We are constantly surrounded by far too many distractions: social media feeds, news feeds, smart phone notifications, flash sales and much more. Like any normal person, we succumb to most of them on a daily basis, throughout the day. Tuning out the nonsense won’t be easy but do it enough and it’ll become a habit. We all got more important things to do, so let’s focus and get them done.
1. Know what actually matters. Be honest with yourself about the actions that truly move the needle in your business and your life. An 80/20 analysis is a great place to start. If you’re stuck, just think of the tasks you fear the most–that give you anxiety just to think about. Those are likely the most important.
2. Pick your top 2-3 core tasks each day. These are the things that must happen no matter what. If you get these done your day is a success. Stick to no more than three, or better yet one. They must move you closer to your big goals. Checking email does not count.
3. Do them first thing. For me writing is one of my core actions, so I write for an hour or so as soon as I roll out of bed or after my morning workout (it’s 5:45 am right now). The longer you wait, the more distractions will intrude. Nothing happens before these get done.
4. Do not connect to anything until your core tasks are done. Don’t convince yourself you need the internet or email to do your most important tasks. 95% of the time you don’t. Leave the internet off and phone on airplane mode until you crush through the important.
5. Kill multitasking. Stop thinking it’s more efficient. It’s not. No surfing during phone calls, reading during meals, chatting while writing. Do one thing at a time. Simple. Not only is multitasking terribly inefficient but it stresses you out and it’s rude to anyone around you.
6. Turn off email and notifications (and anything else that interrupts you). When you sit down to do something, nothing else gets attention. Just because someone decides to email, chat or call you, doesn’t mean it’s more important. Those things can wait. But if you know they are waiting there, you’ll be too tempted. Avoid temptation at all cost. We are too weak.
7. Don’t check email in the morning. This is the most effective (and difficult) single practice I’ve found. I know every one of you have heard this one. So why doesn’t anyone actually do it? It will change your life. It feels terrible to know we’ve spent a couple hours refreshing and going in and out of email without really getting anything done. I assure you that if you check it, you won’t be able to help yourself, and you’ll stumble face first into the worm hole. So don’t even open it until you have a few hours of focused action under your belt (this is at least 11am for most).
8. Batch your emailing to two times a day MAX. Maybe 30 min before lunch and 30 min late afternoon. If you need an email for your core task, do not go to your inbox. Go straight to the search feature and find it. If you need to write an email as a core task (which should very rarely be the case), write it offline in a simple program like notepad. Save reactionary items for after you get the important done.
9. Try to get less done in a day–practice Slow Working. Don’t fill every moment of your calendar with tasks (this is a huge one I’m working on). You’ll be stressed and rushed the whole day. Slow down and move through your core tasks calmly. Then maybe you do a few more things with the remaining time but don’t cram them in. If you do, you’ll always feel behind.
10. Plan more time for each task. This is the easiest way to alleviate the schedule. And things always tend to take longer than we think. If your core task will take you 45 minutes, then block out 90. Actually schedule it on your calendar. If it only takes you 40 minutes then suddenly you have free time–how freakinawesome (and rare) is that!
11. Take breaks and reward yourself. Most of us can only intensely focus on something for an hour at best. Take at least a few-minute break every 30 or 60 minutes to clear your head. I love going up to my rooftop for a couple deep breaths and a view of the Golden Gate. Find a fun way to get you free and clear. Take a walk, meditate, feed the ducks, breathe, get a snack or some water or listen to an inspiring song. You pick.