Stop what you’re doing — which is probably a lot, all at once. As it turns out, experts say multitasking drains your brain power and dilutes the quality of your work. Luckily there’s a solution: Start mono-focusing.
Get It Together: Things like poor diet, lack of sleep and minimal exercise all impede our ability to focus. If you can’t get to the gym, try a quick morning stroll before you sit down to work. Stop skipping breakfast, and cut back on fast food. Turn all devices off an hour before bed to ensure a more peaceful slumber. Also, clean your desk — that cluttered mess of old memos and unopened mail is simply another distraction.
Take Inventory: Know your big tasks for the week. Write them down. Then, make a separate list with the smaller tasks that need to be done daily: checking email, scheduling appointments, responding to voicemail. The big tasks are where you need to mono-focus the most.
Make a Plan: Our most creative hours of the day are typically early morning or late evening. So make a point to address those big-picture tasks identified above when your brain is at its best and when you have the largest chunks of time to dedicate to staying focused. Then, allot yourself smaller increments of time, no more than a half hour, to deal with the minutia.
Reflect on Procrastination: Is there a project you’re avoiding, even when you do have time to sit down and focus? Consider why. Procrastination is often rooted in fear or uncertainty: We’re not quite sure how to do something or feel nervous about a presentation so we avoid planning our talking points, etc. Being honest with yourself will make it more difficult to avoid these (oftentimes very important) tasks when something else comes up.
Filter Out the Distractions: Shut your door. If necessary, email your team to let them know you need to focus and, unless there is a fire or someone is quitting, to send you an email or wait until further notice. Turn off your phone. At your computer, close all 400 of your open tabs and maximize your screen. Do not check Twitter under any circumstances.
Start Small: Ideally, you’d start with no less than an hour of focused work, but that won’t work for everyone. Try no less than a half hour, and work your way up from there. Aim for two hours of mono-focusing, increasing your time spent on a single task incrementally over days and weeks.
Keep Multitasking: In small doses! Accomplishing many things in a short window gives us a natural high. Remember those smaller tasks from Step 3? Those are where you can truly embrace your inner whirring multitasker. Catch up on social media, respond to text messages, etc. But aim to limit your time spent multitasking to 30 minutes.