energised and effective.  Simply because your brain is given the ‘rest and recovery’ time it needs to maintain optimum productivity throughout the day.

You see ultradian rhythms are biological patterns hardwired into your DNA — and help to account for the ebb and flow of your energy throughout the day. Much like cardiac rhythms and brain waves, ultradian rhythms are measurable, observable physiological patterns that your body must maintain to operate properly.

Ultradian means “many times a day.”

Rhythms refers to the regular oscillating (up-and-down) wave patterns these cycles follow.

Basically, ultradian rhythms are like mini versions of circadian rhythms (our twenty-four-hour cycles of sleep and waking), except that they are much shorter, occurring many times over a single day.

Like circadian rhythms, they have a powerful effect on your body, and when they are disrupted or ignored, they can really mess with your health, happiness, and general well-being.

So, aligning yourself with your body’s natural ultradian rhythms will be massively beneficial to your brain, your body and how you earn your bread and butter.

Here’s how it works:

Focus and Ultradian Rhythm

Image credit: Accurate Expressions

For a period of 90 minutes, you are in a state of alertness, creativity, mental stamina, and emotional resilience.

Then, for 20 minutes, your body (and brain) needs to cycle down, reenergize, and refresh itself. The point is you want to completely disengage from the work you were doing, and rest and recover as effectively as you can. (You might not be able to get away with a 20-minute break at work, but it’s a good time to get up, walk around, phone a friend and get a drink.)

The cycle repeats itself:  90-minute work cycle, 20-minute break.

In keeping with the body’s natural rhythms and timeline, you will be most effective if you work in 90-minute cycles, and have a 20-minute break, because you want to be operating at the highest level of focus and efficiency.

Also, your productivity will peak and trough according to 90-minute intervals.

Research shows (and my own experience confirms) that if we ignore our brain’s and body’s need for an ‘ultradian’ break, and we push through, hang in there, and grind away until something is done, and miss an ‘ultradian’ break, our next ultradian performance peak will be significantly lower than our previous one.

It’s likely we won’t get as much done — or do it as well — and we also won’t feel anywhere near as good while we are doing it. For the next hour and a half, our body and mind will keep slogging along, but at markedly reduced capacity.

If we miss subsequent breaks as the day wears on, by mid-afternoon, we’ll have little energy left and feel tired — in the grip of a slump from which no amount of coffee or sugar can extract us.

To avoid this, ideally use a timer to limit your work periods to around 90 minutes – with a 20-minute break in between tasks. (If a task is going to take longer than 90 minutes, break it down into smaller chunks.)

When you run your work life according to the ultradian rhythm, you’ll see how easy it is to maintain your focus, get more done and still have energy at the end of the day for you to enjoy time with your family, friends, and anything else you love to do.

b) Having a time limit also forces you to do the most important parts of any work. If you only have an hour and a half, you’re going to have to decide what’s most important. This is much better than simply working on something until it’s done. Decide how long it should take, and then set the timer.

c) If you have any sort of attention challenge, use a timer to help keep your mind on the task at hand. Because you know you have limited time, you’ll get more done. You might find that doing the task is relaxing, since you’ll be focused on what you’re doing instead of thinking about 20 other things.

2. Close Everything That Can Be Closed.

Focus

Everything on your computer that isn’t necessary for the task at hand should be closed down. If you don’t need the internet, shut it off. That includes your email inbox, all notifications, social media, and blogs. If possible, close your door, put your mobile phone on silent, and place it out of your sight.

 Nothing is going anywhere – it will all still be there when you’re done.

One of the keys to help us focus over a sustained period and be more effective is eliminating the things that make us less effective.

3. Insert A Pause, As Needed.

Focus

When you first implement these habits, there will be times that you will have an incredible urge to check your email, Facebook, Twitter etc.

Before you succumb to the urge, take 10 seconds and… pause.

Take a long, deep breath and ask yourself, “Do I really want to waste my time on something that is largely meaningless?

Or…

“Do I want to accomplish something worthwhile?”

When you practice pausing, you will accomplish more, and something worthwhile.

The ability to focus consistently has been largely lost for many of us.

However, these easy strategies, which anyone can do, will go a long way toward maintaining your focus and improving your effectiveness at any task.

At first, you’ll have to gently remind yourself to practice them so they can become habits, but you can do it.

Remember to pause and make a choice that is in your best interest to avoid distractions that waste your precious time.

Close every app that’s not required for the task at hand.

Work in alignment with the ultradian rhythm – see how much more you get done, in less time, and keep your brain working at a higher level of engagement – throughout your day.

Put these three strategies into play starting today. You’ll be impressed by how much more you get done and accomplish!

 

Focus Accomplish

About Dr. Sonja Jahn

Conscious entrepreneurs, leaders and change makers from all over the world seek out Dr. Sonja Jahn’s unique skills and proven system to free themselves of their subconscious blocks, beliefs and behaviours. As a result, they experience a positive and lasting transformation and achieve a greater level of success and satisfaction in their professional and personal life. Read more...