Who Else Needs More Mental Focus?

I can’t imagine living in a more distracting time in human history. Hundreds of cable channels, millions of Web sites, and the constant pinging of email and social media all compete for our attention. It’s enough to make anyone A.D.D.

A Businessman Working in the Midst of a Crowd - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/urbancow, Image #4776338

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/urbancow

But if you are like me, you still have to get real work done.

If you are just getting started with Evernote, I suggest that you buy Brett Kelly’s remarkably practical e-book, Evernote Essentials, 4.0. It will save you HOURS of learning Evernote on your own.

A few weeks ago, I had to prepare for a board meeting. I really needed an extended period of time to review the material and prepare my presentation. In doing this, I realized that I go through a similar pattern whenever I need to increase my mental focus and get a lot of work done in a short period of time.

Here are ten tactics I use that may help you:

  1. Block off time on your calendar. I schedule time on my calendar for special projects. Following Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson’s recommendation in Rework, I call this “The Alone Zone.” If some asks if I am available, I reply, “I’m sorry, but I have another commitment at that time.”
  2. Isolate yourself in a quiet place. I try to eliminate all the distractions I can. While I generally practice an “open door policy,” I close my door when I have something important to get done. This signals to my colleagues that I am in project mode.
  3. Turn the room temperature down. If the room gets too warm, I get sleepy and lose my edge. As a result, I intentionally turn the thermostat down to 69°. After years of testing, I have noticed that this is the temperature at which I am the most productive.
  4. Get comfortable. When I need to get a lot done, I dress comfortably. For me that usually means jeans and a loose shirt. Even in the office, I kick off my shoes. I don’t want anything constricting my blood flow or distracting me.
  5. Take email and social media software offline. When you are constantly checking email and social media, you can fool yourself into thinking you are working. Therefore, I take my email software offline. I also shut down HootSuite, my Twitter client. I do leave my browser open, because I have to use it for research.
  6. Put on music that helps facilitates concentration. Certain music really helps me concentrate. When I wrote my first book, I created a playlist of instrumental music that moved me. Listening to it became a powerful ritual. It got me into the writing zone quickly and made me more productive. It still works for me today.
  7. Drink caffeine in moderation. Various studies have shown that caffeine can have a positive effect on your mental focus, provided you consume it in moderation. Personally, I do better with a product like AdvoCare’s Spark. In addition to caffeine, “the neuroactive amino acids … help increase your mental focus and alertness by supporting your brain’s ability to receive and send messages to and from the nervous system.”
  8. Avoid high glycemic carbohydrates. Nothing makes me sleepy faster than foods containing white flour and sugar. Breads are the absolutely the worst. Low glycemic carbs—darker vegetables, for example—are fine, because the sugars are released slowly. But high glycemic ones spike my blood sugar, and then I get sleepy.
  9. Set mini-goals. I try to focus on one project until I am done. If it’s a big project, I break it into smaller goals. This usually means something I can finish in three hours or less. I personally get a rush from accomplishing a task and checking it off my to-do list.
  10. Set a timer and take predetermined breaks. I am competitive by nature. If I set a timer on my iPhone and determine in advance how much time I will spend on a task. I will work hard to beat the clock. Not everyone is like this, but it works great for me.

In a world of distraction and competing demands, mental focus is a scarce commodity. If you want more of it, you will have to be intentional about getting it.

Question: What do you do to increase your mental focus? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://twitter.com/Juanbg Juan

    Thanks Mike for sharing how you focus your energy in important things/projects. We have some many tools at our disposal, sometimes those “tools” become a distraction if we do not pay attention to what it is really important in our life.

  • http://twitter.com/doughibbard Doug Hibbard

    The alone time is a definite productivity booster for me. Partly because it allows me to think out loud without anyone thinking I’m crazy, or, more appropriately, without me worrying about people thinking I’m crazy.

    I will also get out of my office and go into a different room in the church building so I can spread out only relevant material on a table. The office has all of my books, so I take what I need and get out. If I discover I need something else, I make a note and then go back for it on a break. Otherwise, my focus time becomes my “I’ve been meaning to read that book” time.

    • http://modernservantleader.com/ Benjamin Lichtenwalner

      Great points Doug – I also like to think aloud at times and spread out. Those are great points I did not think of. Thank you for sharing.

    • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

      About once a month, I spend a day away at a local outdoor ministry with a cabin, or a nearby monestary. I take all my materials that I’ll need and spend the day away from every distraction. I could do it more often if I had more projects to do, these days are more dream/vision/planning days for me. But they work well.

      • http://2020visiononline.org Josh Hood

        That’s a great concept. I think it’s important that everyone have something like that. We can all take the idea and apply it to our lives.

        • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

          I agree. I find that it’s invaluable. I got the idea from the book Leading On Empty, by Wayne Cordeiro. Good stuff.

          • http://2020visiononline.org Josh Hood

            I haven’t read that one. I’ll have to check it out!

          • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

            Definitely worth the read!

      • http://twitter.com/doughibbard Doug Hibbard

        I wish I had some place close enough to do that, but I’d spend half the day driving! It’s a great idea. Of course, when you’re out here in the sticks, it’s hard to find a place to “get away from it all” since this is where people come to get away!

        • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

          You might be surprised. You can’t get much more in the sticks than I am in southern MO. I have a small monestary 45 minutes one way and Discovery Ministries, an outdoor adventure ministry facility 30 minutes the other way. My library and two banks in town have free use of their conference rooms with just a few days advanced notice. Those rooms close off, and have large tables, and I can be very productive in there. I bet there are a few places tha you could utilize.

      • Scott

        Love your point Jeff. I just recently discovered retreat the regional Catholic Dioceses is just 10 minutes across town. Found it to be a great place to get in the zone.

        • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

          I love finding places like that. For me, it’s good to change up the location occasionally. Too often in the same place gets boring. Glad you have a place to use!

    • http://twitter.com/mrmarkmcdonald Mark McDonald

      Yeah I sometimes leave my office and go to our meeting room if it is free to use the white board. I can print off what I write/draw and type it up later.

    • Karl Mealor

      I tried this. I teach high school mathematics. During my planning period, I took my materials for one project and went, of all places, to the pressbox at our football stadium. Tables, fresh air, and no interruptions. Very profitable 30-40 minutes.

  • http://www.halfwaydownstairs.blogspot.com Emilyadams829

    One thing I’ve noticed that helps me focus is noise, oddly enough. Working in total silence can be a distraction for me. I need a certain buzz in the background, some activity, some voices…certain kinds of music can fill the void too, like jazz or piano music.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I understand that. In fact, working in a very noisy place like Starbucks can really help—provided I don’t see anyone I know and get sidetracked by a conversation. All the chatter becomes like white noise.

      • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

        I’ve experimented with a white noise app on my phone. It seems to help pretty good, especially if the kids are yelling outside and I can hear it.

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          Yep, I have one, too. I use it at night for sleeping.

          • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

            So do I. Works like a charm.

      • http://twitter.com/doughibbard Doug Hibbard

        I can do that with familiar music or old movies that I know. Just nothing interesting!

      • http://twitter.com/mrmarkmcdonald Mark McDonald

        The local food court at the shopping mall is good for thinking. If I get a thinking block then a do a bit of people watching. Watching people actually living stimulates my thinking about how we can better run our ministries.

    • http://twitter.com/obihaive Joseph Sanchez

      I”m the complete opposite. I can’t function at all whenever there’s any noise. I frequently use ear plugs to drown out any distractions..lol.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I understand that. In fact, working in a very noisy place like Starbucks can really help—provided I don’t see anyone I know and get sidetracked by a conversation. All the chatter becomes like white noise.

    • Anonymous

      I like music so much it pulls me away. I’m all about the ear plugs.

  • Larry Yarborough

    Light a candle. Not only the aroma, but when I stop writing/reading to focus/think, it’s a focal point (rather than the stacks of papers around the room).

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Good suggestion. There is something about candles that also relax me and increase my mental focus. I have never tried this at the office, though.

    • http://geoffreywebb.wordpress.com/ Geoff Webb

      We used to work by candlelight to avoid being detected after Lights Out at West Point. Come to think of it, I got quite a bit done in those wee hours ;)

    • Anonymous

      I love this suggestion. I’m going to try this!

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  • Thewriterstuff

    I used to work at an ad agency where I sat in the middle of a corridor where people were constantly talking and passing by my desk. As a result, I’ve learned to focus despite the noise around me. This ability has served me well when I’m in a situation where I can’t “close the door.” In fact, I can get so engrossed in what I’m doing that people will have to call my name a couple of times to get my attention.

  • http://geoffreywebb.wordpress.com/ Geoff Webb

    Great list, Mike! I especially liked the temperature one—love that you experimented with that!

    I’d also recommend:

    • Schedule cardiovascular exercise (which I know you’re a fan of) beforehand. Granted, we should be doing this regularly anyway, but nothing clears and focuses my mind like a good run or swim.

    • Tidy things up. I work much faster when my environment is un-cluttered and my mind isn’t muddled with random thoughts. I have to work at keeping my workspace clean and maintaining a system for my random thoughts, but it always pays off.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Both of these suggestions are excellent, Geoff. Thanks for sharing them.

    • http://www.jonandphyllis.wordpress.com Phyllis

      I was going to make a comment to this post but you said what I was going to say about cleaning up my workspace. I can’t concentrate at ALL if there’s clutter on my desk distracting me. This sometimes, is all it takes to get me focused.

      • http://geoffreywebb.wordpress.com/ Geoff Webb

        I hear you, Phyllis. I just have to make sure my cleaning is focused—and not just procrastination masquerading as productivity ;)

    • http://modernservantleader.com/ Benjamin Lichtenwalner

      Great point Geoff. I also enjoy exercise prior to creative focus and have the same need to keep an uncluttered mess. To avoid cleaning as a procrastination mechanism, when my scheduled focus time comes, if my usual workspace is not clean, I go somewhere that is.

    • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

      I agree. A cluttered desk can really be a distraction.

      I also turn off the stock ticker on my computer. Checking on my trades can really eat up the time…

    • http://2020visiononline.org Josh Hood

      I can whole-heartedly amen the ‘tidy things up’ advice. I am disorganized by nature, and have found that the more organized my to-do list (and the workspace I tackle it in), the more efficient I am.

    • http://twitter.com/mrmarkmcdonald Mark McDonald

      Thanks Geoff, I even found that if I tidy up the space behind my computer screen I work better. If my line of sight behind and around the computer screen is tidy it doesn’t distract.

  • MandyThompson

    This is awesome!
    I have a task-list that keeps me focused.
    I also use “Freedom” and “Concentration” to shut down my internet access for certain periods of time.
    I also pull in “Focus Booster” when I need sprints of productivity.
    All these elements remove distractions and enable me to have a better goal-reaching experience.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      This is one of the reasons I love participating in the comments. I learn so much!

      I have Freedom, but I have to use the Internet when I am writing. AntiSocial is made by the same company and just shuts down your email and social media sites.

      I am downloading Focus Booster now. It looks promising. Thanks.

      • http://modernservantleader.com/ Benjamin Lichtenwalner

        We all learn a lot from the comments too!

    • http://modernservantleader.com/ Benjamin Lichtenwalner

      Thanks for the tips Mandy. I was not familiar with these applications and will definitely check them out.

      • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

        I had not heard of these apps either – on my way to check them out. Sometimes we just need that little extra help in letting go of the outside world.

  • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

    Here is mine:

    – Organizing thing in our life
    – Having proper prioritization plan
    – Creating the soothing and conducive atmosphere to concentrate
    – Exercising our brain with puzzles, crossword, etc
    – Sleeping well

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Sleep is so key to mental focus. I have a very difficult time focusing if I don’t get enough. For me, the optimal amount seems to be about 7 hours.

  • Julie Armstrong

    Practice makes perfect. Or at least improvement. You just have to choose to sit down and in the immortal words of Nike: Just do it. The more you practice the habit of “disciplined focus” the easier it gets.

    Also, prioritizing well. If I’ve done a good job of prioritizing my tasks, then the things that tend to distract me are not hanging over my head and I can focus better on my project.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RUS2WQQLEGE55OOCWAKS7UB7NQ Lynette S

    Sometimes if I want to focus better, I go totally offline–no Internet at all. Sometimes having a browser opens means that my wandering mind will think random thoughts like, “Wonder if American is running any specials to Boston?” (I have a brand-new nephew near there.) So I go somewhere that I know I’ll be totally unplugged–one of our favorite local restaurants where the owner knows us and I can have a table to myself with my laptop, and write undisturbed with a regular flow of iced tea. For those 2+ hours, I can get a lot done!

  • Philipp Knoll

    What also works for me is to set the amount of time to use on each item of my ToDo list before starting to work on those things. It gives me a deadline and I have noticed that things almost automatically speed up once your close to reaching your deadline.
    If I can’t finish in time I normally leave it open as an item to complete on the next day’s ToDo list. In case I need to finish it right away anyway it teaches me to set more realistic deadlines next time.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I use the deadline trick myself. I allocate one-hour to writing each blog post. (I usually have been thinking about it before that, so I know how I am going to open the post and my major points.) I literally set a countdown timer on my iPhone and race the clock. It really keeps me focused.

      • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

        What do you do if you run out of time? Set it aside and move on, coming back the next day? Or do you keep at it until you’re finished?

