How to stay focused and increase productivity

By: Sensible Stylista

1. Compose a detailed to-do list. Jot down everything you need to accomplish, but make sure you're being realistic. If it's a Monday, include weekly goals as well. Star the most pressing tasks and assign them accordingly. I'm most alert from 7-12 AM and 4-10 PM so I practice piano and study then. I fade around 2 and am lethargic until 4 so I work on "easier" things - while sipping on tea, of course - to make the most of my time. Obviously, everyone's different so it's important to keep track of your mental state throughout the day. Rate your focus on a scale of 1-5 for every hour to figure out when you're most productive - do this diligently for a week, and you'll be good to go.

2. Form keystone habits. They, in essence, create positive ripple effects, which lead to the development of other good habits. For example, exercising daily keeps you focused, motivates you to eat clean, helps with stress management, and does wonders for your self-esteem. Other personal favorites include waking up early, organizing/cleaning, reading, and meditating. If you'd like to learn more, make sure you pick up Charles Duhigg's book, "The Power of Habit." It's seriously one of the most helpful books I've ever read.

3. Time your breaks. It's far too easy to lose track and get sucked into the black hole that is netflix or youtube. A three-minute video or 30-minute show can easily turn into a 4-hour binge sesh. Do yourself a favor and set an alarm. Also, while we're on the topic of breaks, let's talk a bit about what you should do to rest your mind. As much as I love trash TV, I've discovered that indulging during the day does a number on my brain - it makes me feel lazy and unmotivated. I do, however, reward myself with an episode of my favorite show at the end of the day - if I finish everything, of course. Otherwise, I prefer to take a brisk walk outside with my puppy or catch up with a friend to stay alert.

4. Put your phone away. This is kind of a no-brainer, but when you're working, lock your cell up. I like to put my phone in another room because if it's near me, I will look at it every 2 minutes. To achieve max focus, only check it during breaks. Personally, until I hear my alarm ding, I won't go near my droid - no exceptions!

5. Set aside times to check your e-mail. This goes hand in hand with number 4, but it's worth mentioning anyways! Checking your inbox constantly will seriously interrupt the flow of your concentration. Designate times to check your email so you can focus 200% on your current task.

6. Create an inspiration board. It'll help you stay on course when you feel [insert negative emotion here]. Collage pictures, quotes and the like, and display it in your workplace! It's important to keep things in perspective because ultimately, it's all about long game. Tiny "failures" should not phase you. In fact, you should embrace them because they make you that much better. Incredible things happen when you leap - and by "incredible" I mean both "incredibly amazing" and "so incredibly sh*tty." If it's the latter, stay positive - your attitude determines the quality of your life.

7. Don't dwell. You have to draw the line and stop at some point or else you'll end up wasting the entire day on a single task! Now, if you're a perfectionist like I am, it's going to be tough, but you have to move on. Taking a break will probably help you in the long run anyway because you'll have a fresh, new perspective when you re-visit whatever it is you were doing. If need be, use an alarm to keep you on track.

8. Don't work on a couch. Trust me, you'll be much more productive at a desk. I don't have any scientific info to back this up, but I'm guessing it has something to do with posture. Sofas are great and all, but they're just too comfortable. Do yourself a solid and create a nice workspace free of distractions, and while you're at it, sit up straight. Your back will thank you later on in life!

9. Make an effort to socialize at least once a week. Remember, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy! This will help you preserve your sanity and prevent you from getting brain fog. It's kind of like eating clean. It's much easier to do so when you know you have a splurge meal to look forward to. Plus, you'll be much more efficient after you recharge.

10. Get enough rest. A sleep-deprived human is an unproductive human - an hour of focused work trumps 10 hours of mindless repetition so make sure you get your beauty rest. I've done the whole "sleep for 3 hours a night" spiel, and it seriously sucks. You're not doing yourself a favor by skimping on zzzz's. If anything, you're shooting yourself in the foot. Go to bed at a reasonable hour and wake up early to get a head start on your work. Remember, the early bird gets the worm!

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