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Productivity is an interesting concept. What does it truly mean to be productive? Sure you may have worked for 14 hours straight but what did you accomplish? Was the work you did directly aligned with accomplishing your goals? These are all questions you must ask yourself at the end of the day to truly understand if you spent your time well.

This comes down to focus. You need to focus on the tasks that will ultimately lead to accomplishing larger goals. You need to focus on removing things from your day and life that distract you from those goals. And you need to focus on what you do best. If you can do those things, you will be successful.

Here are six tips to keep you focused and productive:

Get those MITs out of the way first thing

Every single day you need to take the time to identify your Most Important Tasks or MITs. This is that one task that is so critical you essentially wasted your day if you haven’t accomplish this. Okay it’s not that serious but you get the point. An MIT is also a task that probably requires more brain power and focus that some of your other more trivial tasks.

The best approach is to always handle your MITs first. The reason for that is because you always want to take care of these when you have the most energy. For most, that’s at the beginning of the day. Not only that but you always want to make sure you have enough time in your day to take care of these. Saving them for the end of the workday is almost always a bad idea.

Practice “deep work”

Have you ever wondered how those Buddhist monks are able to meditate for hours without interruption? You guessed it – practice. Like any other skill in life, deep focus takes a ton of practice. While many of us don’t have 10 years to spare to take on life at the Monastery, many of us do have the ability to practice deep work.

Deep work means you remain focused on one task for hours at a time without disruption or distractions. Need to put together a 13 slide presentation? Instead of putting on a Spotify playlist and starting work only to be distracted by your smartphone, try committing to deep work. Use noise cancelling headphones, set a timer for 2-hours, and put on some background noise while you grind. Doing this will allow you to fully engage your brain and produce quality results.

Get rid of your smartphone

I mentioned this above and I’ll mention this again. Your phone is going to distract you throughout the workday. There’s really no way around it. In fact, it’s estimated that U.S. consumers spend at least 5 hours a day on their smartphones. Half of that time is estimated to be spent on social media and messaging apps. Think about if you put those 5-hours into something more productive?

The best strategy here is to simply put it away. And no, not in your pocket or on your desk. Put it in a drawer or even leave it in your bag. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, leave your phone at home and opt in to use a work phone. The point is, do what needs to be done to banish that smartphone while you’re working.

Take your mental breaks

Working for long hours can really put wear and tear on our brains. Nobody is meant to grind for that long without taking a break. If you’re starting to feel worn out at your desk, take a mental break. Even a short 5-minute break can significantly boost creativity and inspiration.

A pro tip is to take your break outside and get some fresh air. And again, leave your smartphone behind so you can really detach from work.

Exercise early and exercise often

Exercise is one of the best things you can do to improve your overall focus and productivity. When we exercise our body releases endorphins. This chemical gives us natural energy and motivation. It also improves our overall mood and reduces feelings of anxiety and stress. Sounds like a miracle drug right?

Exercise isn’t just good for the body either, studies have shown that people who work out have a greater volume in the parts of the brain that control their thinking and memory.

If you want to really maximize the effect of the endorphins you should exercise early in the morning. If you can work this into your morning routine, you’ll be off to a guaranteed good start every day.

Keep your workspace organized

A cluttered desk leads to a cluttered mind. And how many of us have cluttered desks at work? The answer is probably most of you. Research has shown that having too many items in your direct field of view has a measurably negative affect on your productivity. These studies have shown that too much clutter will cause people to lose the brain power necessary to remained focused.

Since I know many of you reading this article are also looking at the clutter on your desk, it’s time to take action now. Move unwanted items out of you direct field of view. I recommend throwing them away, but if you insist on keeping that pencil case from Sarah on the 3rd floor put it in the drawer underneath your desk. The point is, focus on where the work is being done. Everything else is a distraction.

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