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          I usually stay at it until I am done, but it depends on how close I am at the deadline. For example, last night it took me 70 minutes. At the 60-minute mark, I knew I was close. It was worth it to me to invest another 10−minutes rather than have to re-start again today and get myself back up to speed. In other words, that extra 10 minutes last night probably would have cost me 30 today.

    • http://modernservantleader.com/ Benjamin Lichtenwalner

      That’s a great suggestion on delaying tasks not completed by your deadline to the next day. This would help us get the majority of items done without getting hung up on one particular task the whole time. I’ll have to remember that one. Thanks for sharing Philipp!

  • http://LiveIntentionally.org @PaulSteinbrueck

    Good suggestions, Mike. I would add that in addition to blocking off time on your calendar, to block off that time in the part of the day when you do your best thinking. And I’ve also found it when trying to isolate myself in a quiet place that it’s often helpful to go to a quiet place that’s away from my office.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Excellent point, Paul. I am twice as creative and productive in the morning than the afternoon. But I also know people who are that way at other times in the day.

      • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

        I told my wife just last night that I seem to be the most productive later in the day. Unfortunately that time is late enough in the day where I am still in the middle of productive time when it is time to be done with work for the day. So, my challenge is to find a way to move that window of time to a little earlier in the afternoon so that I can have enough creative/productive time and still maintain the integrity of ‘quitting time’ so that I make sure and get home with enough time to give to my family.

  • http://coachradio.tv/ Justin Lukasavige

    I had never thought about the temperature. Great idea! I live by my calendar and it’s been very helpful.

  • Anonymous

    I have never sat down to write it down, but your ten tactics resonated with me. I have predetermined times set aside during the year for prayer and planning (made more robust by your productivity posts on 90-Day Goals and various times to Review–Thanks!). But for those times I need to FOCUS on a project, I have to get out of the office. I have a list of favorite places that work for me, both inside and out, some with wifi and some without, depending on the nature of the project. I’m at one of them now: Smokey Mo’s BBQ. Most of the morning traffic is in and out for breakfast tacos. So I go to “my table” and go to work. I clear the deck of of overnight email, read Hyatt & Godin, then shut ‘er down. I’ll be here until lunch ;-).

  • http://www.kevinteast.com Kevin East

    A few good points have been added in the comments. I would emphasize and add:

    1. Create a tidy workspace. Unnecessary clutter only distracts. There is an ergonomic in this that we greatly underestimate.
    2. Recognize it might take longer today for you to get to that place of productivity. I think our minds are being trained to jump from one thought to another. In order for us to focus, it takes some convincing for our minds.
    3. For me, I have to stay at a familiar place to be productive, but close my door and turn on some soft music to drown out the conversations nearby. If I go to a coffee shop, I am tempted to people watch or explore my surroundings.

    Thanks for the post.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Tidying up is a big one. If you don’t do this, it can become another distraction.

  • http://twitter.com/timdetellis Tim DeTellis

    Great post, thanks for sharing. One tip I use to help with mental focus is I schedule alone time and shut down the technology. Without the intention to focus, it’s extra hard for it to happen automatically.

  • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

    Your list is spot on, Michael. I especially agree about the carbs. They can ruin a work session faster than anything else, especially after lunch. For me, I like to work in 48 minute focused segments and then take a 12 minute break. It breaks an hour into an 80/20 work-rest period. I have to be very diligent about the distractions, so e-mail, the phone, and many times the browser have to go off. I agree with Geoff that exercise and a clutter free work area help. With a little prep, this solution has made a huge difference in my life. It works especially well if you can do it when you are naturally the most alert. As a morning person, early mornings work best for me.

    Researchers have found that four hours is about the maximum time that concentrated practice or focused work is achievable on a daily basis. I think this is true. I try to get two 48 minute sessions in during the weekdays and I’ve done four at times on the weekend. For writing or other long term projects, focused time may mean the difference between completion or distraction.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      You have shared your 48–12 pattern before, and I think it is really great advice. I try to take breaks every hour as well. I use it a a reward for staying focused!

      • http://twitter.com/B_Schebs B_Schebs

        I tend to find myself getting sidetracked or drawn into other situations during my breaks. How do you combat that?

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          I keep me to-do list top-of-mind. I want to be sensitive to other needs as they come up, but I am always intent on getting back to my desk and finishing my tasks.

        • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

          When I really need to get something done or stay on track on a big project, I use the FAST method.
          Focused Work Time
          Accountable To Someone
          Scheduled Time Slots
          Time to get it done
          Focused, Accountable, Scheduled, Time really helps me power through the breaks and make sure a project is completed. It’s the best way I’ve found to overcome procrastination and get those tedious tough jobs done.

          • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

            Nice acronym!

          • Info

            John you bring up a good point– accountability. If I have to get something done that is important and strategic, I give myself an hour to give my best effort and schedule a 15 minute check point with someone I respect. That person will usually help sharpen my message or introduce a new thought… it also helps that sense of urgency (e.g. if I respect the person, I don’t want to waste their time!). Thanks for stirring the discussion on another great post by Michael! — Dave (@dentmaker)

  • http://www.lawrencewilson.com/p/about-me.html Lawrence W. Wilson

    I especially like #9, set mini goals. Large projects can seem daunting, by you can eat the elephant one bite at time.

  • http://www.confessionsofalegalist.com Jeremy Statton

    Protected time to do what you need to do is is important. Once you start making excetions, it gets harder to protect it.

  • http://relevantbrokenness.com Marni Arnold

    Honestly, I am noticing this is what I need more of in my life – it is one area of discipline I have lacked consistently. Though I am a stay-at-home-mom, I am also an undergrad student online, I lead a ministry at our Church and I am blogging and writing more than ever. The stay-at-home part can be a huge distraction for me, as I feel since I am under no pressure for time – no one is checking over my shoulder to see if I am getting the laundry done or doing the grocery shopping (nor am I being paid for it) – that I can “just do it later.” Yet all the while the laundry piles up to the point we have more dirty clothes than clean, and we run out of milk when it is time for breakfast. And when all this piles up, it distracts from the areas of my life that really need better focus and attention – like homeschooling our preschooler, doing my homework,, and getting things set up for our ministry meetings every week.

    What advice would you give someone like me, Mike, to embrace a bit more focus in my life? Because I have exhausted so many ways to do it – and I am very jaded none of them have really stuck for me; and I know I need focus so I can be productive rather than just “busy.”

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I would try to find a special place, Marni, where you go to do focused mental work. It could be another room or the corner of an existing room. Stephen King does this with his writing. He has a room with a solitary desk. He only goes there to write, and he doesn’t do anything else there.

