Most of my followers are unaware that I grew up in a house of seven kids. This high-energy, hectic environment can make it difficult to stay productive for an extended period of time. As a result, I’ve developed a few methods to stay focused on work in environments plagued with stimuli.
It was refreshing to see that many of my favorite tactics are shared by community members on Twitter. Here are a few hacks that have really helped me maintain focus.
1. Set specific, achievable goals before you start your day
Specificity is SO crucial in staying productive throughout your workday. Digital nomads know far too well that it’s incredibly easy to become distracted in a world of social media and perpetual content.
My personal strategy involves using Bear, a note-taking app for Mac, to set my goals for the following day the night before. Take a look at my agenda for November 25th…
I’m super specific about the tasks I need to knock out of the way, even those unrelated to work ie “Coffee and Breakfast”. As a self-employed digital marketer & freelancer, it can sometimes be difficult to separate personal tasks from those related to work. I jot down everything that needs to be done, crossing them off upon completion.
This ritual — completing a task and crossing it off my list — is one shared by many successful individuals, including author Tim Ferriss.
Twitter user David Loki contributed to this concept…
Loki uses a whiteboard that constantly reminds him of tasks that are due, next to his bed. The idea of a giant agenda, constantly staring at you can be daunting but also is a great reminder to stay on task.
Regardless of the medium, figure out a way to hold yourself to SPECIFIC goals for each and every day. Cross them- off, and move onto the next task. By maintaining specificity, you’ll prevent yourself from getting distracted or off task.
2. Ritualize productivity using atmospheric elements
Investor and author Scott Belsky uses an amazing technique to stay focused when it’s time to work — he puts on a dedicated playlist. Belsky goes in-depth on this ritual in the Tribe of Mentors podcast, a must-listen for those looking to learn from successful individuals.
When Scott wants to focus on his writing, he does two things that are completely exclusive to the specific task. Scott has a Spotify playlist and selection of snacks that he only allows himself to listen to while submersed in work. This dedication to atmospheric elements is quite crucial in helping his mind transition into a mode focused on productivity.
The psychology behind this is legitimate, it’s the same reason doctors will often advise those with insomnia to keep electronics or activities unrelated to sleep outside of the bedroom. By priming your brain with the idea that your bedroom is for sleep, it’s easier to transition to such a mindset. This logic applies to the concepts behind an office or living room. By associating atmospheric elements (music, furniture, snacks) with certain activities, your brain will quickly focus on the task at hand.
3. Start your most tedious work early in the morning & manage your willpower!
Kathleen Martin Ginis — an Associate Professor of Kinesiology at McMaster University — published an insightful study on why willpower is almost like a muscle:
“Cognitive tasks, as well as emotional tasks such as regulating your emotions, can deplete your self-regulatory capacity to exercise,” says Kathleen Martin Ginis, associate professor of kinesiology at McMaster University, and lead author of the study.
Ginis explains that cognitive tasks are draining, and can often require some form of rejuvenation after tiring. The psychology behind this is why you’ll often hear gurus advise you to start your day with your most important, most tedious work.
“There are strategies to help people rejuvenate after their self-regulation is depleted,” she says. “Listening to music can help; and we also found that if you make specific plans to exercise — in other words, making a commitment to go for a walk at 7 p.m. every evening — then that had a high rate of success.”
Getting burnt out is inevitable, but can be mitigated by planning your day around certain events that allow you to relax and refresh your brain. Give yourself an hour to listen to your favorite artist, add a meditation session in the middle of your workday, or make specific plans to go for a run. Manage your cognitive energy, and you should be able to maintain focus throughout the day.