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It always seems like we have more to do than hours in a day -- waves of work demands, constant family obligations and a cacophony of phone calls, emails, texts and reminders. Amidst this overload, it’s increasingly hard to focus on the things that are important to us and give them the level of attention, passion and creativity we’d like. Here are some basic guides I’ve found helpful for creating the mental space for making smart choices on what to pay attention to and getting these things done effectively. I’m sure the TechHui community has lots more great suggestions and ideas and would love to hear them too!

Cut Down Multitasking

Multitasking seems like an unavoidable feature of our lives, but the list of ills attributed to it seems ever-growing:


I find that the first part of my day is the most important chunk of time to protect from multitasking. That’s because some focused, peaceful time spent in the morning really helps me pick more wisely the things that need my attention and zoom in on getting them done. Here’s what I find works for me:

  • 30 minutes first thing in the morning sorting through what I need to do today.
  • Pick one or two key tasks that I want to complete before noon and go at it. That gives me the sense that I’ve accomplished at least one important thing today. And don’t get greedy and try and squeeze more than two in this slot -- it just means little or none will get done.
  • Restrain my habit of constantly looking at my smartphone. I’ve found that putting my phone in a pouch works well -- the small additional barrier of having to unzip the pouch and extract the phone cuts down that reflex action of constantly checking the device.


There are a multitude of other tips and tricks for improving focus and productivity. But again, for me, too many means too little gets done. So I stick to my three simple techniques and accept that this will be a constant, uphill battle. I’m happy with slow, steady improvement!

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Tags: life-hack, multitasking, productivity

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Comment by Chris Sass on August 31, 2012 at 3:55pm

Nice post!  I should probably try the smartphone suggestion as well :)

Comment by Joseph Lui on August 31, 2012 at 3:35pm

This is a useful, semi-related blog post for focusing and increasing productivity too.

http://www.techhui.com/profiles/blogs/employing-the-pomodoro-techni...

Comment by Scott Murphy on August 31, 2012 at 12:44pm

Great tips :)

Restrain my habit of constantly looking at my smartphone. I’ve found that putting my phone in a pouch works well -- the small additional barrier of having to unzip the pouch and extract the phone cuts down that reflex action of constantly checking the device.

This is one that I need to learn.  At my current rate, my wife has warned me that my next phone will be my daughter's toy phone.

Comment by jianshi on August 30, 2012 at 10:36pm

Totally agree. Writing down things is so important. Learned a lot from the links. Thanks for this article!

Comment by Daniel Leuck on August 30, 2012 at 3:22pm

Tzyh: There’s evidence that multitasking increasingly hurts short-term memory the older you are.

Mika looked at me and said, "That explains a lot grandpa."

Tzyh: I find that the first part of my day is the most important chunk of time to protect from multitasking.

This is true for me as well. Days with protected mornings are 2-3 times as productive.

Comment by Joseph Lui on August 30, 2012 at 2:13pm

Amen! Turning off email for a while is a good tactic too. Our brains have evolved to receive a squirt of dopamine when it's interrupted by something like a text or email, presumably a primitive form of excitement when it feels it needs to respond to something immediate. But just like street dope, it can become addictive, unhealthy, and ultimately counter-productive.

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