    • http://www.estherfeng.com Esther Feng

      Marni,
      I can relate; like you, I am a stay at home mom with a ton of other stuff going on — ministry, writing, etc.
      One thing that really helps me with the home front is to set a day for each task — Mondays I do my grocery shopping, Tuesdays is Laundry, Wednesdays I clean bathrooms, etc… I feel good about doing something for the house, but I still set aside time to do “my stuff” every day.

    • www.therextras.com

      In addition to blocking off space, try blocking your time – create a schedule where certain tasks are done at certain times. Perhaps not the same schedule everyday, but a weekly schedule with shopping 1x and eating out 1x. Daily, put a load of laundry on before cooking dinner each night. Set-up a pre-sort system and teach it to your family. Even preschoolers can learn to put their socks and pants in different baskets.
      Barbara

      • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

        This is a great suggestion. I use it in a concept called “Time Blocking.” It works especially well if each day has a specific theme to it. I need to write a post on this. Thanks.

        • http://www.theencouragers.wordpress.com Tom Billington

          Mike, great suggestions and a super exchange. I use the Pomodoro technique which I find very helpful for working in sprints of 25 minutes followed by a rest.

  • http://modernservantleader.com/ Benjamin Lichtenwalner

    Acronym on Calendar: When blocking time on my calendar, I use an acronym (TFBTGWD = “Time for Ben to Get Work Done”). My assistant knows what this is, so if something absolutely critical comes up, it can be moved. However, anyone else with access to my calendar is less likely to overbook or request time during these hours.

    Creative Location: When possible, I also like to go to a location that inspires me. Sometimes this is a coffee shop or a park. My favorite is a state park with parking spaces right on the water front, where I park, facing the water and have power for the laptop.

    Exercise First: If I exercise prior to getting started, I clear my mind of guilt and get the blood pumping – both great ways to spur creativity and focus.

    Set Timelines: Similar to your small goals and timer suggestions, I add mini-deadlines. For example, I want to get mini-goal #1 done by 10 AM, #2 by noon and so on.

    Great suggestions as always Michael. I especially liked the tip on avoiding high glycemic carbohydrates. I need to work on that one more.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      These are all great suggestions. I find that exercise makes a huge difference, too. I ran for an hour this morning, and it makes me feel hugely energetic. (Plus, I know I will sleep better tonight.)

  • Anonymous

    These great principles apply especially to self-employed folks working from home. I just moved my office home last month, and I found myself having to incorporate things that were naturally set up in an office environment (your point on music, for example).

  • http://jennyrain.com JennyRain

    I have another one to add to this list… I work for the Sr. Pastor and the Director of Operations of a Mega Church in one of the craziest places in the US – DC… I would add to your list – get an assistant who helps keep your door free from visitors and stoppers-by.

    I also heard a great one years ago – block off “Proactive chunks of time” at the beginning of the day… most folks come in to work, sit down, and immediately start on their email. That ends up defining teh rest of their day. Instead, come into work, have an hour at the front end of the day where YOU choose what you start on. Be proactive about setting the plan for your day, THEN get into email. That way – email doesn’t define and take over your work times.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Great suggestions. Thanks.

  • Karl Mealor

    Related to #1, how often do you block out time? Is it a period of time daily, weekly, monthly, or as needed?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      On Sunday evenings, as I plan my week I schedule appointments with myself. I also schedule time for regular review and reflection (weekly, quarterly, and annually).

      • Karl Mealor

        Thanks. I’m going to try this in the week ahead and see how it works for me.

  • http://twitter.com/jeremyers1 Jeremy Myers

    Oh good. I was beginning to think there was something wrong with me….

  • Anonymous

    I would cry at 69 degrees. I need warm. 72 or higher. If my feet are cold, my brain stops working. :)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      The important thing is not the exact temperature, but the temperature that works for you. The main thing I want is the temperature at which I am most alert and not distracted by being too cold or too warm.

  • http://www.IntegrityVASolutions.com Katie Simmons

    These are great ideas! Our world has so much media everywhere and we have now been trained to have smaller attention spans, that causes problems when trying to focus on projects. It’s time to start focusing!

  • Karen Jordan

    Isolation helps, but sometimes it’s too quiet working alone at home. Thanks for the music tip.

  • http://lancemorgan.me Lance Morgan

    Thank you Mr. Hyatt for these pointers. Would you mind expounding on #6? What specific types of music do you listen to? Artists, genres…

    Thanks.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I love music soundtracks. In fact, I am listening to one now. It includes Rob Roy, Brave Heart, Little Women, Sea Biscuit, Bobby Jones, Searching for Bobby Fischer, The Horse Whisper, etc. I sometimes also listen to various Lifescapes albums. The one entitled “Concentration” is especially good.

      • http://lancemorgan.me Lance Morgan

        Thank you Sir. :-) I really appreciate it.

      • http://lancemorgan.me Lance Morgan

        Thank you Sir. :-) I really appreciate it.

  • Agsteward

    good stuff michael, thanks, very useful.

    my best focus tip is total quiet (good music distracts me…love it too much).
    and plenty of non-rushed time to think it all through, write and edit…
    david

  • http://www.davidsantistevan.com David Santistevan

    I agree with what you outlined, Mike. Shutting off email and Twitter is the key for me. For blogging, I use a program called OmmWriter: http://www.ommwriter.com/ It’s really a great app for distraction free writing. It blocks out your whole screen with numerous backgrounds, text size, typing sound, music, and more. Then I’m not distracted by my other apps.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I have tried OmniWriter. Another app I really like is Think. It basically focuses your attention on one app and removes all the others from your view.

    • http://2020visiononline.org Josh Hood

      I have discovered that email ‘auto-alert’ is my worst enemy. I have become much more productive by blocking of certain times for email instead of letting it dictate my schedule.

  • http://twitter.com/B_Schebs B_Schebs

    Once again you speak to what I need to hear. I think you need to get out of my brain.:)
    I find I get the most work done at home, with all sound off, just the sound of cars driving by the window. in my comfy chair with the laptop.

  • http://familysynergy.wordpress.com JD Eddins

    I don’t like to think of myself as a procrastinator, but if don’t have a deadline I don’t get things done. In high school that meant staying up late the night before to get a report done. In college it was 2 days before it was due. Now I have a goal for what needs to be done by the end of each. Like you, I have the projects of each week broken down into daily goals. Having those mini-goals helps me stay on task.

  • Pastornash

    Thanks so much for that great article! I find that the last place that I’m able to work is at church. The closed door doesn’t seem to help. For that reason, I am a frequent visitor at a restaurant with a table in the back corner. Getting away from everyone and everything in a relaxing atmosphere allows me to think freely and get alot done. Then, I’m energized and ready to interact, when the project is complete.

    • http://twitter.com/B_Schebs B_Schebs

      I like the thought of working at a restaurant, but for me, I love to people watch and find myself way to distracted. The only time I will do this is when I am writing fiction.

