3 Ways To Stay Focused So You Can Finish Your ‘To-Do’ List, Every Single Day

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How To Be More Productive, Stay Focused, & Increase Concentration Without Multitasking
Self

If you want to learn how to be more productive, stay focused, and increase concentration, you'll need to stop multitasking. 

You want to learn how to focus better because your attention keeps moving to other things you have on your "To Do" list.

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When you want to accomplish much and get it all done in a short amount of time, one of the most popular productivity myths is multitasking.

However, much research has proven multitasking to be a myth! The facts show that not only is multitasking not a thing — it actually can really harm your ability to get things done efficiently.

Here are some facts about the inefficiency of multi-tasking.

  1. By concentrating single-mindedly on your most important task, you can reduce the time required to complete it by 50 percent or more.
  2. It has been estimated that the tendency to start and stop a task, to pick it up, put it down, and come back to it, can increase the time necessary to complete the task by as much as 500 percent.

"Wow!" you may be thinking. "How can that be? I thought multitasking helped me get more done!"

Nope!

Every time you delay completing a task and come back to it later you must re-orient yourself, generate interest and build the momentum you had before you stopped — all before you’re productive.

To get more done, being a multitasker just slows you down. So learning how to stay focused benefits you better. So, stick with it!

Once you start a task, you are most efficient with your time if you keep going until the task is complete. 

You have already generated the motivation to do it, the enthusiasm to finish it, and the energy to keep going. And your mind is working at its best.

But, how do you start and complete your tasks most efficiently?

Simple: a master list. Brainstorm all your tasks by writing them all down in one place.

(I love to brainstorm using sticky notes — one topic/project per note). Once you have a master list, determine which are:

  • Projects: Something with a clear start, end goal, and completion date.
  • Tasks: Ongoing and/or recurring items requiring maintenance, or those to-dos that crop up.
  • Errands: These are one and done items that need to be attended to, and may require some running around.

In my world, a "project" may be a presentation, workshop, or marketing program, while a "task" may include repeated tasks such as weekly blog posts, monthly newsletter, billing, expenses or client follow-up calls.

"Errands" are things that require me to leave my home office and go out into the world to complete them.

Significant recurring errands include grocery shopping, attending networking group meetings and associations to market my business. 

"Project" work is distinct from "task" work in that each often requires different types of activities. Projects also call for different levels of concentrated work.

When you're working on a project, it's not advised to multitask, unless you have passive tasks to complete. (For instance, you may throw in a load of laundry and do something else as it's finishing.)

Another way to avoid multitasking is to pay attention to your energy levels. You may know that you’re able to focus better at different times of the day and should plan those times for the tasks requiring "deeper" concentration.

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Therefore, knowing the difference between what qualifies as "task work", "passive work", and "project work" for yourself is key.

These categories will help you plan time according to the different levels of effort required to complete each and only multitask with passive tasks. 

All tasks on your list have an end goal or expectation, but some are easier and faster to attain than others.

Remember: getting it all done Is not multitasking.

Sometimes, multitasking is used when people mean that they want to get several things done in a short period of time. To "get it all done" is a mindset that deserves some exploration. The term has received much attention of late.

So when you think about what you need to get it all done, consider the following self-reflective questions:

  • What does that statement mean to you?
  • What would it look like/feel like/be like for you to be "all done"?
  • Are your expectations realistic?
  • Is it possible to meet your own expectations?
  • Do you sabotage yourself by creating endless, unattainable lists of tasks only to check off two or three?
  • When you don't succeed are you hold yourself hostage to the feeling of inadequacy and incomplete that invariably come?

If you are only able to do one thing at a time why not first ask: "What one thing can I do today to get me closer to my goal?"

When is the best time for you to complete tasks in the least amount of time with everything else that is going on in your workday?

With that said, there are 3 key skills you need to manage your time and get all your tasks done:

  1. Set your priorities.
  2. Make decisions.
  3. Focus or concentrate single-mindedly on one thing at a time.

If you get in the habit of defining your top 3 results for each day, you can prioritize and decide what to work on first.

Then, schedule uninterrupted time to work on your tasks so you can complete your top priority tasks more efficiently. 

When you plan and work from a master list, you will be less likely to multitask and more successful focusing on what is most important.

This will help you manage and dissuade those darn interruptions. 

While you are working, anything outside of the task that you stop to do is not worth your time.

The task you are focusing on is your top priority. Single focused attention while tackling your top priority tasks in this manner, every day will result in completing more of your important work in much less time.

So plan more and multitask less.

With consistency, you'll learn to only multitask with passive activities that truly allow you to concentrate and focus when you need to.

You’ll find that when you plan and prioritize your tasks, you are more likely to stay on the proactive side of the equation and will invariably do less fire fighting. 

When your day is in constant reaction, you feel out of control. When you must respond to last minute requests, process breakdowns, and everyone else’s problems, you lose time and focus each time you pivot direction.

It takes much more brain power to manage reactions, decisions, and work time than it does to plan your work and work your plan.

Instead, when you begin with a plan and then assign time to work your plan, you’ll have focus and have a container that can hold the space for things to get done.

Time-blocking provides the discipline to say "no" to the less important things that crop up and creates a path that allows you to get focused faster and work until completion in much less time.

So, here's to letting the myth of multitasking go and reclaiming your decisions and authority over how time is spent. When you do, you'll be getting it all done in less time.

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Cena Block is a Productivity Consultant and Certified Organizer Coach (COC) for professional women and entrepreneurs with ADHD. She is also the CEO of Sane Spaces and creator of the Time & Space Style Inventory™.

This article was originally published at Sane Spaces. Reprinted with permission from the author.