tips_to_stay_focusedAs I mentioned earlier in my post on how to write successful blog posts quickly, developing a clear sense of focus can yield a huge boost to your productivity.

Unfortunately, staying focused in today’s hyperconnected world is an ever more difficult task to accomplish. Here are some tips I use to help me get more done, faster.

Turn off Your Phone

The first key to staying focused is simple: turn off your phone!

Or at least silence it. There are tons of studies out there about how hearing a notification beep or seeing a flashing light completely distracts you from the task at hand. Even if you don’t answer it, your attention is drawn away from what you’re doing and you begin to think about the missed call, text, or message.

Have you ever been in this scenario? The phone beeps and you don’t answer it. Immediately you’re distracted: “Oh I wonder who it was. Probably not important,” and you turn back to your work. Then a minute later you think “But what if it’s ___, maybe he wants to tell me…” and you’re distracted again! This cycle repeats until eventually you’re completely unfocused and unable to do the task in front of you!

Close Extra Windows

For me, closing extra browser windows is immensely important. Keeping them open makes it easy to distract yourself for “just a second” to see the latest headline or check that email, which inevitably leads to reading an article and clicking to another, or responding to an email that isn’t that important.

A few years ago I did a personal test where I would consciously not-read any news or blogs. It took a bit of practice, but after a few weeks I realized that I gained 2-3 hours more every morning because previously I was reading news articles that really weren’t that important, or finding professional blogs without any clear question I wanted answered.

Know What You Want to Do Before You Start

Having a clear task list with short, achievable tasks on it is essential to keeping you focused throughout the day. Not only do you get the feeling of relief and exaltation as you work your way through the list, but it helps you know beforehand what, exactly, you’re going to accomplish, taking away the unnecessary “debate-time” when you try to decide what you want to do.

Even if you don’t write out a task list, you should at least have a clear sense of direction. “I’m going to spend the next 2 hours on X.” Then you simply sit down and do it. No excuses.

Think Mental ROI

Finally, the last tip is to think about your time and your brain-power in terms of Mental ROI. Distractions not only waste your time, they reduce your ability to produce high quality work.

If I’m going to invest my time (my most precious asset) into something, I want to know that I’m going to get a good result. That only happens if my mind is clear and I can stay focused long enough to complete the task. For that you need brainpower.

Why would I want to waste that?

Regardless of which of these tips you incorporate into your daily routine, the most important thing is simply to take action. How many articles can you write today?