  • http://goinswriter.com Jeff Goins

    Ooh, me, me! I would really like to focus more, because I think it would…

    • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

      Totally. And it would also help with . . .
      . . . what were you saying??

      • http://goinswriter.com Jeff Goins

        Exactly, Steven. I was just thinking to myself about… look, a squirrel!

  • Anonymous

    Great list with a few new ideas I’m going to try. I find I must take 5 minutes in the morning to look at my schedule/tasks for the day. If I don’t, I catch myself ‘winging it’ through-out the day and not accomplishing much.

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  • http://twitter.com/aaronRfoster Aaron Foster

    Love me some SPARK.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Me, too! Much better than coffee.

  • Jennifer

    Thanks for sharing these great tips!

  • dsprtlydpndnt

    Thank you! I feel so validated by all the comments. In a world full of screens…it is so refreshing to know there are others who practice INTENTIONAL focus (and know when and how to be community and when to be singularly productive). Off for a run before school work..my candle is out for when I get back to my desk.

  • jordan

    Great information. I like the idea of setting a timer and working against it. I always put my headphones in and get to work with some good music.

  • http://twitter.com/obihaive Joseph Sanchez

    I like the suggestion of lowering the temperature. This probably explains why I get so drowsy when working in a nice comfortable quiet setting.
    Something I like to do is take a short nap (sometimes in the late afternoon) before I start working on a project. When I do this it allows me to stay up later and be more productive (it’s hard to get work done with a 3 year old and 1 year old competing for my attention). I’m surethis isn’t for everyone but it seems to work for me.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Naps can be a huge help. You usually gain more time and focus than they require. Alas, I can’t really take advantage of them in my environment.

  • http://twitter.com/abbylive Abby Van Wormer

    For me, exercise helps a lot. I wish I were a morning person and I’d go before work, but I usually go in the evening after work. Still, I do notice a difference the next day if I’ve worked out the night before.

  • http://twitter.com/obihaive Joseph Sanchez

    I know this is off topic but is it just me or has this blog changed formats like 3 times over the past year? Not that I’m complaining or anything -in fact I kinda like how it changes. I’m just wondering.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Nope. It’s been over a year. However, I have changed pieces of it, like the commenting system.

  • Ben

    Sometimes I think you can read my mind, Mike.

    After I read the guest post by Jill Savage yesterday, I noted in my journal that I needed to be more focused. I work in a help desk and I am constantly multi-tasking. Just the nature of my work causes this – I’m often finishing up with one request while talking on the phone with the next person. I also noted this is why I’m so tired by the end of the day. My own personal observation is I get more work done and my spirits are higher when I can focus on one thing at a time.

    I have recently been making a more diligent effort to be more focused on the people around me. I created a Google calendar called “Big Rocks” (after the analogy of placing big rocks in a jar first so you can make room for all the smaller pebbles). Then I set appointments on it to block out time for my wife and kids. I have it synced with my work account, too. Now I’m able to block out that time and my wife seems to appreciate the extra effort.

    It isn’t uncommon for me to come back to work late at night after everyone is gone so I can have undestracted time to work. If I need to “get into the zone” for work after hours, I often resort to something by John Rutter. Chris Botti and Kenny G are other artists that make good background music for work.

  • Gordon Chris1960

    I make sure my family also knows what I am doing. Keep them in the loop so you don’t create MORE DISTRACTIONS and problems for yourself.

  • http://twitter.com/jrheimbigner Jack Heimbigner

    At work, I find that I am able to focus more out of my office room which I share with four people. I go out to a common area that is quieter in our office and throw my ear buds in and work away. It is a little bit of a combination from above, but it is a bit backwards from some things.

  • http://twitter.com/iVgroup iV

    All good suggestions, Mike. I also ran across an interesting article today via a tweet from Amir Kassaei, Chief Creative Officer at Doyle Dane Bernbach Group, Germany. It also offers some good suggestions for ways to “unplug” and focus.

    http://the99percent.com/articles/6986/Itas-Time-To-Kill-Multi-Tasking

    Who knew there was an app for that? :)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      This article is VERY good. Definitely worth reading. Thanks for sharing it.

  • Rosemary

    I loved this post (and the other comments); so many good ideas in one place! Here’s my own tip for parents with kids at home: I always felt guilty when I needed to go to another room and do “work stuff” when the kids want to play with me. My solution was to give each of the three kids their own “time” with me, when they get to choose the activity. We set the timer on my phone (they get to choose the alarm sound too) and when it goes off, the next kid gets their “time.” Then, when everyone has had some uninterrupted “mom time,” I get to have my own “time” with no guilt. It was like a miracle…they loved being able to have full attention, and I felt better about taking time for focused work. (The amount of “time” is flexible based on the schedule for the day…but sometimes just 15 minutes of playing Hot Wheels on the floor makes a happy little guy who can self-entertain while mom writes or helps customers.) Hope this helps!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Great suggestions!

  • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

    All good points. I practice each of these in some variety when I’m trying to be more productive. I’ve found that music doesn’t help me as much as quiet does. And so instead of playing music, I make sure that my atmosphere is blanketed.

    Thanks for the insights. I’m sure I’ll refer back to these descriptions frequently!

  • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

    I tend to get distracted very easily. I think it has something to do with not wanting to miss something going on in the world around me.

    When I really need to focus, I have to create a quite place – where sounds and sights won’t catch my attention. I need to be where I can’t see movement from other people – because I always end up wondering if that someone moving is someone coming to see me.

    Goals and deadlines also help me to get stuff done.

  • http://peterpollock.com Peter P

    I try to be very realistic about myself. I don’t see the point in lying to myself or anyone else.

    I find it hard to switch off my email, phone and tweetdeck because I’m afraid to miss something and be ‘left out’.

    I also feel that if I’m not immediately available to people and don’t say YES to whatever they ask, they won’t ‘like’ me any more – which is all wrapped up in my personal belief that I’m not likable and the only reason people have anything to do with me is for what I can give them.

    Psychological issues like this, no matter how nonsensical they are make it very hard to focus .

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      This is why I am a big believer in therapy or counseling. It is worth working through the stuff that holds you back. Usually, there are complex issues in play, and it takes someone else to help us get “unstuck.”

      • http://peterpollock.com Peter P

        I need to get back into therapy. I spent a year in therapy and didn’t get too far so I gave up.

        Maybe I just need to see a different therapist!

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          Yea, not all therapists are equally skilled. Finding the right one is key. Personally, I think you should start seeing some progress in a few weeks.

          • Ben

            I was very hesitant to see a counselor until I went to one. Now I recommend it to everyone. You don’t have to be crazy. Everyone has issues, hangups, baggage, whatever. It’s nice to have someone to help you work through it all.

          • http://peterpollock.com Peter P

            Thanks everyone.

