Punching the Clock and Other Tips to Stay Focused

In a time when our schedules and to-do lists can be literally found in our pockets in the form of a smartphone, one would think that productivity comes easier.

Alas, if you’ve ever sat down in front of your desk with dozens of unread and unreplied emails, text messages, and tasks that just keep on giving birth, you would know that that is rarely the case.

Advancements in technology with regards to communication have their ups but IMs and emails can also overwhelm us, making it seem like there’s always a laundry list of to-dos. Our mind goes into overdrive, the body follows and we face overwhelm, even burnout.

So, is there really a way for us to check everything off our lists without literally punching the clock out of frustration?

1. Turn off and silent distractions

This is an oldie but a goodie.

Most of our unproductiveness stems from our inability to shun unnecessary stimuli. “Stimuli” can be the shine of our phones whenever we receive a message, that buzz whenever we are getting a call or the ping! notifications of our social media accounts.

The golden rule is: If it doesn’t get you to where you need to go, it has to go…at least for the time being. After which, indulge in a few minutes of virtual socializing but be aware of how much time you spend on your device.

There are apps you can try if you want to monitor your screen time.

2. Multi-tasking is a scam

More isn’t always better.

The lie is this: If I do five tasks simultaneously in an hour, it would mean I have more results, therefore, I am more productive.

Our brains are capable of doing so many things simultaneously, like controlling our lower limbs when we walk while processing images ahead so we don’t bump into a person we come across. But even so, our senses’ activities are still lower than what they would be if we’re using them one at a time.

When we are searching for a subtle noise in a recording, we close our eyes, cup our ears to turn off unnecessary noise, and focus on finding what we’re looking for. That’s us using a greater percentage of our hearing, resulting in better focus.

The same is true with the use of time. Studies have shown that multitasking drains our brain’s energy reserve, making us feel more tired.

Doing more may make us check more things off of our to-do lists, but, more often than not, we produce subpar, mediocre output. This can result in having to do a task all over again, eating more time and energy.

Learn to communicate and delegate tasks at a specific time or to a specific person: Answer emails at 7:00, then again at 10:00. Create action plans at a certain hour, fix the budget at a set day, or take advantage of automated management tools to save time.

This brings us to number 3.

3. The 10-minute rule

The rule is simple: Any task that takes more than 10 minutes of your time, needs to be broken down or delegated.

Example: I have to read 5 to 8 articles for a blog I have to publish in a week. I can either:

  • Allocate 10 minutes of my time focusing on nothing but reading those articles
  • Ask someone to help me digest and summarize them and ask for insights

However, what I SHOULDN’T do is try to get through them in one go.

Sometimes, we lose our focus because we have been engaged in something for too long and therefore our brain gets tired or bored, and actively searches for relief.

Of course, the 10-minute rule has exemptions, but it is very much effective for many repetitive and tedious tasks.

4. Rest

Even a machine needs its downtime, lest it burns out.

Take breaks after each task. Read a funny article, enjoy a soothing beverage with a colleague or by yourself, or just not do anything to unwind. Freshen up while your mind reboots. You’ve earned it.

Life is a balancing act, and time is one of its heavyweights. Achieving that homeostasis takes focus, dedication, and patience. All in all, allotting and actually dedicating proper time for everything and for yourself are the keys to productivity as well as a positive relationship with yourself.



1. The 10-Minute Rule: It Seems Crazy, But it Will Revolutionize Your Productivity

2. Neuroscientists say multitasking literally drains the energy reserves of your brain

3. How to Stay Focused: Train Your Brain