Your ability to focus and be productive are two key ingredients for fast growth and success in business and personal life. As many people struggle with these two essential skills, I decided to write this article in which I share the 8 daily habits that help me and my clients to perform at peak levels, work with laser-like focus and become a lot more productive.
Habit 1: Set Daily Goals
One of the main reasons why so many people are unfocused and struggle with being productive is because they don’t know exactly what to do right now, today. They might know that they want to earn more money, lose weight or build a business, but those are all goals somewhere in the future. But what about right now? What about today? Despite your long-term goals, procrastination will kick in when you don’t know exactly what it is that you’re supposed to be doing today.
If you lack clarity about what it is that you should be doing today, your mind will start making other plans. Easier plans, lesser important plans, plans that might be pleasurable and rewarding in the short-term, but not in the long-term. In other words, you’ll procrastinate, lose focus on your main goals and take a hit in your productivity levels.
Therefore, always set 1-5 daily goals. Create the clarity of knowing exactly what it is that you should be doing today. Make your goals very precise and specific so that you know exactly what to do. Giving this structure to your day will help you work with a lot more focus and determination.
Tip: I use The Self Journal to set my goals and priorities every single day as effectively as possible. Doing this every single day is truly a gamechanger when it comes to achieving your goals as fast and impactful as possible.
Habit 2: Meditate
Meditation has been one of the habits that helped me to massively improve my focus over the last few years. And you don’t have to be a highly spiritual person in order to take advantage of the benefits of meditation.
By meditating for about 10 minutes per day, I notice that I can make better decisions, focus with more intensity, have a calmer, decluttered mind, feel less stressed and overall just feel great. And no, this is not just some feel-good placebo. Scientific data actually backs up the benefits of having a meditation practice.
A number of studies have linked meditation practice to differences in cortical thickness or density of gray matter in the brain. In other words, your brain literally, physically, changes because of meditation. One of the most well-known studies to demonstrate this was led by Sara Lazar from Harvard University, in 2000.
The study by Sara Lazar demonstrated that regular meditation practice is correlated with increased grey matter (aka, better brain performance) in the following areas of the brain:
- Pre-frontal cortex (the area of the brain responsible for self-discipline, willpower, emotions, behaviour, judgement, focus and our overall ability to make choices).
- Left Hippocampus (the area of the brain that assists learning & memory and regulates emotions)
- Temporo-Parietal Junction (the area of the brain responsible for perspective taking, empathy and compassion)
Furthermore, meditation correlates with a decrease in grey matter in the amygdala (the fight or flight instinct), which means that people experience less stress. This is why you hear meditators (including myself) claiming these benefits of having better focus, feeling more empathy and compassion, making better life-choices and feeling less anxious, stressed and judgemental. All simply because the areas in the brain responsible for these benefits have strengthened and improved due to meditation.
Remember, the better your brain is able to perform, the better you can focus and the more productive you become.
Me meditating in the Spanish Pyrenees
Habit 3: Schedule Your Days & Weeks
By scheduling your days and weeks, you’ll become a lot more effective. I clearly notice how my most unproductive days are the ones that I didn’t schedule or didn’t schedule well enough. If you don’t schedule your days and weeks, you will just wander around. You kind of know what to do, so you’ll have a kind of work ethic.
Create a solid battle-plan for your days and weeks. One that you can simply follow and execute. This will help you save valuable decision-making energy (which is proven to be a limited resource) during the day – and work with more determination and focus.
Habit 4: Follow a Morning Routine
Usually, the way you start your day is the way you’ll continue it. So, start it well by following a morning routine. Lousy, unmotivated and unproductive mornings will translate into lousy, unmotivated and unproductive days. Therefore, resolve to create and follow a morning routine that puts you ‘in state’ to work with focus, energy and impact.
Take anywhere from 15- to 60-minutes for yourself to do activities like meditation, setting your daily goals, scheduling your day, reviewing your bigger goals, read your affirmations, visualize, exercise or read a book. This will help you to start your day with high levels of motivation, clarity and energy. All of which are powerful ingredients to create a highly focused, productive and successful day.
I clearly notice the effects of a morning routine. On those days where I don’t follow my morning routine, I am a lot less motivated, focused and productive. However, on those days where I do follow my morning routine (which is the biggest majority of the days), I work a lot more focused, I feel more motivated and I simply am a lot more productive.