            I guess I’ll have to get the phone book out and start working my way through all the local therapists :-)

            Seriously. I’m putting it on my to-do list for Monday morning.

          • http://twitter.com/B_Schebs B_Schebs

            I agree Michael. It took me 7 tries and over 9 months to find one that worked for me, It was frustrating and I wanted to give up several times, but now that I have one that works well for me, all the hassle seems worth it.

            To Peter: Don’t give up, try a different one, try 5 different one. give each 2-4 sessions, go through the phone book if you need to, don’t know if it will work for you, but that is what worked for me.

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          Yea, not all therapists are equally skilled. Finding the right one is key. Personally, I think you should start seeing some progress in a few weeks.

  • Nora

    Closing the door helps so much. And I haven’t done that in a long time. I used to listen to music and somehow have not done that in a long time either. Yikes, it’s time to get more focused. Thank you Michael for this post. It has helped me refocus.

  • http://twitter.com/MacKinnonChris Chris MacKinnon

    I have to get away to get almost anything done. In the past I had a home office, but thankfully now have an office at the church I am pastor. That is an immense help to eliminate distractions, and I don’t just mean my kids.
    I also prefer to use indirect lighting. I cannot quote any, but I guess there are studies that show fluorescent bulbs tire your eyes sooner. I find using a couple of strategically placed lamps to be very helpful.
    There are times when I work and work without taking breaks, not to avoid them, just because I “get in the zone.” I’ll have to try the timer as a means of competition.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I had not that about the impact of fluorescent lighting. I’ll have to research that. Thanks.

  • http://www.rowentree.com April Rowen

    I tend to be more productive away from home, but I don’t enjoy sitting at a coffee shop all by my lonesome. My friend and I came up with a brilliant plan – she works from her computer as an editor for a vacation/rental home company and often struggles with cabin-fever.
    Our plan? “Work dates”. We meet at our favorite coffee house, grab our favorite beverage, and unload our laptops. She gets paid by the hour, while I get emotional and productive deposits by the minute! =)

  • http://twitter.com/ThatGuyKC K.C. Pro

    #5 and 7 are key areas of focus for me.
    I’m easily distracted and need to pull the plug on social media if I’m going to be productive.
    I also drink an inordinate amount of coffee and really need to cut back. I ran the numbers and it’s more than 65 gallons a year.

  • http://www.focusdammit.com Kay Grossman

    I’ve become acutely aware of how costly interruptions are, not only in terms of time and lost productivity, but in learning and memory as well. I work far more efficiently in set blocks of time when I don’t have either the auditory or knowing-it’s-available disruptions from email or social media.

  • Anonymous

    Recently I started making a to-do list in the mornings, or the night before. I do it before I even turn the computer on, usually right after my Bible Study time in the morning, while my mind is still fresh and clear. I do my best not to go to bed until the items on that list have a big X through them.

    I’m becoming a huge fan of THE LIST.

  • http://www.christopherscottblog.typepad.com/ Christopher Scott

    Good topic, Michael.

    I have trouble focusing if there are conversations going on around me. So the most common thing I do is simply shut the door to my office. Then, I clear everything off of my desk so that I may focus on the one task I need to get done. Those two things I normally do to focus and be productive, at least for administrative work.

    If I have creative work I need to get done such as writing an article or working on a talk, I always go outside of my office.

    I go to Starbucks, get a cup of coffee (tall Pike, no room), find a corner desk with some sunlight, and then I work. This helps me to get away from a logical administrative mindset, and it allows me to be around people (without having to talk to them), listen to some unique music, and drink some coffee.

    That’s what works for me.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I’m the same way. If it’s a few people talking—like the people in the row behind me in an airplane—I get distracted. If it is a room full of people at a Starbucks, it’s just white noise.

  • http://www.prokopetsstudio.com/blog Candace Prokopets

    So helpful! I’m so thankful to have come across your blog. I’m learning so much. I just sent this off to my husband. He’s been trying to work on these things. Thank you for sharing!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      You are welcome. Thanks for taking time to comment.

  • GrowithMe gal

    I keep a “distraction” list – several things that I need to do will pop into my head, so I write these things down on a piece of paper next to me. Then, when I’m done with my work, I can turn my attention to completing those tasks.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      This is a good practice. David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, recommends this.

      • http://twitter.com/B_Schebs B_Schebs

        I keep hearing everyone talking about that book. I think it is time I get to reading it.

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          It’s one of my top ten favorites to be sure.

          • http://peterpollock.com Peter P

            Wow. You have a top ten favorite book list?

            What would be your top ten favorite books?

          • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

            I have several top 10 lists here.

          • http://peterpollock.com Peter P

            I should have known you were already on top of that.

            :-)

            …I’d still like to know your all round top ten though! :-)

          • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

            I couldn’t narrow it down that much. Narrowing by category was the best I could do. ;-)

  • http://www.thehahnhuntinglodge.com Nikole Hahn

    I’m real bad at breaks. Once I get into my novel at home I can go a long time and then I realize it’s lunch, but I’m reluctant to leave my character. Sometimes, I’ll bring in a jug of hot water, the sugar, and my tea bag and mug so I can stay at my desk.

  • http://www.jordynredwood.com Jordyn Redwood

    I’m definitely one to set mini-goals. As a wife, mother of elementary aged children, part-time ER nurse and novelist… it’s the only way I could get a project done amongst all the interruptions. Thanks for the other ideas!

  • http://www.geoffsnyder.com Geoff Snyder

    Michael,

    Thank you so much for sharing this. You could not of picked a better time to to post this (this is the selfish me talking) because I’ve been in desperate need to be reminded of the basics.

    I don’t think there is anything that I can add to this… you’ve covered all the areas that work best for me. Again, I thank you greatly.

    Have a wonderful weekend!
    Geoff

    • http://twitter.com/B_Schebs B_Schebs

      Michael has a way of always giving us what we need to hear when he posts his blogs doesn’t he. God’s instrument right there. Now Geoff FOCUS and get back to work. :)

  • http://solarcrash.com Lon

    Awesome tips – I’d recommend anyone doing anything creative to read steven pressfield’s the war of art – i just wrote a series of posts reflecting on it from a bit of a biblical angle. While the externals are huge a big part of focus is the battle within…

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I love that book! One of my all-time favorites.

  • Bwenman

    Another great article. I am so easily distracted! It always has been something I have had to work on. I always clear my desk of everything except what I am working on. Even just a few files can be a distraction. On another note, when I really want to focus when I am on my elliptical, I shut off the lights. Otherwise, I spend time looking around at the things I have to do around my house and I feel like quitting. Hey – you gotta’ do what you gotta do! It works.

