How do you increase productivity and create focus?

‘If you waste your time and energy focusing on everything, you’ll achieve nothing in the areas of your life that are important to you’.

Do you ever feel like you’re busy but getting nowhere? It can be hard to get off the hamster wheel, take a step back from the daily grind and refine what you work on day-to-day to achieve results. By creating focus and increasing productivity, you’ll learn how to drive forward and achieve the goals you set yourself.

The Pareto rule is generally accepted by most of us – we know that 20% of the activities we focus on create 80% of the results. So why is it day-to-day we just jump in to the working day, do what we always do and focus on ticking stuff off of our list? If 20% of what we do creates 80% of the results, wouldn’t it make more sense to start there?

What gets in our way?

Habit often encourages us to do things we’ve always done, and spend our time doing the same activities time and time again, without considering whether that’s the best use of our time right now. It’s comfortable and unchallenging to rely on old habits, but if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll never move forward and achieve more.

Mistaking busy for productive can make us feel like we’re moving forward because we’re ‘busy’, but actually if you’re not being productive and getting the important stuff done, you’re actually spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

Lack of a strategy and not being crystal clear on what you want to achieve means daily habits take over. If you don’t know where you’re going and what you want to achieve, you can’t structure your time and energy on the activities that will move you forward.

Where to start?

The first step is to figure out where you’re going and what you want to achieve. Take some time to plan out exactly what you want to achieve over the next year, then break this down into monthly goals. You can take this a step further and create weekly goals and daily habits – which all lead back to the achievement you want to make over the next year (you can do the same exercise for your five year or ten year goals).

Once you know where you’re going and what you want to achieve, you’ll be in a position to create focus. If you’re focused on achieving your goals, you’ll only be working on activities that move you closer to those achievements. In the words of Greg McKeown in the book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

‘If it isn’t a clear yes, it’s a no’.

If you can’t say yes to an activity or task because it will move you one step closer to where you want to be, then it’s a no. And there are no maybes – it’s a yes or a no.

This may seem like an alien concept, but if you truly want to achieve your goals, you have to wear your blinkers like a race horse and get focused. It may be hard saying no to opportunities, or uncomfortable changing the way you think about your work, but in the long run this technique will propel you forward.

To get you started on your focus journey, our Activity Planner will help you work through your daily and weekly activities.

Activity planner - find your productivity

Step 1

On the first page, there are four boxes for you to label with your four main priorities. These priorities may all be in a work context, and you may label these with work streams such as marketing, sales, design, content. Or they may be four areas of your life such as work, family, social life, exercise. Label these boxes in a way that works for you.

Step 2

In each of these boxes write down all of the activities you want/ need to complete in this area. Jot everything down, and add to it as you need to. These items do not need to be completed in one day, this is your ‘everything’ list.

Activity planner - find your productivity

Step 3

On the second page write down your top three tasks to be completed today in order of priority. These tasks can be taken from any box on the first page. This is now where you’re getting focused about your activities – make sure your top three help you to work towards your daily/ weekly/ monthly/ yearly goals.

Step 4

Jot down up to 10 more tasks you will complete if you have the time. We often overestimate what we can get done in a day, so aiming for three focused tasks and have additional tasks to complete if you have time is a good way of managing your time and energy without creating a sense of overwhelm.

Step 5

Repeat daily. Practice makes perfect productivity.

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