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13 Ways to Develop Laser-Like Focus

Here are some surprising ways to help boost your focus and performance

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If you want to be successful, you have to find strategies that will help you focus despite all of the distractions that prevent you from doing the task at hand. Luckily, with the help of science, developing laser-like focus is easier than you think.

To start, make sure you’re sleeping well and getting regular exercise. These are the basis of productivity, performance and focus. Next, simply look at the colour red – just the sight of red can boost performance and focus.

If that doesn’t work, turning up the thermostat in your office is another option. According to research, people who work in a room set to around 25 degrees are more successful and focused than people in colder work spaces.

There are plenty of things you can do to boost your ability to focus. To learn more, here are 13 ways to develop laser-like focus:

1. Sleep

Here’s a no-brainer: sleep has a direct link to cognitive functions such as the ability to focus and perform. According to the National Sleep Foundation, quality sleep, which is between seven to nine hours, helps us think clearly, remember more and make decisions.

Related: Your Crazy Erratic Sleep Routine Is Making You Less Productive

A lack of sleep can result in an inability to pay attention and focus, lower productivity, slower reaction times and forgetfulness.

2. Use the ABC method

According to Harvard Business Review, our brains are constantly distracted by “internal and external environments,” meaning thoughts, sounds or interruptions. One way to prevent distractions is the ABC method.

As HBR explains, ABC stands for: aware, breathe and choose.

To start, become aware of your options by choosing whether to pay attention to distractions. Next, breathe and relax while you choose to focus or get distracted.

meditate3. Meditate

From stress to anxiety, meditation has long been known as an incredible tool in managing emotions. Another advantage of meditation is its ability to help people focus.

Related: Work Smarter: Margaret Hirsch’s Success Habits

Researchers found that after three months at a meditation retreat, people came out with an incredible ability to focus and an overall improvement in cognitive functions.

4. Get dressed up

The saying, “Dress to impress,” stands true. When people dress up in order to prep for a particular project or task, their ability to focus goes up. According to a study, students who wore white lab coats while conducting experiments made half the amount of errors as the students who were dressed regularly.

5. Don’t multitask

While multitasking might sound like the more productive thing to do, it actually has a negative effect on your ability to focus.

Related: For Vusi Thembekwayo, Focus Leads To Big Wins

According to the American Psychological Association, multitasking and constantly switching between tasks will actually take away from focus because you’re not allowing yourself time to adjust to one thing.

6. Turn up the heat

According to research, a warmer workplace will help you focus better and be more productive. In fact, one study found that a group of workers in a room set to 68 degrees made nearly 44 percent more errors and were half as productive than employees in a 77 degree room.

plants-in-office7. Go green

Plants around the office have long been known to have a positive effect on employee morale, focus and productivity. However, it turns out you don’t necessarily need actual plants for this. In a study, a group of researchers found that by taking a 40-second break and simply looking at a computerised image of a green roof, employees’ focus on a particular task improved.

8. Look at the colour red

Whether it’s the colour of your bedroom walls or the background image on your computer screen, colour has a major effect on us psychologically. A 2009 study published in Science found that when people saw the colour red while they were focusing on certain tasks, their performance, memory and attention to detail improved.

9. Use natural light

Working 9-to-5 in a windowless room with artificial light is far from motivating and in fact can be downright distracting. A study found that people who work in offices filled with natural light experience substantially less eye strain, headaches and blurred visions, all of which deter focus and performance.

10. Get your cardio in

From better sleep to lower stress levels, exercise has many benefits, and that includes improved focus and performance too.

In an article published in Harvard Health, researchers found aerobic exercise increases the size of the area in a person’s brain called the hippocampus, which in turn results in better memory and thinking skills.

However, this was not the case for exercise such as weight lifting and muscle toning, which had little to no impact on a person’s cognitive abilities.

11. Drink some coffee

According to research, a moderate amount of caffeine – around one to two cups of coffee a day – is beneficial to a person’s focus, alertness, performance and mood. However, it’s important not to overdo it, which can result in dehydration, anxiety and headaches.

