7 Ways to Keep You Focus Doing Your Tasks & How to Avoid Distractions That Kill Your Productivity

With the world is getting more and more connected than ever before, now it’s very hard for someone like me and you to really-really focus doing our daily tasks: there are too many distractions – internal and external – that keep us distracted.  Not unless you do the following 7 ways I do and apply to myself daily.
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Keep Focus & Avoid Distractions

 1. Keep focus: Mute your phone and put it away from your sight

Biggest distraction nowadays is coming from your phone. From social media such as Facebook, messaging app such as WhatsApp messages even until game such as Clash of Royale, all of them has the same thing: they give you notifications – most of them are not so important.
Muting your phone is the best way to not get distracted and keep focus on doing your task.
Tell your wife/husband, friends, colleagues, client, boss to give you a call only if there’s something urgent and try to give them expectation that you won’t get back to them instantly.
Modern phone with modern OS, they have ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode, try to activate this mode if muting is not getting you focus.
On iOS device, go to Settings > Do Not Disturb. You can either manually activate or using schedule. Make sure to setup the ‘Allow Calls From’ in case you have some exceptions.
On Android device, go to Settings > Sound & Notifications > Do Not Disturb, set all the rules and exception, then swipe down from top of the screen to bring the notification center, then find Do not disturb icon and activate it.
Another thing to get you to be focus is to put away your phone out of your sight, so you won’t touch and play with it. If you sit on your own desk, you can put the phone inside the drawer next to you. Alternatively put the phone inside your bag/pocket or hide it behind your laptop or place wallet/paper on top of it.
See how much you can improve your focus on doing tasks by muting, put it under ‘do not disturb’ mode and make the phone out of your sight. For me personally, it really helps me to stay focus doing my work-related task.
The drawback is my wife sometime scold me for not replying her, my friends and colleagues however, they were irritated at first but now they get used to it.

2. Keep focus: Schedule when is the time to check and reply emails

Either you are checking emails on phone or computer, checking and responding to email as soon as possible are good for the sender, but it’ll ruin your focus and in the end none of your tasks is completed.

Email is important, however your tasks is even more important. The best is to schedule time to check and reply to those emails.

For me, I schedule max 5 times a day to check and reply emails:

a. At the time you arrive at office. Spend about 15-30 minutes to check and reply emails. Try to stick to the time limit you have set. If there are still unread and unresponded email by the time you have reached the time limit for checking email, leave them and start doing your task.

b. Before heading for lunch. Spend about 15 minutes before heading to lunch or if you commute to your lunch place, you can make use of the time to check and reply emails.

c. During lunch break. This is not recommended, but do check and respond to emails during lunch break only if it’s emergency, if you can finish checking and/or replying them before heading to lunch. Again try to limit to 15 minutes, so that you can interact with others and relax your brain from work.

d. After lunch before continue doing your task. Do this if there’s still leftover unread and un-replied emails.

e. Before leaving office. If you are quite free, you can check emails before leaving office and within working hour. If you are busy, do the task firsthand then only check emails after working hour once you manage to finish or at least reach certain milestone of your task. Try to stick to max 30 minutes.
On your way back from office to home, try not to check and reply into emails anymore. You can check and reply them tomorrow. You and your brain deserve a good rest and relaxation.

3. Keep focus: Hide browser

If you are working behind desk and use computer as your main interaction, try to hide (or for the extreme, uninstall) the browsers from your computer. By not seeing the browser icon, you help yourself not to open and check websites, especially those not related to work.

If you really need to use browser to search or research something on the internet, then try you need to push yourself not to open anything else other than something you need to search or research. Lucky enough if your IT security team setup rules/proxies so that employees are unable to open sites like Facebook in office network – so that you won’t get distracted and keep focus on your task, but in case office network doesn’t have the rules nor proxies, you can help yourself by setting it up yourself. Different browser have different way of setting up rules/proxies, but the easiest one (for me) is installing extension for Google Chrome.

