When piles of tasks seem ready to overwhelm you, do you zone out into the ‘no man’s land’ of task anxiety? Or do you find the motivation to focus on crushing one task at a time?
When overwhelm looms in your workday, this old adage rings true:
“The only way out is through.”
But… there are a few different ways to get through all of your tasks. Some paths lead to stress, exhaustion, and low productivity, while others can leave you feeling accomplished. The secret lies in your level of focus.
With these 4 laws of exponential focus, you can skip ‘task anxiety’ and drop into deep work toward your goals.
1. Work smart: Plan objectives and prioritize.
The secret to getting the best results in your week is the magical combination of the right planning and the right execution. What most people don’t know is that the more accurate planning you do, the less time you’ll take working on tasks overall. If you have perfect execution of low-level, low-priority tasks… your bigger goals won’t move forward, and neither will your life.
How to determine high-priority tasks:
- Break yearly goals into quarterly, monthly, and weekly goals.
- Break weekly goals into daily tasks.
- Assess which tasks are dependent on others to be successful (those are lower priority).
- Each day, determine the one task that will make all the others easier or unnecessary.
For example, if the quarterly goal in your business is to increase sales by 25%, then your goal for the first month might be to increase sales by 12%. Your weekly goal would be to schedule sales calls to meet that monthly goal.
2. Work in your best rhythm: Choose the best times to do certain tasks.
Eat the frog
Have you ever heard the advice to “eat the frog?” It sounds awful, but it refers to tackling the hardest task first in your day. This could be the task you have the most resistance to or the task you dislike doing the most.
Right after your cup of coffee, when your motivation is high and your mind is clear… Take action on those ‘froggy’ tasks.
This is the perfect time to tackle your #1 thing for the day.
Move small admin tasks till lower energy times
If you have a ton of little things to do, like answering emails, giving access to documents, addressing admin tasks that have been piling up, or similar… block out a chunk of your day to go through those tasks one after another.
If you tend to have less mental energy and motivation towards the end of the day, then plan to tackle them then. These kinds of tasks don’t require as much in-depth problem solving, so they will slow down your whole day if you use your high-motivation hours to accomplish them.
Put all the little tasks in a to-do list in your Momentum Dash and turn on autofocus. You won’t even have to think of what else to do! That's why it’s called autofocus… ;)
Tasks by day
If you have a wide variety of demands in your week, it helps to group them into days. For example, at Momentum, we try to do no meeting Wednesdays so everyone knows that they can plan out a day of only deep work. We also do our daily huddle at 10am so it allows everyone to prep for the day, get things planned, and start working on their top priority before we do any meetings per day.
Other examples include saving Mondays for email, sales, and communication, Tuesdays for meetings, and Wednesdays for strategy… on and on. If you have a whole day full of tasks you like less, make sure you build in a reward at the end of the day.
3. Take on deep work like a game
Now that you have the execution plan of your goals, projects, and timelines on when to do it… You can let your brain fully invest all of your neurons into focusing on the task at hand. And it’s time to do the actual work!
When most people “work” or “study”, they’re casually checking phone, email, social, etc… But that kind of distracted work style doesn’t get the best results.
When you are really “working” you take on the task with your brain’s full attention… Put on your headphones, set an hour on your Pomodoro timer, and don’t get up from your desk until you put an hour in and get the project to the next step. Commit ahead of time that you’re going to do your absolute best to focus and not get distracted by all of the things that could come up. Commit to push through, especially when it’s difficult.
Expect distractions will come up. It’s normal! You’re popular and every company on the planet wants your attention. Be excited about it. Know that the distractions are coming and train your brain to not deviate from the task at hand.
Mind-blowing stats on distraction:
- Did you know that every distraction takes us about 10 minutes to get back to the task at hand? That turns into an insane chunk of time over a week!
- When we’re exposed to 50 distractions a day, it’s no wonder why were burned out and not getting stuff done.
- Get into deep work mode to bypass the distraction bonanza.
And when you get distracted or taken off the task at hand… Take a deep breath, come back to your #1 thing or focus for your Pomorodo session, and do your best to get the project done with the time left.
At the end of the day or week be sure to reflect, how is your deep work time going? What is going well and what needs to be improved for you to perform at your highest working potential?
4. Be counter-cultural: Don't multi-task
No matter what kind of brain you have, multi-tasking does not net more productivity at the end of the day.
It may release more dopamine into your brain as you feel like you’re getting more done, but in actuality, your split attention slows down the completion of every single task.
If something is worth doing, do it all of the way. Focusing on one task and doing it all the way, with 100% of your effort, is the difference between ‘playing full out’ and getting in your own way.
Though it’s common to feel overwhelmed or hear about others who have ‘too much on their plate,’ you can lift that stress and accomplish what you want with the right focus.
Life doesn’t have to be chaotic. Take your goals one task at a time, in one set-aside work block at a time, and make sure you’re working on the right thing. Plan it all out and enjoy the ride!
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