12. Take a break

It might sound ironic, but taking breaks can actually help improve focus. Research shows that short breaks restore a person’s motivation and help them achieve long-term goals.

Related: How to Train Your Brain to Stay Focused

According to an article published in Psychology Today, “Research suggests that, when faced with long tasks (such as studying before a final exam or doing your taxes), it is best to impose brief breaks on yourself. Brief mental breaks will actually help you stay focused on your task.”

13. Listen to classical music

Save your favorite rock or rap album for after work. Researchers from Stanford University discovered that classical music in particular triggers the part of the brain used for paying attention and focusing.

Why classical? According to the study, people’s minds tend to wander while listening to music but because classical music features many “transitional points” where there is silence, it helps keep people aware and attentive.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Rose Leadem is an online editorial assistant at Entrepreneur Media Inc.

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(Infographic) 9 Daily Rituals To Boost Your Performance At Work

In a rut? These daily rituals can help lift you up.

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Some rituals might seem like nonsense, but it turns out, they can be helpful when it comes to productivity and job performance. Studies have shown that rituals can help us take on tough challenges at work, boost productivity and even decrease anxiety. How do you know what type of ritual is right for you? Here are some ideas.

Instead of starting your day with a hot shower, try opting for a cold one. Cold water increases blood circulation and releases endorphins, which can boost a person’s mood and make them more productive. Another helpful ritual is shutting down distracting devices. For example, turn your smartphone on airplane mode for a few hours so you can hone your focus on a single task until its full completion.

Whether you’ve got a big deadline approaching or an upcoming presentation, if you’re feeling anxious, one ritual to help calm your nerves is counting your breaths. A quick daily mindfulness practice, such as counting your inhales and exhales for 10 minutes, can help relieve stress and get you in the right headspace for getting work done.

Related: 14 Of The Best Morning Routine Hacks Proven To Boost Productivity

From journaling daily to doing five-minute desk exercises, check out Pound Place’s infographic below for nine daily rituals to boost performance at work.

1531498187_daily-rituals-work-infographic

Related: Your Crazy Erratic Sleep Routine Is Making You Less Productive

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Four Ways To Boost Your Daily Productivity

You can also, hopefully, become a happier human. Here are our suggestions…

Colin Thornton

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Given that most modern professionals are armed with a full array of sophisticated technology tools, it is safe to assume that our productivity and efficiency has reached dizzying heights…right?

Wrong.

With so many digital distractions and the constant pinging of notifications, most of us have severely dwindling attention spans. Several years ago, Microsoft released a study that revealed a consumer’s attention span is now less than that of your average goldfish. Moreover, our overall productivity might be plummeting. According to research from theHRDirector.com, employees are distracted at work every three minutes – and it can take us as long as 25 minutes to refocus. In addition, workers are more stressed out than ever before, a trend that has been attributed to the constant barrage of digital information and data.

The good news is that by making a few simple changes and employing the right tools (yes, tech tools), you can both alleviate your work stress and enhance your daily productivity. You can also, hopefully, become a happier human. Here are our suggestions…

1. Find Ways to Work Remotely

Although this may not be an option for everyone given his or her particular company or personality, research has shown that working from home – or from a quiet place – can boost your productivity.  The average workplace is a hive of activity and distractions, making it near impossible to get critical tasks done.

Related: 14 Of The Best Morning Routine Hacks Proven To Boost Productivity

Nowadays, with enhanced mobile connectivity, employees can escape home or to wifi-hotspots (with great coffee) to focus on their work. Stanford professor Nicholas Bloom recently conducted a two-year study on remote workers that showed a massive productivity boost among the telecommuters… Moreover, his study revealed that employee attrition decreased by 50 percent among the remote workers. Also, they took shorter breaks, had fewer sick days and took less time off work.

