You come into work every morning with big plans to be productive, to cross off all the things on your to-do list—including the things you were going to do Monday, then Tuesday, then Wednesday and didn’t—right?
But a half hour into your I’m-going-to-be-super-productive day, when you’re almost caught up with unread emails, your co-worker messages you on Gchat to ask a quick question (“Hey, quick q: What time’s our meeting today?”). So you leave Outlook behind to open your Gmail tab and reply (“3:30—I don’t wanna goooo!”). You glance at the other open tabs on your browser and remember, oh yeah, you need to check that Google doc, which reminds you, you need to add something to that one spreadsheet on the network drive.
Thirty minutes. That’s all it’s been. And you’re already lost in the maze of emails, Internet tabs and network files. So while you’re thanking God for your double monitors, you’re also cursing the amount of windows they can display, constantly stealing your attention and reminding you of all the things you need to do.
And that’s when your phone lights up—someone sent a Buzzfeed link about hilarious autocorrects in your group text (“Dying! Lol”).
Snap out of it! This is supposed to be your day of productivity!
Don’t worry. We’ve got your back. We asked the Young Entrepreneur Council, “What is one tool or method for achieving uninterrupted focus when you most need it?” for their best productivity hacks, so you can get to work, like now:
1. Use Inbox Pause to cut email distraction.
Inbox Pause is a brilliant Chrome extension that archives incoming emails in a hidden folder. This prevents your inbox from flooding and eliminates the temptation to check it. Once it’s installed, just click the “pause” button, and any incoming email stops coming into your main inbox. When you’re ready to see your emails, click “unpause,” and they’ll be instantly transferred!
—Alex Miller, PosiRank LLC
2. Unplug, and use a notepad and pen.
The best way for me to achieve uninterrupted focus is closing my laptop, turning my phone off, and pulling out a notepad and a pen. If I really need to sit down and get something done, this is the way to do it. No distractions, no mind wandering. It just comes down to you, your ideas and formulating those on a piece of paper.
—Cassie Petrey, Crowd Surf
3. Use earplugs.
It’s the least sexy answer of all, but earplugs are truly effective. If you need uninterrupted focus, earplugs accomplish this in many ways. First, people aren’t likely to interrupt you if they see that you’re wearing earplugs. Second, they eliminate distracting stimuli. Lastly, hearing your own breathing is grounding and calming, which helps center your focus.
—Andrew Thomas, SkyBell Video Doorbell
4. Block your ads with Intently.
Ad-blockers are hot right now because online ads are attention sabotagers. Intently is a free browser plug-in and lets you replace ads with motivational images and messages like “Now get back to work.” This is a productivity lifesaver for those who tend to get sucked into targeted, compelling online ads.
—Beck Bamberger, BAM Communications
5. Work in blocks with breaks.
The best way to maximize 130 minutes and have great focus is to build in breaks. Set a timer for 25 minutes, and focus. Break for five minutes. Do that three more times. Then after the fourth 25-min focus block, take a 15-minute break. On breaks, do not check your email or phone. Stretch, grab a snack, take a walk, listen to music or do anything else that refuels you.
—Christine Hassler, Christine Hassler, Inc
6. Use one tab.
Having numerous tabs open can be distracting. One Tab saves all your open tabs which you can revisit later, so you can reduce 20 tabs, for example, to one. It really helps me reduce the anxiety of having too many tabs open.
—Mike Ambassador Bruny, No More Reasonable Doubt
7. Use [email protected].
[email protected] has been a savior for me. It’s a web app that plays specially composed music to quickly get you into a productive state. I stumbled on it a few years ago when I was seriously struggling to maintain focus. Now I do three sessions of 100 minutes each with a 30-minute break in between. When I use [email protected], I am locked into work and able to accomplish a ton when I really need to.
—Sean Ogle, Location 180, LLC
8. Set aside an hour a day.
Creating a checklist and setting aside one hour outside of my regular business hours has helped tremendously increase my productivity. I sometimes even let my staff go home early so that I can get that extra hour of uninterrupted focus in the office. The secret is to create a realistic to-do list that you can accomplish in an hour—something most Type A’s have a hard time doing.
—Jobby John, EndoTech Solutions
9. Minimize alerts.
My biggest interruption comes from alerts. From social media to email, my phone is always buzzing. However, I don’t want to turn all alerts off because it risks missing something of timely importance. I have only certain emails (from my VIP contacts list) set to alert me on my phone. This helps me dedicate time to focus on the tasks I need to accomplish while still ensuring that I get the messages I need.
—Nicole Smartt, Star Staffing
10. Let your battery run out.
One solution that motivates me is to take my laptop, without the power cord, to a quiet place and use this very simple and effective “timer” method to ensure I accomplish as much as possible before my laptop runs out of power. This, in addition to a to-do list, allows me to “gamify” my productivity and certain activities in my day, to see how productive I can be with one full charge.
—Julien Pham, RubiconMD
11. Close your door.
I shut my door and have a “Do Not Disturb” sign hanging on it. Everyone in the office knows that means it’s my quiet time to focus.
—Kristy Knichel, Knichel Logistics
12. Use the Kanban Method.
I have tried using the Pomodoro Technique, and it just leads to anxiety about not completing tasks when I want to. The better method, I’ve found, for achieving uninterrupted focus is the Kanban Method. It allows you to divide tasks in a way that you can pick them up the next time. The best (integrated) app for this method is Kanbachi. You can use it on both your phone and in your web browser.
—Cody McLain, SupportNinja
Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.