  • http://2020visiononline.org Josh Hood

    If I really have a lot to accomplish, I use a 2-step process:
    1. Write down everything I need to do
    2. Number them by priority.
    Then I start at the top of the list and work my way down. It sounds so simple, I know, but it’s amazing how much time we use on lesser important things either because those things are easier or because we procrastinate by putting off the hardest things. Then, at the end of the day, task number 6 & 7 are checked off our list, but 1 & 2 remain undone.
    The discipline of writing it down clarifies it for me. Again, I know it’s simple. But it works amazingly well.

  • http://blog.cyberquill.com Cyberquill

    Sixty-nine. Not 70 and not 68. The number’s ineluctable connotations aside, I grew up in Europe, so I’m a child of Celsius, and even back home in the Old World—with one degree of Celsius comprising a far larger temperature range than one degree of Fahrenheit—I’d have had a pretty tough time sensing a change of one paltry degree.

    But Fahrenheit? Forget it. This is Princess-and-the-Pea territory.

    Yet you, on the other hand, must be sensitive to a temperature change of as little as one degree Fahrenheit as measured by productivity, or you’d be setting the thermostat to a more intuitive number, i.e., one that ends in either a five or a zero, such as 70.

    Or can your thermostat only be set in ten-degree increments, all ending in nine for some peculiar reason?

  • http://twitter.com/kprichardson84 Kent Richardson

    Great post! I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot recently, especially how music can accompany your work. I’ve found Romantic piano and string quartets to be most helpful. I would be interested to see a sample playlist.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      If you read through the comments, I posted some soundtracks I listen to. Thanks.

  • http://www.cdenning.com Chris Denning

    I think for me, I don’t have a problem making time and scheduling it on my calendar. The problem I have is not getting distracted while I’m in the mode. However, the more creative energy needed for a project, the more immersed I get in it.

    I also completely agree with the music idea. I have to have the right kind of music. It has to be something I’m very familiar with so I don’t get distracted by analyzing it. It also helps if it is mainly instrumental, with no lyrics to think about.

    Being in the zone = good music + high creative energy + time to get into it.

  • Bwenman

    I’m just curious. How many people are actually reading this while they should be focusing on something else? Busted…..

  • Terry Lange

    What music is on your playlist?

  • Terry Lange

    What music is on your playlist?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I answered this in another comment above. Thanks.

  • Anonymous

    I make sure to sleep at least 7 hours per night and drink at least 2 liters of water per day. While I may trick myself into believing I am productive on less sleep, the results prove otherwise. I feel higher energy levels when I drink enough water.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I couldn’t agree more. I need seven hours, too.

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  • http://www.irrefutablesuccess.com Tim

    Awesome article! “The Alone Zone” is so important. I plan to share this article with my coaching clients.

  • http://twitter.com/ajeanne Jeanne Farrington

    I use Isolator on my Mac. When I’m writing, I turn it on so that only the document I’m working on is visible. That keeps me from noticing the other interesting things I could be doing instead. I turn off my IMs & my cell phone & turn on classical music. (I never have email notifications turned on, so thankfully, they are not a problem.) Also, I’m usually sipping cinnamon tea, which is a reward in itself. Sometimes I set a timer for 50 minutes, and then get up and walk around or do small tasks that require less concentration for 10 minutes… and then back to writing.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Think is another app worth trying. I will also check out Isolator.

  • http://twitter.com/mrmarkmcdonald Mark McDonald

    These are great tips. I have already put into place your previous tip about not checking email so often. I am trying really hard not to open outlook or check the internet before morning tea coffee break, about 10:30 or 11am.

    Another thing I have noticed is that I feel very sleepy about an hour after eating white rice at lunch. I never plan my most important work between 2:30-3:30 as I get too slow and take twice as long.

  • Anonymous

    This is good advice Michael. You are right on that distractions are powerful these days. I’m a person who’s wired to be connected at all times, and this is a bad thing. It certainly takes disciplined action (Good to Great principle) to stay focused. I will do my version of this post very soon.

  • http://reflectionswithcoffee.com BettyMc

    Does Spark have aspartame? Is that what makes it sugar free?
    I like going to Border’s with my laptop — oddly, I do more productive work there!

  • http://reflectionswithcoffee.com BettyMc

    Does Spark have aspartame? Is that what makes it sugar free?
    I like going to Border’s with my laptop — oddly, I do more productive work there!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      No, I don’t think so. Evidently, it did originally, but doesn’t now.

  • http://twitter.com/NasteMag Naste

    Thanks for the advice,I allways get distracted.

  • http://www.idoinspire.com Jody Urquhart

    I do yoga or meditate to help me get focused. It is challenging to focus and shut out all the noise especially with all the platforms to communicate today
    I just spent a week in Mexico and didn’t have Internet access ,it was so weird not to be wired

  • ilisa

    I’ve read with interest all of your suggestions and most comments. I’m a full-time homemaker and mother of three small children/ chauffeur. My problem is that I am very unfocused during the day and my efficiency is very low. All of a sudden, usually at 5pm, I start to gain focus. Then when everyone is in bed by 10pm, I’m full of energy, doing laundry, emails, paperwork, etc. I should be able to do this during the day. What is wrong with me???

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Nothing is wrong. It just sounds like you are on a different schedule! It would be interesting to see if you could shift this.

  • http://www.marketinginprogress.com Brett Duncan

    Great tips here. I especially like the timer idea. I’ve been incorporating a simple system with this that Christopher S. Penn suggested a few months back, and it’s helped a lot. Here’s the link: http://www.christopherspenn.com/2010/08/getting-stuff-done-video/

    Also, I’m with you on AdvoCare Spark. I don’t go a day without one. Makes a huge difference (Full disclosure: I used to be their marketing manager. Not anymore, but I still can’t give up the Spark!).

    bd
    @bdunc1

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Great. I will plan to watch this video.

  • Angie Weldy

    I’d love to hear what people do to improve concentration when they are working in an office with other people. Right now I have my own cubicle and it’s somewhat quiet sometimes but lots of spontaneous conversations as issues arise. We will soon be moving into our new building where there will be several of us in one room and I may even be sharing a cubicle. My biggest distraction is other people but I love my co-workers and hate to say, “Okay, nobody talk to me for the next hour.” Any thoughts?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Maybe you can call a meeting with the people around you, explain the problem of distractions, and then agree on how you can signal that you don’t want to be disturbed. Perhaps a read DND (“Do Not Disturb”) sign on your cubicle would work.

  • http://twitter.com/manyhatsmommyMI Jenny Herman

    As a mommy of two young boys, sometimes I don’t get a full meal until dinner. So, to regain focus I may simply need to eat a snack!

  • Sjohnston

    Blocking out a large chunk of time, going somewhere where I can be undistracted/undistubed (like the library or sometimes just working in a room people don’t know to look for me), turning my phone off, and closing the door all help me.

    Music can be a help, but I don’t utilize it as often as I should.