 

4. Keep focus: Learn to say no

It’s great and feels great to help people. However you can’t do every single thing people ask you to do, be it your superior giving you tasks,your subordinates asking for favours, your client requesting for changes, your friends begging you to do something for them, etc. The thing is you can’t make them all happy. Well you can but with you scarifying yourself and your tasks. Learn to say no.
Say no to the things you think it will absorb most of your time and you are not really the expert for it. You will feel guilty when first few times saying no to people asking helps, but do it (say no) if it helps you to keep focus doing your tasks. At certain point, you’ll get used to say no.
However, try not to say no to everything, otherwise people won’t look for you anymore and don’t think they will help you next time you are asking a favour to them. Try to balance the yes and no.
Give them the reason why you say no to them. Either you are currently catching up with deadlines, or you have few things queueing at your hands, or say you just don’t have the time at the moment. Anything as long as it’s not a lame excuses.

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5. Keep focus: Delegate as much as possible

You have limited stamina and energy. On top of it, you also have limited knowledge to certain things in which other people in your team may have better knowledge and understanding than you. In that case, delegate the task to them and let them do it.  In the end, you learn how to delegate and still getting the good result.

6. Keep focus: Prioritize and Categorize

In today’s world, rarely you will have only single task to do. Most of the time you have plenty of tasks pending at your hand with various deadlines. Sort them out and prioritize not only by their deadlines but also by their dependencies and categorize similar tasks.

See what are the things you can delegate – like what I said on previous point, and find out what are the things need to be done the earliest to avoid miss from deadlines and to avoid show stopper items. Try to finish the task that have dependencies with others, so that other parties can continue their work without much waiting for you.

By categorizing similar tasks and do it one after another, you’ll get them done faster compared to if you do something completely different for each tasks that you have. Say you have task A, task B, task C, task D and task E. With task A, task C and task E are similar tasks. It will be faster for you to do task A then task C and task E then continue with task B and task D rather than do task A then task B then task C then task D then task E.

7. Keep focus: Do not multitask

On top of delegating and prioritizing, try not to do multitasking. You are not a machine – in fact even sometimes a machine could hang up when you make them multitask and so could you and your brain.
Even though you have plenty of tasks, best is to focus on doing one task at a time and get it done. You and your brain will feel mentally better by accomplishing something rather than nothing.

8. Keep focus: Attend only important meetings and avoid long-hours meetings

At work there are various meetings, from team gathering meeting, status updates meeting, discussion, brainstorming, requirement gatherings meetings and so much more. From all the meetings I mentioned and depends on what are tasks pending at hand, try to attend only meetings that are important to you and your tasks. And try to avoid long-hours meetings.
Whenever possible and depends on your role on that meeting, if you get already what you wanted in the meeting, ask permission to leave the meeting immediately so that you can get back to complete your tasks.
In many of meetings I have attended, most of them are discussing the whole projects from A to Z. My role is as a developer. While it seems good for me to hear the whole thing, but apparently it’s not. The meeting kills my time. Since I have project manager then I can ask my project manager to stay at the meeting (delegate). And whenever possible I will ask to first discuss things related to me and after that I will ask permission to leave the meeting to continue whatever task I have on my hand.
Again depends on your role, but attending only important meetings and avoid long-hours meetings will surely helps your productivity and keep you focus.

9. Keep focus: Use headphone even without music

There are at least 2 types of person: can work without music and can only work if there’s music. I am the first type actually. But that’s not the point I would like to bring here.

Either you are the first type or second type, use headphone/earphone or anything in you ear to seal them helps you to get and keep focus. The reason is that when someone, be it your friends, your team mate, your boss or your subordinates, sees you sealing your ears with something, they may think two-three times before really bugging you. Even if they start bugging you, you can have the option to play deaf. If they are not persistent enough or the things are not urgent enough, they will stop bugging you after calling you a few times and that’s where you can keep focus and continue doing your tasks.

10. Keep focus: Be Flexible

Time change, people change, project change, tasks also change. Be as flexible as you can. Use the above guides as guides. Don’t treat them as rules where if A then must do A, if B then must do B. Even me, I don’t stick 100% with what I have told above – doesn’t mean I didn’t do all the things I mentioned above, but I’m trying to be flexible. Something like checking email 5 times a day. At the time I’m super busy, I cut down checking emails into 2 times only within a day: during lunch time and before leaving office. Another sample, hide browser. There’s a time when I didn’t have anything related to work need to be done. Then I can make use of the browser to surf the internet, however in my case instead of opening Facebook, I tried to learn something new and make use of the free time as best as possible to improve myself. Be flexible.

The Verdict

Did I say 7 ways? Yes I did. Treat the rest 3 as bonus for you to keep you focus & avoid distractions when doing your tasks. Cheers.


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