Whether you are building your own business, contracting in the tech industry, or being an employee of a company, everyone is striving for increased productivity to meet their business goals with fewer hours or be able to drive more in their day. Without focus, you will find for every hour per hour worked, you will get significantly less work done. Let’s explore some of the focus tips I’ve learned over the years, as I am a big supporter of working smarter and not harder. If you can achieve the same work in 2 hours as you can in 8 hours, you will be enabled to do more.
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Turn off distractions during extreme focus periods
Give yourself a limited time with a defined goal
You cannot push off communication, working with others, or getting to other tasks forever. You must have defined periods of intense focus and then take a break to get back to other daily duties. I’ve learned a handy technique called the Pomodoro technique that may help some with this. The spirit of Pomodoro is what is most important. That is a very focused period with an explicit goal to do your best to achieve. Whether you hit your goal or the timer runs out, you’ve hit the period you set for yourself. Respect that time and manage accordingly.
If communication is needed in your day, dedicated, focused blocks for it
After your blocks of focused time, you will need to attend meetings, communicate with others, and do other non-individual work you must drive. Schedule your focused blocks around these and set specific intervals to have these. Do your best to achieve as much as you can during these times to get caught up; once you hit your schedule for focused time, switch over and dive into your concentrated work. Respect that schedule!
Take breaks between extreme focus periods
No one can be a pure efficiency machine. You’ll eventually hit diminishing returns, and your overall capability will slow to a crawl. You’ll be staring at your screen with your mind wandering to the void before you know it! Take some breaks after you make your short sprints of focus. Don’t book your meetings and communication blocks in such a way that you’re sitting at your desk for a mere 8 hours. Instead, get up and enjoy some fresh air. This downtime can help you refocus and develop new ideas to solve your ongoing issues.
Solve first, then back step to a better solution
This goes with writing in general but also, particularly for writing software. It would be best if you had the mindset of driving for results. With that, show no mercy with your goals. Suppose your goal is to figure out how to solve a bug or how to implement a new feature. Please do so at the highest level, most dirty hack, or whatever it takes to have some progress on your goal. Once you have a quick and dirty hack or solution in place, dedicate another focus block to improve it and continue to devote more focus blocks until it is where it needs to be. Once you have the base of an issue solved, everything else tends to snap into place.
Limit meetings, communication, and helping others to defined times
This might be 10% of your day, and for others, it might be 50%. There is no hard and fast rule, but I advise you to think about a ratio that is right for you and limit your time communicating with others via email, messaging, or meetings. Make this a goal and protect your time accordingly. If you do not protect or enforce your own need for this time, others will abuse it, and your focus will go down the drain.
Invest into others to scale your time
As one grows in their career, they cannot do it all. Everyone comes to you for help, but only one of you is there. Writing good documentation is one form of automation and investing in others, so you are not the only knowledge keeper. Become a leader and scale your time by teaching others everything you know, which alleviates direct demand on your schedule, allowing you to keep your focus on bigger and better things.
Measure and challenge yourself to achieve more in extreme focus periods
Off to the races! Like all things, you will only get better and improve if you try and practice what works and doesn’t work for you. So keep striving to increase productivity and use this to your advantage. Whether you want to fit your 8-hour workday into 2 hours or be highly effective for 8 hours, these tips will help you improve.