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Nathan J. Luis for Uncaged You

Posted on • Updated on • Originally published at Medium

How to Focus Like a Titan of Productivity?

Can you make a difference in this world?

It’s a great question, you know. We all should be asking that to ourselves. Some people can make a difference by being excellent professionals. Professionals who master their craft every day and every evening.

Entrepreneurs also sometimes make a difference and leave some kind of legacy in this world. Of course, their creations may be fleeting sometimes. But you know rarely they just happen to change the world.

Do you feel like you’ve done a lot of useful stuff today? And what about yesterday?

I know that feeling when you just cannot focus at all. Or perhaps you’re getting interrupted all the time by meetings, phone notifications, and people at your workplace. So much so that you can’t even get any real work done.

This moment, when you, the next day in the morning, can’t even tell what have you been doing the last day at all. One thing you can say that you’ve spent time in meetings or being interrupted, though.

Or perhaps you are self-employed, but you have still wasted your whole yesterday by watching some entertainment and playing games?

Aren’t those supposed to make you happy and make you have fun?

So why the heck are you feeling like crap?

That feeling of guilt, regret, that’s what your inner self is trying to tell you that what you’ve done is useless beyond belief. You know that everybody in this world just has to leave something behind, right?

Our legacy. That’s how we humans are built.

Pretty sure if we didn’t have that driver, our society and humanity would be long gone. For some people raising the next generation — is that. For some other folks, scientific discoveries and for others is a successful renowned career. And so on. So, what is it for you?

Whatever it is, you need to make sure you are moving in the right direction. In the course of this super achievement, life-level achievement.

If you look at yourself in the mirror today, what will you see? Is it a successful person who is crushing their goals and is achieving their dreams? Or is it a complete opposite of that, reckless addict of today’s world numerous distractions?

Imagine a better self

How would a better self turn out? Ignoring fleeting distractions and consumer entertainment designed to make you addicted to it. Working on your own thing or for someone else and becoming a renowned entrepreneur or professional.

Imagine if you could discard all of the world’s distractions and focus immediately, at your will, right at the moment, when you need it? And then you’d blast through your most important work like it’s nothing.

What if you were a titan of productivity?

Luck, muse, creativity or genius

What is it I hear? You need inspiration for the kind of work you’re trying to do, and you don’t have any? Or maybe you need luck to succeed, muse, or that burst of creativity, or a genius thought?

I know how it feels to be powerless and think that you don’t have it in you. But let me make this problem easy-to-solve for you.

Muse, luck, and genius find people who are already working. Just keep on working on your thing diligently. Even if the work you’re doing is of not high quality that you want it to be. Copy others if you must, but never stop producing — be it writing, software, ideas, products, math theorems, paintings, inventions, etc.

Act of doing conditions your brain to want to do more, and it starts to work the matter in your mind responsible for the respective source of inspiration.

You, producing — is your own source of inspiration!

Alright, let’s talk through specific solutions to the focus problem, how can you become a titan of productivity:

1. Change your environment

The easiest way to prevent distractions is to put yourself in an environment where they are not possible or change your setting that distractions are just not likely.

Let me give you an example: imagine that your most dangerous enemy is youtube on your phone. Then go ahead, enable parental control, or restricted content mode on your phone. Then have your partner or close friend you can trust, put a password for you so that you don’t know what it is. Then, the next thing you do is add a youtube app and website in the BLOCK list.

Now every time you try to open that app or website, it’ll just be blocked without any options to unblock. Do the same thing on all your devices, and suddenly you have focus time where you can produce awesome stuff, and you have a boredom time where you can think and get inspired to work more on your goals.

Ask yourself a question, what is in your environment that makes it easy to get distracted or makes it hard to focus? Go ahead and fix it. Even with unusual methods that are not accepted by the general public. Remember, you don’t want to be just one grain of sand in that general public!

2. Make a detailed plan of what you’re trying to accomplish

Our brain likes to win. Completing a small, manageable task gives your brain motivation to achieve even more items. If you went ahead and split your multi-week project into the most trivial of tasks that each can be completed in like 3–7 minutes, it’s going to be so much easier to get started.

As soon as you complete the first task like that, your brain will feel a burst of dopamine, feeling of “win.”

Now, if you keep completing these tasks one at a time, you will accrue an unstoppable momentum. Moreover, with small work items like that, it’s actually easy to get distracted and get back into focus faster, if you have to (for example, need to talk with a coworker or attend a meeting, or just go eat dinner with your family).

Of course, making a plan like that could be a daunting task on its own. So instead, plan only a few first steps. Perhaps to keep you busy for the next 1–2 hours. That can be done in 5–7 minutes on its own, and therefore it is your first micro-task.

