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5 Tips to Improve Focus and Get Things Done

It is possible to manage distractions to ensure our attention is placed on the right things at the right time so that we are effective and productive.
5 Tips to Improve Focus and Get Things Done
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This story originally appeared on Ellevate
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Where we place our attention determines what gets done. In most instances, we know what we need to do. We even know how to do it. So, where do we fall short?

We don’t account for the impact our environment plays on our ability to stay focused. Our brains are designed to notice and respond to new information. This was crucial for survival in primitive times -- notice and respond to a lion, notice and respond to food.

Related: 5 Big Lies That Block Your Progress -- and How to Conquer Them

However, in the high-tech modern world where we currently reside, the constant barrage of beeps, dings and tweets that interrupts our workflow is almost always without good cause. Each disruption not only increases the amount of time required to complete our work, but also negatively impacts its quality.

It is, however, possible to manage distractions to ensure our attention is placed on the right things at the right time so that we are effective and productive. Here are five strategies to improve focus and get the important things done.

Identify what is worthy.

At the start of each day, spend five minutes creating a plan. Review your goals and approaching deadlines. Identify the 1-3 tasks that must receive your attention today. Write them on a notecard and keep this front and center throughout the day.

Related: Are These Habits Getting in Your Way?

Set the tone.

Create an environment that makes it easy to stay focused. Gather everything you need, including water or coffee. Set office hours so that you are not interrupted. If possible, close your door or move to a conference room.

Move the candy.

Minimize as many distractions as possible - set your phone to Do Not Disturb, close all unnecessary browsers and chat programs on your computer, and consider using noise reduction headphones. Keep a notebook handy to jot down any interrupting thoughts, worries, or tasks so that you are not tempted to act upon them.

Take short breaks.

We tend to lose focus over time. Studies show that our concentration begins to decline after about 90 minutes of focused work. Building in short restorative breaks throughout your workday improves your overall performance. It gives your brain a chance to rest and recharge. A five-minute walk, meditation or conversation with a friend is all that is necessary to refuel.

Related: Don't Let Perfection Paralyze Your Career

Maximize your prime time.

Become aware of your natural energy cycle and use this information to your advantage. Schedule your most challenging tasks for the times during the day when your energy levels are high. For most, this is first thing in the morning. Use the periods when your energy level is lower to accomplish busy work such as filing, scheduling or returning phone calls.

With thoughtful planning, you can design your day in a way that will maximize your time and energy to deliver meaningful results. Happy planning!

(By Dana Massett. Massett is the president of Planning Etc. LLC)

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