Can’t concentrate at work? It happens to everyone. So, how can you increase your focus and be more productive? Here are 15 popular focus hacks that have proven effective for most people.
Hacks to Prioritize Work
Before you even decide how to schedule your time and stay focused on tasks, you must first figure out which goals or tasks to prioritize. Here are some options:
Hack #1: Eisenhower Matrix
The Eisenhower Matrix (or Eisenhower Box) is a framework for categorizing tasks by importance and urgency. The four categories or quadrants, along with the right action for each, are:
- Important and urgent: do these tasks first
- Important but not urgent: make time for these tasks
- Not important but urgent: delegate these tasks
- Not important and not urgent: delete these tasks
Hack #2: Pareto Principle
The Pareto Principle, or 80-20 Rule, states that 80% of output comes from only 20% of input. For work, 20% of your activities will account for 80% of the results. In other words, most of what you do is inconsequential to your goals. As such, figure out which critical tasks will help you accomplish your objectives.
Hack #3: Ivy Lee Method
If you try to do 20 items on your to-do list, you might end up with 20 unfinished tasks. The Ivy Lee method dictates that you choose only six of the most important tasks you need to accomplish for the day and stick to them.
Hack #4: 5-25 Rule
Warren Buffett, the world’s most successful investor, has his 5-25 Rule to be ultra-selective on what goals to focus on. List down your top 25 objectives. Identify your five most important goals, then eliminate the rest.
Hacks to Schedule Work
After you have prioritized your goals and tasks, the next step is to plan how to accomplish them. These are some of the strategies and tips to stay focused:
Hack #5: To-Do List
Having a to-do list is an absolute must-do. If you don’t write down your goals, you are less likely to complete them. Jot your to-do items based on your priority goals. Next, plot the tasks using monthly, weekly, and daily calendars. Cross items on your list as you complete them.
Hack #6: Deadlines
How many goals have you not accomplished after two or three years? A goal without a deadline is just a dream. Deadlines put pressure on people to act. Otherwise, with no sense of urgency, you’ll keep procrastinating. So, set a date for each goal.
Hack #7: Micro-Tasking
Major projects can be overwhelming. Micro-tasking makes them more realistic and doable. If something seems too complicated or long, break down large projects, goals, and tasks into smaller and more manageable chunks.
Hack #8: First-Hour Rule
What should you do in the first hour of your workday? You could work on your most challenging task first and get it over with. Or you could start with the easiest task if that works better. If you have difficulty doing deep, focused work, switch to mundane tasks first. As you get into the groove, you can move on to more demanding activities.
Hack #9: Biological Prime Time
When should you do what you need to do? Everyone’s peak time is different. If you’re a morning person, doing productive work first thing in the morning makes sense. Otherwise, there’s no point in doing focused work when you’re sleepy or moody. Knowing your biological prime time, which is when you’re the most productive, should guide you on when to schedule important tasks.
Hack #10: Time Blocks
One or two tasks could consume your entire day, and you miss working on the rest. Parkinson’s Law says that work expands to fill the time you’ve allocated to them. You can assign blocks of time to each to-do item. This gives structure to your work day and forces you to complete each task.
There are several variations of how to structure your time:
- Pomodoro Technique. Work in short bursts, with 25 minutes to complete a task and 5 minutes for a break. Set your timer and concentrate on each task for every interval.
- 90-Minute Rule: We have circadian rhythms when we sleep, but we also have ultradian rhythms when awake. We have around 90 minutes of high-frequency brain activity when we can focus on our work, followed by 20 minutes of lower-frequency brain activity when we should rest.
- 52/17 Rule. Based on a study of high performers who worked for 52 minutes and rested for 17, you can make short work sprints in between breaks to stay productive.
- (10+2)*5. This (10+2)*5 formula from 43Folders.com means 10 minutes of singled-minded work plus two minutes of break time, multiplied by five intervals, completing an hour. It is crucial to stick with the time limits and not skip work and break schedules.
- 3-Hour Working Zone. For some people, short sprints don’t build momentum. So, they prefer allotting three continuous hours to deep, focused work. The rest of the day can be spent on less important tasks.
Hacks to Get Things Done
All the planning and scheduling are for nothing if you still can’t get yourself to work. Here is some advice on what helps focus:
Hack #11: Monotasking
Multitasking does not work for most people. Instead of constantly switching between tasks, just do one at a time. Monotasking enables you to give total concentration on the task at hand. And you are a lot more likely to complete it.
Hack #12: Timeboxing
You can waste much time on emails, meetings, and other non-urgent activities. Timeboxing your schedule is similar to time blocking, except timeboxing is designed for non-essential tasks. The idea is to allocate time with strict limits, so they don’t get out of control. One example is scheduling only 15 minutes to answer emails every three hours.
Hack #13: Day Theming
If you are working on multiple projects, businesses, or responsibilities, day theming lets you dedicate specific tasks for each day of the week. For instance, you can spend Mondays on strategy, Tuesdays and Wednesdays on design work, Thursdays on marketing activities, and Fridays on admin stuff. This strategy works better than juggling each one and switching between them daily.
Hack # 14: Task Batching
Another way to organize your work is to group similar tasks. Instead of switching between functions using different skills, you do activities in clusters. For example, you can schedule sales calls and client meetings in the morning, file reports after lunch, and check emails late in the afternoon.
Hack #15: Time Tracker
You can use a time tracker to stay focused and productive. It’s a good way of tracking your time to help you determine when you are most productive and how much time you spend on various tasks.