For most of us, we just can’t ever seem to get enough done.
Over the past eight years, I’ve done a lot to make myself both more productive and efficient. And throughout that time, I’ve battled with various distractions, challenges, and surprises and have adapted and adjusted my process to suit those various challenges.
The journey, and the process of optimizing, is never over because life is ever-changing, but I’ve now refined my process down to be far more productive and efficient than I’ve ever been before by a long-shot.
Below is a part of that wisdom distilled into a collection of tips specifically centering around reducing distractions, improving focus, and getting more done in less time. I hope they help you as much as they’ve helped me.
7 Simple Ways to Reduce Distractions and Get More Done (In Less Time)
Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.
– Paul J. Meyer
1. Use the Pomodoro method
The “Pomodoro method” is based on research that we’re more productive when we take frequent breaks– and it’s pretty compelling. Working in this way has become common among young entrepreneurs who swear by the increased productivity that the method creates.
Using the Pomodoro method is easy: work for a specified period of time, take a five or ten-minute break, and then go back to work. Repeat this and track your Pomodoro “time blocks” to accurately gauge your productivity (it’s great for this too).
Start with either twenty-five or fifty-five-minute blocks with a five-minute break. Over time, you can choose to adjust this to make it your own but this is the perfect starting place for most everyone. Timing is important here, so use something like Pomello to track your Pomodoro blocks. Pomello is great because it even integrates with Trello, which is great for tracking goals and tasks in general.
2. Lock and focus your browser use
I used to have a really bad habit of hoarding tabs. We’re talking thirty tabs open at a time in my Google Chrome browser. Perpetually.
Since then, I’ve really improved and have used tools like Pocket and OneTab to simplify my tabs and collect content I want to read at a later date in a more productive way. I’ll also leave emails for articles I want to read in my inbox as opposed to clicking on them and leaving the tab open for it to distract me repeatedly until I finish reading it.
But, beyond that, I’ve also experimented with “locking” my browser tabs using something like TabZolo, which allows me to reduce distractions while I’m working. If you work from a computer and you either hoard tabs or find yourself repeatedly distracted visiting a certain website(s) throughout the day, I’d suggest checking out all of these tools.
3. Use mindfulness meditation
There are essentially two ways to reduce distractions: outwardly by cutting off the source of the distraction or inwardly by increasing your ability to focus. The first two points (and much of this list) is the former while practicing mindfulness meditation is the ladder. To maximize your ability to reduce distractions you need to incorporate both inward and outward strategies.
Mindfulness meditation, like other forms of meditation, helps calm the mind and this naturally helps improve focus. However, what mindfulness is exceptional at is providing us with clarity of mind. This is what allows mindfulness to be the super tool that it is for improving our focus.
The great thing about mindfulness is research has proven that even five minutes of practice can have a noticeable effect, so it doesn’t require a huge time investment.
4. Edit your social use to match goals
The idea here is to modify the social media you frequent to match what you’re trying to accomplish. This could mean dropping a social platform if it serves as a frequent distraction or simply reducing your use of social media, which can be done using something I call the path of least resistance via something like deleting XYZ app or blocking the website on your browser.
Alternatively, you can edit your social use without removing yourself from said platform by unfollowing negative influences and frequent distractions (gossip sites especially) and following others who are ideal influencers (especially those who are where you want to be) who frequently offer messages that will motivate and inspire you to action.
5. Rise earlier
When you work is almost as important as how you work, with the quiet of the morning being by far the most productive time of the day for me. And it’s not just me, rising early has become wildly popular with books like The Miracle Morning hitting the New York Times bestsellers list.
Most guides and resources you’ll find out there that teach you how to rise early note some ridiculous wake time, but really all you need to do is work on rising earlier. Rising a little bit earlier, even thirty minutes to an hour, affords you a golden period in the morning where you can either get work done or prepare for the day ahead with a few morning rituals, making you that much more effective in everything you do throughout the rest of your day.
6. Pre-plan your day
It took me years of trying out pre-planning my day to find something that worked for me. The system I use now is based on one of my favorite books, The 12-Week Year, which shows you how to break down your major goals into smaller and smaller time chunks all the way down to the day. That way, you can stay laser-focused with minimal effort.
Now, each week, I pre-plan each of my days ahead of time in my weekly plan. As the week goes by and things change, I adjust that weekly plan to match. Each day I copy a ‘daily plan’ template I made once in Evernote, fill in my tasks from my weekly plan, and bam I’m done with my daily plan in a matter of five minutes (or less). This helps me reduce distractions and stay focused while being maximally productive (and knowing when I’m not so I can course-correct).
7. Use micro-rewards
Every day, Warren Buffet eats dinner at the same place– Gorat’s, a local steakhouse in his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. And every day he gets the same thing: a rare T-bone steak, a double-order of hash browns, and his signature Cherry Coke.
Why is this significant? Part of the reason Buffet does it as a form of motivation. Each day he’s motivated to do a great job so that he can enjoy his favorite meal. Using this form of micro-reward system is highly effective and easy to apply in your own life.
Do this: Think of a micro-reward of your own. It doesn’t have to be associated with food like Buffet’s, it can be any kind of small delight that brings you pleasure. Then use this as a reward for a hard day’s work and see how it improves your focus consistently each day.
Use these seven tips for reducing distractions, improving focus, and getting more done and make them your own. Find which tips work for you, double down, and find your own optimum set of strategies and tactics that allows you to do your best work each day.