Increasing your focus nowadays means planning your workday thoughtfully, having set start and stop times and specific blocks for just about everything in between. That includes meetings and tasks like writing, reading, editing or researching, as well as breaks to eat, exercise and read emails. “The way to bring structure is by making a schedule that constrains our time,” Mr. Eyal said. “We perform at our best when we know what our day is going to look like.”
Rather than keeping a to-do list, with tasks that often go unfinished and get recycled onto the next day’s list, Mr. Eyal suggests using a timebox calendar. “Because there are only 24 hours in a day, a calendar forces you to prioritize, to make a choice — do I want to do this or that?” he said. “With a timebox calendar, the goal is not to finish anything; the goal is to work on that task for as long as you said you would without distraction.”
Meetings Make an agenda for each meeting so that you and other attendees have an idea of how much time it will take and what you hope to accomplish.
Connections and social media Rather than read every email the moment it lands in your inbox, schedule two or three specific time slots during the day to batch them. Similarly, you can allocate a time to make personal phone calls and another to scroll through social media.
Quiet time With days of back-to-back meetings, it’s hard to fit in time to think and write, often the part of the job that gets relegated to early mornings or late nights. Mr. Eyal likes to use the “do-not-disturb-while-driving” function on his iPhone no matter what task he’s involved in, knowing that if the sender types urgent, the message will come through. “There’s so much we can do to get the best out of these products without letting them get the best of us,” Mr. Eyal said.
Refuel After a period of focused concentration, it’s important to take a brief micro-break to recharge — like a battery — according to a study in the International Journal of Stress Management. Schedule breaks for short unfocused activities, such as a quick walk or some stretching, as well as time to eat lunch.
Exercise Allotting time for exercise is a proven way to improve focus, memory and productivity. A British study found that workers experienced a 21 percent increase in concentration and a 41 percent increase in motivation on the days they worked out.