2. Turn off Your Push Notifications

Yes, that’s right. You can do it. There is simply no need to see a notification every time someone likes your post on Facebook or adds you as a contact on LinkedIN.  Also, that Whatsapp message on the group from old high school friends can wait. By constantly moving between screens, apps and platforms to keep up with ongoing digital communications, we lose focus and interrupt our creative processes.

In 2016, a Deloitte study found that people look at their phones 47 times a day on average. For young people, it’s more like 90. As Wired writer David Pierce put it, “push notifications are ruining my life. Yours too, I bet”.  It might be  time to turn down the digital input volume.

3. Use Productivity Apps

Yes, this might seem ironic and counterintuitive.  But, there are now several productivity apps that have been cleverly designed to help – not hurt – your ability to focus. There is Todoist, which allows you to put all your to-do lists into one, easily manageable place. This app syncs with virtually any platform – allowing you to complete tasks even if you forgot your smartphone at home (maybe a good thing?).

We also like Pocket, which collects your favourite articles and sites so that you can peruse them later, instead of ‘right now’. There are also great project management tools now available, such as Omniplan and Trello, which make certain tasks appear fun and often encourage collaboration and creativity. These apps allow you to create and group tasks, organise and streamline workflows, and to file documents in a simple and accessible way.

 4. Find Cool Ways to Collaborate

Although technology can fuel our efficiency (if used the right way) it can also isolate us from our peers and make teamwork (or talking to humans) seem a thing of the past. Yet many studies have shown that collaboration actually supercharges our contributions at work.

Related: How Dial A Nerd Managed To Dial Up Profits

For example, a recent joint study between the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) and Rob Cross, Edward A. Madden Professor of Global Business at Babson College, revealed “companies that promoted collaborative working were 5 times as likely to be high performing.” In addition, a 2014 Stanford study found that simply working alongside others drives ‘intrinsic motivation.’ And, as always, there’s an app for that!

The most popular tools include Slack, which allows for the sending of direct messages (DMs) and files to a single person or a group of employees. It also has the ability to place conversations into different channels (for specific projects, one for customer support, general chat, etc). Another handy tool growing in popularity is Microsoft Teams, which is included in many Office 365 packages.  Businesses may have Teams available right now and not even realise it or the powerful productivity boosts it can unlock.

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Can A Simple Checklist Transform Your Business?

If checklists are useful for building a skyscraper or performing complex surgery, they just might be right for you, too.

Thomas Smale

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What do test pilots, surgeons, architects and hedge fund managers all have in common? They all turn to one simple tool to make them more efficient: the humble checklist.

In his book, The Checklist Manifesto, renowned surgeon and author Atul Gawande explores how breaking down complex processes into boxes to be ticked off on a list can save lives and stop something as significant as buildings collapsing.

Related: How To Work Less And Still Get More Done

After personally adopting this simple rule in the processes at my own business, I’ve found Gawande’s simple solution of using a checklist to be surprisingly effective. So, I want to spread the word on how entrepreneurs can incorporate checklists to optimise their business operations’ efficiency. Here’s how to do that.

Break it down

No matter what the industry, professionals face more complexity in the workplace than ever before. Breaking down complex tasks into simple, verifiable steps can have remarkable effects, even when those steps appear explicit or mundane.

In The Checklist Manifesto, Gawande tells the story of Peter Pronovost, a critical-care specialist at John Hopkins Hospital. Pronovost developed a five-step checklist designed to prevent a common and sometimes deadly complication faced by patients in the hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU): the central line infection.

The steps in this list aimed at prevention are basic. For example, one calls for caregivers to “wash their hands with soap.” Despite such an obvious precaution, Pronovost’s team discovered that in over a third of patients observed, at least one step of the five recommended ones was skipped.

As part of the solution, Pronovost empowered nurses to stop doctors from proceeding if they witnessed even one step in the checklist being bypassed.

This simple regimen led to staggering results. In one hospital, over the course of just over two years, the central line infection checklist “prevented forty-three infections and eight deaths, and saved two million dollars in costs,” Gawande wrote.