3. Block chunks of time to deep work

Negotiate with your family, partner, or team that you want to work undisturbed during certain times.

If you can make it a consistent time every day (for example, from 12–3 pm), then it’s like the best option that you can have.

If that’s not possible, then you could negotiate maybe one or two stable days where you can have a fixed focus time block, or you could have completely fluid blocks of time that you plan every morning or the evening the day before.

Make sure that this time is when your mind is most calm, or you are the most creative, or you can exercise the most focus and alertness. It depends on your type of work that you are trying to accomplish.

4. Use a focus timer

If you have trouble keeping focus for long periods, then you should try out one of the focus timers. The essence of all of these is that you promise yourself to work with a single laser focus on your next task(s) in the list of your micro-plan (you’ve made before) and then when you’re done with that challenge (for example work focused for 30 minutes), you can have a 5–10 minutes of break.

This is quite powerful and can make chronically unfocused people exercise god-like focus.

5. Prepare a reward for yourself

You know how all the entertainment you so love (and feel later horrible about wasting your time and energy on it instead of productive work on your goals and ambitions) can be used for your own good?

Imagine that you love watching some fun videos on Youtube. But you have already blocked it on all your devices, and you can no longer consume it.

And you have a trusted partner who has the password to unlock the app for an hour or so.

Now, what you can do is that you can promise to your partner that you will do 4 hours of work on your side hustle, and then they will unlock your device for your favorite entertainment for 1 hour.

Now you have both short-term and long-term motivation to work even harder on your thing. Of course, you have to show your results to the partner, what you have done, what is the output. This way, your brain wouldn’t even think of cheating.

Focus Timer App

In fact, my former colleague is working on this focus timer app that combines micro-planning, focus timer, and rewards. Check this focus timer app out!

6. Agree on a cue with your team

This applies if you often get distracted by your team because they legitimately need something from you — maybe you are a manager, team lead, or just the most experienced person in the group.

In this scenario, you can just talk to them and establish a visual rule when you can’t be distracted (in a focus session), or you can be distracted (in a break or doing something not focused).

Also, if somebody really needs to know when they can talk to you, you can have your focus timer visible on a big device, like an additional screen or tablet. Folks will see that you have 11 minutes left of your focus session, and then they can come to talk to you again at this time.

7. Work on what’s really important

Apply a rule of ruthless prioritization. Quickly and snappily decide on the activity if it’s worth your focused work, or it can be done in a non-focus block of time, or can it be perhaps delegated? Maybe you can hire a (virtual) assistant?

Plus, there are certain things that you think you should do, but when you really think about it in terms of your long-term goals, these are just distractions really and should be dropped if possible.

Think about your things to work on in terms of the Eisenhower matrix:

  • It’s important and urgent — a top priority, you need to do it as soon as you can, within a focus session.

  • It’s important but not urgent — schedule a time to do it; you still need have to complete it at some point.

  • Not important, but urgent and needs to be done — find a person to help you do it, delegate. If you have no one to delegate to, because you’re an individual contributor, or you are just getting your business off the ground, then delegating means delegating to your non-focus time block. Keep your focus work blocks for the most critical tasks.

  • Finally, if something is not important and not urgent (at all, or yet), just forget about it. If it becomes urgent later, it’ll come up. When it becomes important — it’ll come up.

8. Make your body healthier

It’s hard to focus or be productive if you feel physiologically like a little piece of crap.

So, fix your diet, start exercising (even if for 4–7 minutes) every single day. A morning is a preferable option. Then have a great breakfast with a lot of nutrition that you need to get through the day.

Fix your sleep schedule, get enough of it, depending on your age and genetics. That might be somewhere between 7 and 10 hours a day.

9. Make your mind healthier

Of course, if you need to focus on your goals, I take it you are working with your brain, right? So-called knowledge worker.

As the brain is your primary source of income and outcomes for your goals, make sure it is in a healthy state and in tip-top shape ready to perform beyond what’s considered regular and average.

Eat foods that are full of nutrients for your brain, exercise every day without fail (this habit makes brain happier too), sleep enough, and with a good schedule. The mind gets restored during sleep, and sleep deprivation can permanently damage your frontal cortex and other parts of your brain, so don’t let your most potent and vital weapon go rusty and break down.

Last but not least, meditate regularly. Mindfulness meditation is like an exercise or workout for your brain — it makes it stronger.

In fact, there is research proving that folks who periodically meditate mindfully have their amount of gray matter increased in the section of the pre-frontal cortex. This section is responsible for all the fantastic things we do as humans, such as cognitive functions and regulatory/control functions. Additionally, It reduces the size and influence of your lizard brain, that just wants to consume entertainment and be lazy, and is the center of fear and fight or flight response.

This has additional benefits that it allows you to perform acts that are above average and be less afraid of rejection by society, and that is how humans become more successful.

