This is a guest post by our Community Manager, Christopher. In addition to managing the community aspects of Superstar Blogging he also manages our community forum.
Blogging, writing, vlogging, photography — not to mention reigning over multiple social media accounts — all require mountains of discipline and dedication. When it comes to building up your brand, these skills form the bedrock of your success.
Maintaining a schedule makes it easier but also requires — and this is perhaps the understatement of the year — a lot of hard work. For those of us with hectic lives, however, sticking to a schedule seems impossible. We think we have too many things going on or are juggling too many responsibilities to make a schedule work. Our schedule would need to be both comprehensive yet flexible, a tricky balance to maintain. It would take days of tinkering before we would be able to find a schedule that realistically balanced everything…and even that is being optimistic.
Before we even bother to craft a realistic schedule, however, we need to make the most of the time we do have. To do this, there is one skill we need to improve, and it the most often overlooked skill in the business: concentration.
We all generally assume that, when it comes to being productive, we just need to sit down and dive into the material, and the results will naturally arise. We assume that if we dedicate an hour to writing or editing, we will get an hour’s worth of work done.
It is a reasonable assumption on paper. But in practice? Chances are that you know better.
Even with all the free time in the world, we are not guaranteed results, because our ability to focus has been grossly overestimated. With constant interruptions via email or social media (let alone actual people!), our ability to stay committed to a task has dwindled. Try going five minutes without looking at your phone or email or Facebook. I dare you.
For better or worse, our ability to focus is finite. We can craft the best schedule mankind has ever seen, but without an improved ability to stay focused we won’t stick to it, leaving us to face the consequences of our repeated failure. And when we have only a short amount of time every week for our work, we need to maximize the results from that effort.
Sure, we can sit down, flip the “willpower” switch, and get to work…but that concentration will not last long without another thing: practice.
Fortunately, a solution is within reach.
Concentration is a developed skill, much like a muscle. The more you train it, the better it gets. Unfortunately, we all tend to think of it as a skill we can invoke anytime. Before we can successfully wrestle and conquer our schedule, we must first build our concentration muscles.
How can we do that? By embracing these simple tips:
1. Measure Your Productivity
Before we can improve our productivity, we need to know precisely how productive we already are. This needs to be looked at from two different angles: your time and your tasks.
Keeping track of your time spent working is a great habit to get into. You’ll develop a much more accurate understanding of how much time you have free each day, and how much time your various tasks take. Much like you would with a monetary budget, start writing down how much time you spend on all your tasks. After a couple of weeks, you should have an accurate picture of your time budget. Then, using an app like Time Doctor, you can start rationing that time accordingly.
To make sure you are meeting and completing your goals, however, you’ll want to create daily or weekly to-do lists. Apps like Asana let you make detailed to-do lists and send you regular reminders. It’s a great program for anyone looking to hold themselves more accountable.
By setting up a time tracker and a to-do list, you can keep track of what you’re actually getting done and discover how long it’s taking you to do it. The goal is to work less and make more, right? Armed with this information, you will be better positioned to make informed choices about your time and how you invest it.
2. Stop Multitasking
To get the best results from a project, we need to concentrate on it. The more interruptions we have, the less time we end up focusing on the issue at hand. Turn off Facebook, mute your phone, close your door, and work. Event just 10 interrupted minutes will start to produce better results.
Think of when you are driving a car. It’s illegal to look at your phone in most countries. Why? Because it distracts you from concentrating on the road. While no lives are on the line when it comes to your blogging or writing (I hope!), the principle is the same: you need to avoid distraction to stay focused.
If you need a hand keeping the distractions at bay, be sure to check out the SelfControl app (for Macs). It will help you set timers that restrict access to specific websites (such as social media or email), allowing you to focus on being productive.
Additionally, many successful entrepreneurs and high achievers in business also keep their email inbox closed so they are not in a reactionary state. They dedicate one or two specific times each day to open it and respond to communications. Think about it: how many emails to you immediately react to and respond to that could wait 12 to 24 hours without consequence? Thought leaders like Tim Ferriss, Cal Newport, and even Nomadic Matt employ this strategy so they’re less distracted and can focus on their agenda and not the agenda of the people sending them emails throughout the day.
3. Take Breaks
Our brain needs time to decompress. More often than not, the solution to a problem will unravel itself in our subconscious. Make sure to schedule in time during your day to rest, whether that’s a walk, going to the gym, or reading a book for fun — whatever works for you. Just make sure you get some personal time on a regular basis.
If you’re stuck on a title for your blog or YouTube channel, or can’t quite figure out how to pitch your next article, step away. This will give your brain some time to work on the problem in the background while you focus on something else.
Here are some activities that are good to incorporate into your daily or weekly schedule:
- Working out
- Taking a walk
- Reading something for fun, not for work
- Stretching or yoga
- Mental puzzles like Sudoku or crosswords
These activities provide a mental or physical task to focus on that isn’t work, giving your brain a well-needed rest (or allowing it to focus on something new). After the break, you can dive back into your work, having mentally digested the material more thoroughly. A little rest goes a long way!
This may be a stretch for some, but I can personally guarantee results if you give it a try. I’ve been meditating for about a decade now, and I even went so far as to move to a monastery in Japan. There is no better way to hone your concentration, decompress, and relax all at the same time. Meditation has been proven time and time again to be beneficial when it comes to improving focus and relieving stress. With apps like Headspace to help make meditation less boring (because it is pretty boring), you’ve got nothing to lose.
Set aside 10 minutes a day to sit still. I promise you that after a month of diligent practice, your ability to focus — and thus your productivity — will drastically increase.
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Getting the most out of your scheduled work time is paramount to your success. By embracing these basic tips, you should be able to double your productivity in no time, simplifying your life as you improve your craft. But don’t take my word for it — give it a try! Just remember: concentration is a muscle. Before you can run a marathon, you need to run a mile!
Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase. If you have any questions about the companies or my status as an affiliate, please don’t hesitate to e-mail me.