Whether you’re an entrepreneur or career-minded professional, staying focused could be the greatest challenge to your productivity and success. Between the Internet and daily life, there are countless options for how to spend your time. Plus, today it’s easier and faster to start a business, connect with industry influencers or learn a new skill.
However, if you want to accomplish anything, you can’t do everything. Instead, it is more important than ever to have a laser-like focus on one task or goal. In Ashlee Vance’s book Elon Musk: How the Billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla is Shaping our Future, there is a quote that states, “Block out the world and dedicate to a single task.”
This mindset made me realize that everything that goes into a business, whether it is advertising, marketing, or product development, is a series of little tasks that come together.
If you try to tackle multiple areas or tasks at the same time, you’ll feel overwhelmed, make mistakes, and ultimately, fail. Take it one task at a time. It will not only dramatically improve your productivity, but when managed effectively, each task should contribute to and add value to your overall goal or business. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to develop a laser-like focus and get things done:
Plan it out.
At some point in your life, you’ve probably had so much to do that you didn’t know where to start. It’s an overwhelming and stressful feeling, and it can cost you valuable time by doing tasks that aren’t a top priority.
Start by making a to-do list. Then, take a moment to reflect on the most important aspects of the task. What will you need to accomplish it? What’s the endpoint? Defining an endpoint is crucial, so that you have some way of measuring or identifying that a task is successful. Making a list may be one of the oldest tricks in the book, but it’s lasted the test of time because it works.
Distractions kill productivity, and unfortunately, we are surrounded by them. From social media, untidiness, phone calls, and other people, it can be difficult to avoid distraction and stay focused, but it is critical.
Minimize distractions by creating a dedicated work-space that is void of clutter, technology and noise. Turn off your phone and mute all notifications while you work on one specific task.
Get Started and Keep The Momentum Going.
Getting started is always the hardest part, especially if you have a habit of procrastinating. It’s easy to convince yourself that you need to have this or do that before you can begin a task. In truth, you don’t need any of those things. Stop making excuses and just do it. You’re going to make mistakes, but that’s all part of the process.
Enjoy the work.
Not every task that you do is going to be incredibly exciting. To push through, it is important to develop or build in methods into your routine that make it more enjoyable. One method is to work for 30 to 40 minutes at a time and reward yourself with a quick five-minute break. Another important tactic is to always keep the big picture in mind. Why are you doing this task? What values does it have to the overall picture? If you are doing a mundane task like research potential leads, but if the task is tied to a meaningful purpose, like increasing access to education for the poor or creating eco-friendly products, it makes it more worthwhile.
Focus on an endpoint and set a deadline.
Procrastination is never good for productivity, but as Wait But Why creator Tim Urban describes in his Ted Talk, the panic that sets in before a deadline drives people to get to work. If you leave it open-ended, you won’t hold yourself accountable for not making progress, so always make sure you establish an endpoint and a strict deadline.
If the task is bigger, you may want to break it up into smaller milestones. If you want to write a 300-page book, you’re not going to write it all at once. Divide it into easy-to-digest tasks. Write five pages every day and set aside specific days for editing. If you want to grow your blog, then commit to a series of tasks like creating one piece of content a day or connecting with three influencers a week. This makes your endpoint more tangible and quantifiable.
I would love to hear what you think in the comments below, how do you focus and complete the important tasks in your daily routine? -Peter