Here’s a checklist for you busy folks:
- Prepare for tomorrow the day before
- No shame in power naps
- Fearlessly say no when you have to
- Work in concentrated bursts of productivity
Prepare for tomorrow before it starts.
Productive people get ready for the next day before they mentally leave the office. Spend a few minutes to think ahead about your most important priorities that will ensure a productive tomorrow. Finish the day by writing down the top three goals or projects you need to start. Knowing what you need to get done the next day sets you up for proactivity rather than reactivity.
Take a power nap.
When you’ve lost focus and your productivity mojo is in a slump, your creativity and alertness aren’t as sharp. To get back to that state of flow, a 10 to 15-minute power naps will help you become much clearer and more focused. Some of you (like my wife) gets hazier with naps so try meditation instead. Be realistic and keep your shut-down time length in check.
Be ok with saying no.
Learning to say “no” allows us to minimize our obligations and attain greater focus. Those with difficulty in saying no are more likely to experience stress, burnout, and even depression.
One word of advice on this is to say no to people but explain why so you build a good report with the people you work with. That extra few words might even lead to reprioritization, which is good too! Don’t become known as the office brick wall.
The late Steve Jobs was a big proponent of this strategy. Jobs once dropped this timeless piece of wisdom about what true focus entails:
People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done.
Work in 90-minute sprints.
One productivity mistake so many of us make is working for hours at a time, neglecting the breaks we actually need to be more consistently productive. According to Harvard Business Review, the secret to productivity is to work the way track and field sprinters train: focus single-mindedly on your most challenging and important task for 90 minutes at a time, then give your brain a rest and let it recharge. You’ll work faster and stronger when you get back to your desk.