Habit 5: Work On Your Priorities In The Morning
I like to use my mornings for one primary thing: To crush my most valuable task(s) for that particular day. This task is the one that has the biggest potential upside if I complete it and the biggest potential downside if I don’t. Usually, this task is also the most challenging one, so I need my full mental resources available to do it of the highest possible quality. The benefits of working on your priorities in the morning are truly amazing.
First of all, in the morning, your brain doesn’t have that many experiences to process yet. Aka, you’ll have less mental ‘clutter’. This means that more of your mental resources will be available to focus completely on your task at hand.
Furthermore, when it’s still early in the day, it’s much easier to focus on your most challenging tasks as there are fewer distractions pulling for your attention. When most people are still asleep or having breakfast, you have the freedom to work with full focus without being distracted by e-mail, social media, text messages or phone calls.
Lastly, your willpower ‘muscle’ will be stronger in the morning (read the books ‘Willpower’ and ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’). So, in the morning, it’ll be much easier to work on your most challenging, most valuable task, it’ll be easier to solve difficult problems and you’ll be able to stay with your tasks for a longer period of time and fight distractions a lot better compared to working later in the day. All in all, working on your priorities in the morning, right after your morning routine, is one of the best habits to adopt if you want to improve your focus and become more productive.
Habit 6: Put Away Your Smartphone
Your smartphone is your number one productivity killer. So, especially when you are working on your highest priorities early in the day, put it away. Put it out of sight, on silent mode and make sure it can no longer distract you. Really, the notifications from messages, email and social media destroy your ability to focus.
Did you know that once you get distracted, it takes on average 25(!) minutes to return back to your original task? This is a phenomenon called ‘attention residue’, which implies that some of your attention is ‘left behind’ at the previous task (or distraction) that your brain was dealing with. You can’t simply shift from task to task effectively, as your brain’s capability to focus on your current task has literally decreased, even if it was just a quick glance at Instagram.
Keep in mind that your smartphone (and the apps on it) are literally designed to get you hooked and addicted. Therefore, put your smartphone away to protect your focus for at least those hours in which you are doing your most meaningful work.
Tip 1: Read the book ‘Hooked’ by Nir Eyal if you are interested in learning more about how modern day tech is designed to get you addicted.
Tip 2: If you really have trouble with smartphone use, download an app like Forest to protect yourself from using your smartphone for a timeframe of your own choosing.
Habit 7: Review Your Day
One of the simplest but most effective productivity habits is to review your days and weeks. By looking at what went well and what didn’t go well, you can streamline your work process and analyze which habits and activities you should do more or less of.
Most people don’t analyze their own behaviour and therefore they have blind spots that continue to hinder their productivity, focus and success. Self-awareness is the key here. So take a few minutes each day to review your day – and to set yourself up for an even more productive and focused day tomorrow. Write down in a journal what went well and what you can do to make tomorrow an even better day.
For this habit, I also use the Self Journal. This way I conveniently have my goals, priorities, improvements and daily schedule in one place.
Habit 8: Overcome Procrastination
Did you know that the word procrastination is actually derived from the Latin word ‘procrastinare’, which means ‘deferred until tomorrow’. Isn’t that funny? That’s exactly what most of us say when we’re procrastinating! ‘Ahh, I’ll do it tomorrow’…
But as we all know, we usually say the exact same thing tomorrow and eventually, we postpone the task to the very last moment — or we end up never doing it at all. That is why procrastination slowly but surely takes your ambition to the grave if you do nothing about it. Without you even realizing it, you slip into the habit of procrastination.
Every time you postpone your work, you strengthen the chains of procrastination. Then one day, you notice how much inner resistance you feel towards practically any type of work, no matter how simple the task. That’s why you need to develop the habit of overcoming procrastination, which is probably the most powerful thing you can do to boost your productivity levels and get more meaningful results faster than ever.
If you’ve had enough of procrastination, and you’re looking to get rid of it once and for all, check out my Stop Procrastinating course RIGHT HERE.
Now Do It
Reading about these 8 habits to increase your focus and boost your productivity is one, but implementing them is two! Without taking action, you won’t see the results you desire. So go out and implement at least one of these habits today!
To Your Personal Growth,
Founder Personal Growth Lab