10. Track leading indicators instead of results

The problem with most worthwhile goals is that the fruits of your labor will show themselves way… way later, sometimes, even a few decades later than when you got started. It’s tough to persist through such a hellish waiting time and keep doing what you’re doing and not get discouraged.

That is because what ambitious people like you are trying to achieve is always a long-term thing. Now, you could, of course, track short-term things as well, but that is quite bad. A lot of short-term indicators/results may not lead to good long-term results.

So what do you do?

You track the leading indicators instead. For example, if you want to write a book, you count how many hours you spent writing it. If you’re going to develop an app, you track how many hours have you spent researching, designing, or writing the code of that app.

If you are looking to create a startup, but still in the idea validation phase, you can track how many experiments did you launch and how many of them had concluded with a pivot/persevere result. Also, you do track how many hours you spent designing or analyzing these experiments, of course.

Obviously, like any metric, these leading indicator metrics can be gamed. E.g., you could spend hours and hours doing non-important work that can be done as late as 4 months from now, and there is something important that has to be done urgently, and you are avoiding that piece of work.

So, in addition to leading indicator metrics, you also want to track the quality of these indicators. If it is hours, then are these hours put in the most important tasks or auxiliary.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s okay to put time and effort in auxiliary work, because your brain and body need to rest and destress from the most important tasks from time to time, so make sure to keep these in proper balance. Probably something like 5-to-3 or 6-to-2 is a good ratio of important/urgent tasks to not-so-important tasks.

Tracking your efforts like that will make your brain experience more “wins” and celebrations, all the while making progress to your long-term goals, at a steady and confident pace. This will serve as a good habit/reinforcing loop to make you put more focused and productive work into your thing, which will eventually lead you to success.

Why would it lead you to success? Because the majority just doesn’t do anything or spend time doing useless non-important things, to make them believe that they are doing anything at all useful with their life. You are already by heaps ahead of them, so they’ll never catch up. And the competition among the people who put in the work that is important and laser-focused is just too small. You can be a single fish in the pond almost always if you’re a titan of productivity.

11. Use Brainwave Entrainment technology

There are few well-researched technologies such as binaural beats (that was discovered way back, in the 1830s) that primarily affects your brain to produce a different kind of electric impulses. Usually, you are in a normal waking or relaxed state.

If you listen to Gamma brainwave entrainment, for example, you can get into the state of a very high focus and alertness, and increase your empathy levels, improve memory, recall, and senses.

It all sounds like something that can help you focus. In fact, folks who regularly enter Gamma, they are so accustomed to it, that they can become ultra-focused in just a few seconds, and start doing the work, even if they don’t feel like, or the work is a real tedious chore.

Imagine how awesome it would be to train such a superpower, and superpower it is!

Now it’s your turn!

Thank you for reading. Now I have a question for you:

Which techniques are you using to improve your focus? What methods did you try that didn’t stick or didn’t work? Why do you think that happened?

Please leave a reply in comments and share this article on Twitter!

Photo by Kyle Johnson on Unsplash

Top comments (3)

4f52ce6d702849a profile image

This is awesome! This entire week I have been exactly feeling these things as I'm always getting distracted by meetings, colleagues, etc. For improving my focus, I have started reading Deep Work book and it's been very useful for me. The 1st thing I did was to remove Social Media apps from my cellphone as I noticed myself using it at random times, just scrolling for hours. Another thing that I have implemented is to wake up at 5 and have 2 hour long session for learning new things (mainly ReactJS). Thank you so much for this post, I'll try and implement some of the said techniques.

nathanjluis profile image
Nathan J. Luis

I wish you luck in sustaining these habits!

Social media is evil and drains your energy just as much as a focused, productive activity. So getting rid of that is incredible. Keep this up!

Waking up at 5, and putting in 2 hours of quality time is impressive, simply because you feel like "everyone is just starting their day, and I’m already done with my most important tasks!" I hope you can sustain this and turn it into a consistent schedule!

kirzlobster profile image
Kir Zlobster

Being more productive at work or in life isn't rocket science, but it does require being more deliberate about how you manage your time. No one is born to be very good at time management, so that’s okay if you think you’re bad in it. But everyone can learn to boost their productivity and achieve more. No one is born to be very good at time management, so that’s okay if you think you’re bad in it. But everyone can learn to boost their productivity and achieve more!
If you want to maximize your productivity, don't resolve to put in long hours at work; and try these tried-and-tested tips instead:
1.Take regular break
2.Chart Your Progress

  1. Get a workout partner or goal buddy
  2. Reward yourself
  3. Give it time, be patient Moreover, I found an amazing site that helps me improve myself and gets me motivated by completing challenges. Really interesting site with a great challenges verity—