A typical day in the life of an entrepreneur usually involves a lot of important tasks that needs to be juggled in order to be efficient. Focus can come in early in the morning, but can quickly run out as you manage your employees and your important clients, read through and respond to the steady stream of emails and phone calls that need your immediate attention. A good entrepreneur understands that their brains are not computers, and therefore seeks new ways to increase productivity and focus even further whenever possible.
We all know that today’s technologically-attuned society doesn’t allow much focus. Distractions send out a lot of negative signal, and David Rock, who authored Your Brain at Work, says that distractions is a sign that something has changed. Distractions are essentially an alert that indicates your mind to it. It says “Look at this, this is important!”. We are but helpless peons to our brain’s unstoppable and automatic reaction to distraction.
The ability to multi-task may be considered a vital skill, but it provides a weakness. Rock mentions that while we multitask, our intelligence is reduced, and our IQ drops a little at a time. We are also prone to more mistakes, to missing out on subtle cues and easily become frustrated where we shouldn’t, and simple things like that.
What’s worse is that distraction feels amazing. Rock says that the brain’s reward circuits, the ones that make us feel good, light up when we multitask. It is equivalent to an emotional high whenever we’ve accomplished something important to us.
The solution? Start spending short periods of distraction-free moments every day. Anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes of deep focus can go a long, long way to being more efficient and productive. Here are 3 tips to get you started:
1. Start with the biggest task in your plate first.
A typical day starts off with us warming up our minds with small, menial tasks through the morning, working our way up to the tougher tasks as the day goes by. What we don’t know is that it should be the other way around! Doing the unimportant things drains us of the focus and energy that we should expend on the more important matters.
Try to compare your productivity and concentration from the time you start working in the morning, and the hour after. You will definitely feel the loss of capacity through midday, because each decision we make tires out our brains.
What should we do then? Simply reverse the work order. Make a list of the things you will do the next day, then rearrange it so that you start off doing tasks that require the most concentration or creativity, then drop off to the simple tasks such as deleting unimportant email or following up on scheduling meetings in the afternoons or evenings.
2. Purposely allocate your time.
Rock reveals a startling piece of information after studying thousands of people- we are really, truly focused only for six hours a week. So what do we do during those six precious hours? Work the most important tasks around it, and be diligent and ensure that those hours are not wasted.
People are different in which some can focus and concentrate more in the mornings, while others are at their creative best in the evenings or in the wee hours when everyone else is fast asleep. What’s more interesting is that Rock says that about 90% of individuals are at their most creative when they are not at the office!
Figure out what time your brain works smoothly, then set your most important work accordingly to that schedule. You might be very surprised at how easy the most seemingly difficult tasks become.
3. Build up your brain like a muscle.
Practice makes perfect is also applicable in becoming more focused and efficient. The brain adjusts to you when you multitask most of the day, and soon enough, focus is lost and distraction takes it place. In effect, you can say that what we do everyday led to our brains becoming unfocused and easily distracted.
Don’t worry, because concentration can be regained if you build it up again. Commit to finishing a single task and shut off all kinds and forms of distractions. Start off with just 5 minutes of this concentration exercise, then gradually add in more minutes. Catch yourself becoming distracted and quickly return to what you are supposed to be doing. Our brains are muscles that just need to be exercised every now and then for you to get back your focus.