  • http://studio27b.net Dave Nash of Studio27b.net

    There are a lot of similar techniques in my tool belt. I’ve found that I have to get up early in order to carve out the needed time. For me that means getting up around 4 or 4:30 am in order to get some solid “project” time in.

    I try to start it with breakfast, coffee (3 parts decaf, 1 part caf), and a devotional time…then it’s off to writing, marketing, and research. My day tends to go better if I keep it in that order. I’ve found that when I flip flop any of this I’m not as productive. If social media hops in the lead I end up cutting God’s time short. If I become distracted before fixing some food…I may not eat!

    I try to set some daily, weekly, or monthly goals with reminders on my phone. All in all, it seems that a structured pattern (with breathing room) is the best way for me to get a lot done.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I agree. My morning time is key. I spend those first few hours by myself. As a CEO, I usually have a day full of meetings. Over the years, I have built up my tolerance and can go all day without recharging. In the early day, I had to steal a nap. That is a great option, if you can work it out in the context of your workplace.

      • Anonymous

        Need a nap at work but don’t have an appropriate space in the office? Drive your car to a quiet street during your lunch break, put the seat back, set the alarm on your mobile and snooze away for no more than 20 minutes. If you don’t actually sleep, you will find the stillness can be refreshing. Then when everyone else hits snooze o’clock between 2 and 3pm you’ll have the energy to keep going :)

  • http://twitter.com/jimsimply James Cain

    Thanks for the tips! The music, in particular, is a big help to me. While I used to just put iTunes on shuffle, I’ve noticed that a playlist of instrumental (or some choral) music will be best for staying on task.

  • Karl Mealor

    Something that helps me focus is appropriate background music. Lately I’ve been listening to orchastral movie soundtracks (Avatar, Braveheart, etc.) on Pandora.

  • http://www.livinggracechurch.net Phillip Kelley

    Michael, Thanks so much for your advice. It always seems to come at just the right time. As a young pastor (29) of a large and growing church (1,000 members), I need all the advice I can get. Sometimes I feel as if your blog was created just for me. It’s an IV drip for my leadership organs. Thanks.

    Phillip Kelley
    http://www.livinggracechurch.net

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Phillip. You are kind to say so.

  • http://www.brianhinkley.com Brian Hinkley

    I find that getting enough rest the night before goes a long way to having better focus during the day. Work and family obligations loaded with various electronic distractions throughout the day make this difficult for me.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I agree. A good night’s sleep is crucial.

  • Jeff Jones

    Great suggestions. One of the best things I’ve done this year is mark off every other Wednesday from 8:00am to noon as ME TIME, yep, big capital letters on my calendar. I try to let nothing come between me and this time to sit and think, to listen, to read, to make notes, to write, to do nothing. I find it is the time that God fills me the most during my week and the time that my brain snaps to life unlike any other.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Great idea. Call it what it is!

  • http://tasramar.com tasra

    I never would have realized it but room temperature is a huge factor in my productivity, but I have to turn the heat up. I’ve been working in a cold office and not realizing that being freezing makes me want to get up and leave. Now that I bought a new space heater and keep the room comfortable I love working in my office!

  • Tina Levorse

    Thank you for the chuckle. I just got around to reading this post and read you turn your thermostat DOWN to 69 degrees! My boiler would be running constantly! It is regularly set to 67 …I’d have to turn it down from there! Thanks for the tips.

  • hammy

    i do almost all of the things suggested. its nice to know that i am on the right track! one thing that i do that is not listed here is to eat small snacks like sunflower seeds and stuff like that to keep the activities interactive and to give a little variation. thanks again

  • http://joshualeatherman.com/ Joshua Leatherman

    My favorite, of course, is using batching to increase productivity and mental sharpness.  The Pomodoro Technique has been effective for me.  http://michaelhyatt.com/how-to-use-batching-to-become-more-productive.html

  • http://juliesunne.com/ Julie Sunne

    Sleep is a biggie for me. I rarely get enough. Thanks for some great tips, Michael.

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  • Dallas Council

    Thanks Mike, could not agree with this post more, especially #8!

  • http://twitter.com/TonyLimaJr Tony Lima

    Needed this Mike, currently working and going to school. Time to log off and get some homework done. Thanks for all you do!

  • Matt

    Great Post!  For me, isolating myself is very important for increasing my focus.  When I have a big project upcoming I often go someplace out of town where I won’t have a lot of distractions so that I can concentrate on the task as much as possible.  Small working retreats like that really help me get things done.  Music helps too, although when I’m in the zone I seldom hear it.  

  • coachbillhart

    Nailed it Mike. I find this to be one of the major issues with coaching clients. Additionally, some do better getting OUT of the office; I have clients that can focus in the buzz of a Starbucks, others go to a library. 

    Thanks for the great post on what Michael Gerber (“The EMyth) refers to as “ON” Time. Time to work on your business.

  • Shirley Solis

    When I begin the creation process, my mind tends to start thinking or creating other ideas that have nothing to do with what I am doing at that moment. Therefore, I stop and write those other ideas down. In other words, I get them off my head and my brain can then focus on the current task. Great post Michael!

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  • TheShef

    I realize that the most creative part of my day is right after I wake up. A little classical music, my hot Mandarin Orange Spark, and my meditation mantra of “What is my Why today, God?” begins the creative process.

    The best way to stay on task is to give yourself the gift of “No”. Declining invitations which pull you off focus is very empowering.

  • Peter Scott

    Great article Michael! One of my favorite educational videos for improving focus is Dean Jackson’s “Focus Finder” video here: http://ilovemarketing.com/the-50-min-focus-finder-2/

    Dean shared this video with Joe Polish’s “I Love Marketing” podcast. I highly recommend this to all of your readers!

    Peter Scott

  • Mart

    Get into the office up to two hours before everyone else. Lay out my day. Take care of the little distractions. Shut the door and concentrate on the tougher stuff (like writing) in the morning. Enjoy a book break over lunch. Do the more creative brainstorming in the afternoon. Leave an hour before everyone else and, if needed, wrap up the day’s work at home.

  • Rhonda Smith

    Try working or concentrating on that work in the middle of a call center! But that’s my temporary duty station. I love your blog, by the way!

  • Deborah H. Bateman

    Thanks for sharing your ideas for focus. I, too, find that if I have a project to do I have to work when the house is quiet. I like to be comfortable and have noticed eating high sugar foods messes with my focus. I’ll have to try the music. I like music, but haven’t made a playlist of songs that would work for doing projects. Blessings, Deborah H. Bateman

  • http://www.klingtocash.com Kristin Ingram

    Great tips. I personally love using the timer. If it weren’t for the timer, I would sit at my desk all day without a break and without stopping to get something to drink. My timer helps me take those short breaks which actually does help me stay more focused.