In this connected, digital age, we are surrounded by things that are constantly nagging us for our attention. In all the noise it’s becoming harder to focus on the things that we need to be concentrating on – like our work.
Today we are going to tell you about the tips and tools that successful people use to stay focused. You’d be amazed at what just a few small adjustments to your work habits can do to sharpen concentration and improve output.
If you’re ready to get things done, let’s get started.
What are you doing wrong?
If you’re here you probably already have some ideas of where your time is being wasted. Before we engage in solutions to fix the problem, take a few days to more deeply analyze your everyday routine.
Use an easy note-taking application like NotePlan for Mac to estimate the time spent on tasks away from the work desk. Then combine that with the app, Timing, which will automatically track the time spent on your Mac. Without you having to lift a finger, it will break down how long you spent on specific websites, apps, and documents.
Used together you’ll get a clearer picture of your wasted time. Once you know the problem areas, it will make solving them so much easier.
Limit email – Email is one of the greatest time wasters. Try and limit your usage by turning off push notifications and logging out of your email accounts so checking your email isn’t a one step process.
Manage your tasks
The biggest area for improvement is how we deal with our tasks. Work schedule problems typically fall into two clear camps:
- An unorganized list of tasks that keeps growing and feels overwhelming. You are frozen, not knowing where to begin.
- Having no list of tasks at all. Because you don’t have a clear picture, you aren’t sure what to prioritize, and some tasks get overlooked entirely.
They key to forward momentum is in creating a system that makes it as easy as possible to know what you need to do and an orderly work schedule for completing tasks.
The obvious first step is to write those tasks down. You can go for the manual pen and paper approach, or you can get help from a modern task management app.
TaskPaper is the perfect app for people who want simplicity from their task manager. With its elegant design, anyone can be up and running in minutes without any hassle. While it feels like a plain text editor, under the surface there are many features for customizing how TaskPaper handles tasks.
GoodTask is great for those who are already technology converts. The app also has a simple interface, but it goes further by integrating seamlessly into your Apple Calendar and Reminders apps. Use smart lists and quick actions to quickly line up what you need to do and start getting things done.
Don’t take on the world - take a break
The human brain has a limited amount of attention at the best of times. Faced with a challenging or boring work task, your attention span goes through the floor. Taking regular breaks and dividing up tasks into smaller chunks will help you to stay focused throughout the day.
Some people try to manually keep track of time by having their clocks chime at certain intervals (like every half an hour) but this can get annoying for co-workers and it’s a bit too simple for our tastes. Instead, you could take a look at Be Focused for macOS.
Be Focused is a task app that is perfectly named. The app doesn’t just let you manage and track tasks; it allows you to set a duration for both tasks and breaks.
Use the app to schedule in some short, fun tasks like checking social media as a reward for completing a big assignment. Play around with a different number of intervals every day until you find your most productive balance.
Sideline your cell phone – If you thought email was bad, our phones are even worse. Put your phone into Do Not Disturb mode for some peace and quiet. Schedule phone checking (email, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) as one of your rewards.
Tech shortcuts to focus town
Innovation has created more efficient ways to get things done. For every old manual method of doing something, there are probably several apps that can do the same thing only faster.
Finding these apps and working out which ones are worth buying can be tiresome, which is why Setapp was launched to offer a shortcut to a hand-picked collection of the best Mac apps. With Setapp you can try the full library of over 70 apps for a simple subscription fee.
Within the library are dozens of tools that will boost your productivity. For example, writers can use the elegant writing app Ulysses to handle any writing job. It has a ton of features (like automatic sync), but they remain out of the way so you can focus on churning out excellent text. When you’re done, you can export in whatever format you want such as PDF, ebook, markdown file, or even publishing directly to a blog.
Once subscribed to Setapp you have Ulysses and over 100 other apps in a folder on your Mac, ready to explore whenever and wherever you want.
Multitasking is asking too much
The benefits of multitasking are a myth.
That’s right, studies have shown that even people who are better than most at multitasking, and who think they are highly productive, are much less efficient than an average person focused on a single task.
In short, even though it doesn’t feel like it, your brain is taking a lot of effort to shift your focus constantly.
Among other things, multitasking is bad for:
- Creativity – We never get far enough down the creative path when we continually reset by jumping to other jobs.
- IQ – The University of London found that extended multitasking lowered IQ in men by 15 points. The same as staying up all night.
- Absorbing details – If you’re on the phone and reading an article you’re going to be missing out on significant details from one or even both sources.
- Stress – When multitasking the body is in a “high alert” mode, which comes with a higher heart rate. Yikes!
Staying away from multitasking is easier said than done at the best of times. When you have a job that requires project management, it becomes nearly impossible. That’s when you need a professional project management application like Aeon Timeline to help you to organize your plans and events. Link events, group projects, add detailed subtasks, customize to your heart’s content – this app does everything it can to help you stay focused.
Create room for flexibility - When creating schedules make sure you allot free time that isn’t linked to specific tasks. This will allow you to be more responsive by using this time on things you couldn’t plan for.
Freelancers and remote workers - we’ve got you covered
More and more people are choosing to work remotely. Working remotely presents a different set of challenges (not just whether to stay in pajamas all day) so here are a couple working from home tips for those of you who are living the freelance life.
Just because you can work from anywhere doesn’t mean you should
The joy of being a freelancer is that you don’t have to show up to the same desk every day. You can work in different parts of your house or apartment. You can work in a nearby coffee shop. You can even work from bed!
As tempting as staying in bed all day sounds, you’ll be a lot more productive working in a well-lit area with a comfortable and ergonomic chair and desk setup. Clutter and noise are to be avoided, so busy public places are not ideal due to the distractions you’ll face.
Wherever you choose to work, realize that your Mac is also an important part of the environment. The developers of HazeOver realized this by creating an application that automatically dims background windows, eliminating desktop clutter and helping you to focus on the single window from which you’re working.
Communicate before you guesstimate
When you’re in an office environment, you face the challenge of personal interactions distracting from work. When working remotely, you face the opposite problem – isolation. It’s true that isolation can be good for focus, but a lack of communication can also make it unclear what you’re supposed to do.
Regular meetings over video chat or being active in a communication channel (Slack, Hipchat, etc.) will not only help you feel more connected to your team; it will save you from wasting time working on the wrong thing. Just make sure you find the right balance between communication and getting stuff done.
To help find that balance:
- Schedule meetings in one big block. Jumping from a meeting to work to a meeting and back again is disruptive.
- When focusing on work, use the “Busy” or “Do not disturb” option in the team chat platform of choice.
Schedule regular work hours – Freelancers get to make their own hours, but this freedom leads to a lack of clear focus for many. If there’s a time you’re supposed to be working it's harder to make excuses for not working.
Practice makes perfect
If you've made it this far your powers of concentration may already be on the up.
It’s important to note that beyond the tips and work tools to help your productivity; there is also the fact that repetition builds habits. Old habits may not break overnight but stick to these new work strategies, and your daily mess will start to transform into daily success.
Take the first step by signing up to Setapp for a free trial and get your hands on some of the best work tools for Mac around.
The new focused you starts now!