Three productivity hacks that really work

For many small-business owners, it’s very easy to get distracted. There are always a myriad of things to get done, and as a result productivity suffers. Here are three useful things to reduce distractions, help you focus and improve your productivity. They work for me and I reckon they will work for you.

1. Pomodoro time

Back in the 80’s a University Student named Francesco Cirillo had trouble focusing for long periods of time. He got a cooking timer, which was shaped like a tomato and set it for 25 minutes. He did so because he figured he could focus on anything for just 25 minutes. He then set a smaller time (5 minutes) for a mini-break before setting off on another 25 minute focus session.

His idea developed into what is now officially known as pomodoro technique, (Pomodoro being the Italian word for Tomato). The idea is to schedule three or four “Pomodoros” (a cycle of 25 minutes on and five minutes off) then a longer break of, say, 40 minutes before another set of “Pomodoros”. It works wonders, I use this religiously because like, Francesco, I can focus on anything for 20-25 minutes. By the way, you can vary the timings to suit yourself. Interestingly, neuroscience tells us that the pre-frontal cortex (the thinking part of your brain) looses focus about every 22 mins. If you want to learn more about it just Google “Pomodora Technique” or search for an app.

2. Finish things

Not completing or finishing things has a negative impact on your mindset. Think about it this way, if you jump from task to task without completing them you are reinforcing in your mind that you do not finish stuff, and that it’s okay not to. Which means that not finishing stuff becomes the new normal. It also prompts the question, does not finishing stuff make you feel bad?

Now, of course, there are many things you can’t finish in one sitting because they are ongoing projects and have stages or some emergency might come in that needs immediate attention. But if you just habitually don’t finish things it’s not good reinforcement. On the other hand, getting stuff done feels good because it gives you a sense of achievement. So commit to completion. Do the full 25 minutes of your Pomodoro session, or finish what you can in a stage of a project.

3. Small steps

One thing I learned from interviewing hundreds of business owners and entrepreneurs is their understanding of the importance of focusing on the small steps because small steps are achievable and take the away the angst of a large task. It’s easy to complete a small bite-size step in a project and as a bonus you feel good about it. I love this so much I wrote a book about it. In many ways productivity is a game of inches. Just break down what needs to be done into it’s smallest parts and then plan to act on each of those parts. The sense of accomplishment is wonderful and in a world where we all crave instant gratification those small achievements give you an instant buzz. Now it doesn’t mean don’t tackle large complex projects, but rather it’s small steps that make big happen.

Nigel Collin, Business Coach and author of “Game of Inches

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