Caring for patients in an ICU is extremely complex, but the wisdom of the checklist is that it breaks patient care down into incremental and verifiable steps.

Keep it short

One key to creating effective checklists is to keep them short. A good rule of thumb, Gawande says in the book, is to “keep it between five and nine items, which is the limit of working memory.”

You must also “define a clear pause point at which the checklist is supposed to be used.” Keeping the list short forces you to boil down complex processes into the essential, required steps.

“Keeping it short” also means that you will most likely end up with multiple checklists, each tailored to a clearly defined set of circumstances.

Keep it simple

Hand-in-hand with keeping checklists short is keeping them simple. Checklists should use clear and exact language. Gawande also stresses the importance of formatting. Limit your list to one page and avoid clutter and the unnecessary use of colours. Your lists should be clean, simple, and concise.

Daniel Boorman, the checklist guru at airplane manufacturing giant The Boeing Company, has suggested the use of both upper- and lower-case text for ease of reading, as well as the use of a sans serif font like Helvetica.

Boeing makes extensive use of checklists — for everything from routine processes like readying an airplane for takeoff to emergency situations like smoke in the cockpit. Every situation that a pilot might encounter comes with a corresponding checklist, as is shared in the book.

Decide between “Read-Do” and “Do-Confirm.”

There are two types of checklists: READ-DO and DO-CONFIRM. A READ-DO checklist is similar to a recipe. It consists of a set of clearly defined tasks that you check off as you complete them. With a DO-CONFIRM checklist, “Team members perform their jobs from memory and experience, often separately.”

Related: Become A Life-Hacker

But then they stop. “They pause to run the checklist and confirm that everything that was supposed to be done was done.” Before building your checklist, you will need to decide which of the following two options to use.

Use checklists to facilitate communication

Even extremely complex tasks, like the building of a modern skyscraper, can benefit greatly from the use of checklists.

Not only can the floor-by-floor construction of the building be broken down into many small individual tasks that must be ticked off as completed, but a checklist can also help facilitate problem-solving and communications when complications inevitably arise.

Gawande discovered that the builders he interviewed relied on “one set of checklists to make sure that simple steps are not missed or skipped and another set to make sure that everyone talks through and resolves all the hard and unexpected problems.”

Using checklists to ensure that the appropriate experts consult with one other to resolve any issues that come up and reach an agreement on how to move forward is one of the tool’s most valuable applications.

Despite buildings’ being bigger and more complex than ever before, creative and diligent use of checklists has significantly sped up the building process, according to the experts Gawande consulted for his book.

Where to start

checklist-app

Not surprisingly,  a plethora of tools are available to help you incorporate the use of checklists into your business process. Here are just a few:

  • Checklist. The eponymous Checklist app offers a robust free plan with unlimited checklists, team management, due dates, reminders and more. The app is available for iOS and Android, or on the web. One of Checklist’s greatest strengths is its community. You can choose from thousands of user-submitted checklist templates to help get you started.
  • Tallyfy.Tallyfy is a powerful solution for automating your business processes with a particular emphasis on collaboration. If you and your team can benefit from applying the principles behind The Checklist Manifesto, Tallyfy is well worth a look.
  • Manifest.ly. If your team, like mine, relies heavily on Slack for collaboration and communication, Manifest.ly is a checklist tool that boasts seamless Slack integration. You and your team can work on checklists and receive notifications without ever leaving Slack.

Final thoughts

Checklists are a potent tool that have been shown to work in a wide variety of industries and circumstances. There are almost inevitably processes in your business that the clever application of checklists will improve.

Even the most complex tasks, such as the building of a modern skyscraper, open heart surgery and flying a commercial airliner have been shown to benefit greatly from the use of checklists. As Gawande wrote, “Checklists seem able to defend anyone, even the experienced, against failure in many more tasks than we realised.”

Using checklists to establish a higher level of base-line performance for you and your team can similarly pay big dividends in making your business more efficient and error-free.

Related: 14 Of The Best Morning Routine Hacks Proven To Boost Productivity

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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