Anyone looking to maximise focus and productivity, achieve goals, and advance their career as a designer must learn how to focus their attention and eliminate distractions.

Distractions in our modern-day work environments abound; learning to direct your attention amongst the endless notifications and chatter in our lives is crucial to success.

There are many different strategies that can help minimise distractions, decrease stress, and improve focus. Not all work for everyone, which is why I wanted to share what’s working for me and how you can use these steps as a designer.

Topics Discussed in this Video:

01:09 Turn off Notifications

02:35 The Rule of Five Ones

02:51 Build a community using content creation

03:20 One Offer

04:30 One Target Market

04:50 One Channel

05:57 One Sales Machine

07:32 One Focus

Key Takeaways:

  • Building a community first allows you to get intimately acquainted with important players in the space.
  • When you feel like you have a dedicated audience, a devoted audience, and that they are consistently growing and not plateauing, and people are sending thank you notes with emotion, then and only then should you start creating a product.
  • Once you have an audience built to a certain size, stay focused on delivering more high-value content to them
  • Focus on value rather than the price at all times when creating your offer and stay focused on delivering value.

Action Steps:

  • Build a community around your offer through content creation. It doesn’t have to be a blog. It could be a podcast or YouTube channel. It could be a weekly webinar or Hangout with a group of people.
  • Find out what kind of persona your content attracts.
  • Solicit feedback from your community about what they want before you create a product.
  • Follow the Rule of Five Ones:
  1. Have ONE product.
  2. Market it to ONE persona.
  3. Focus on ONE traffic source.
  4. Send that traffic source to ONE conversion mechanism.
  5. Focus on this combination for ONE year until you have a consistent month over month growth.

Great Ideas To Improve Focus

Make a list:

Making lists isn’t just for the forgetful among us. At any given moment, designers get busy doing design work, looking at inspiration, listening to podcasts while looking for ideas and an endless assortment of things you don’t want to forget. Lists are critical in keeping everything accounted for.

For some people, writing everything down is a great way to objectively analyse things so you can prioritise your day. Being able to schedule things well, delegate things to other people, and figure out the best use of your time will keep your day focused and productive. Need some tips to optimise your lists? Here are a few:

Organise your lists in the evening or early morning

Writing your list the night before means you can start your day already prepared with what to expect and what needs to be accomplished. I also look over my lists of activities in the morning to stay focused. Sparing yourself the stress of figuring those things out during the chaos of the morning dash leaves you composed and capable of handling everything that comes your way.

Assign Time Estimates

Assigning a time to each task is a great way for you to see how long you believe a task will take as this helps you to plan your time accurately and focus your time on the right things to do.

Re-Evaluate

Look over everything you are working on and ask yourself what is urgent. And what is important.

This is a brilliant tool you can use to decide what to work on first.

A to-do list may not work for everyone so find out what works for you to focus on the right things to do and make sure you plan time in your day to focus on hitting your goals.

Take a break and think in silence

Sometimes the best strategy is to stop trying so hard and take a break. Our brains were not created to maintain constant attention, and taking short breaks can improve your ability to maintain focus over long periods of time.

Illinois researcher Alejandro Lleras examined the phenomenon known as “vigilance decrement,” in a study published in the Journal Cognition:

We propose that deactivating and reactivating your goals allows you to stay focused. From a practical standpoint, our 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!

There are a number of productivity systems you can try to help you work more effectively with breaks, such as the Pomodoro Technique, which breaks a task up into twenty-five-minute blocks, followed by a five-minute break. After you’ve repeated this four times, you then take a longer break of around thirty minutes.

Another option is the 52-17 method, proposed by the Draugiem Group. Through data from their productivity app DeskTime, they discovered that the most productive employees work for 52 minutes at a time, and then break for 17.

Focus Sprints

Use the 90 minutes cycle to your advantage

The human body operates on cycles called “ultradian rhythms.” According to research, during each of these cycles, there is a peak when we are most energised and a period when we are exhausted. You are most active in the morning.

Your brain can only focus for 90 to 120 minutes at a time. Afterwards, a 20–30 minute break is required for you to get the renewal to achieve high performance for your next task again, according to research.

During a productive sprint, you focus only on one task at a time and avoid distractions. Each sprint has a specific goal, and the end of the sprint signals a break to relax and set up for the next sprint.

In a post on Zapier, Stephen Altrogge says:

“With the 90-minute focus technique, you take full advantage of the energy peaks and troughs that occur throughout your day: Work 90 minutes and then rest for 20–30 minutes.

Working in 90-minute bursts allows you to correlate your maximum energy levels with your task list, which then gives your productivity a major boost. You’re working with your body instead of against it.

Breaks can be anything from going for a short walk, letting yourself daydream, or even just doodling for a bit. The point is to disengage from what you were working on and change up what you’re doing. By breaking up your concentration, you’ll give your brain a chance to recharge so you can return to what you were doing refreshed.

As an designer, responsibilities, to-dos, and design time on screen can threaten to overwhelm your precious little time and attention. Staying focused in the middle of the hectic every day is a critical component in anyone’s ability to not only get work done but get work done well.

Following these tips might just help you find your way to a calmer, more productive, and highly focused workweek.