From the Editor

Michael Sliwinski — №32 with Sean Platt

I’m so glad we meet again. :-) Thank you for giving this issue of Productive! Magazine a try. I hope you find an article that will prove really timely for you and that will help you stay in control of your time. Right – time. Because time is your most precious resource. It’s one of those few things you simply can’t get back no matter what you do.

We both know that the real key here is not the amount of hours you stay at work, but how you actually use this time. Efficiency, process optimization and persistence are very important. And so is the focus!

Here is my piece of advice on how to get really concentrated on the “frog you’re about to eat.”

The solution I’d like to suggest is developing a simple ritual that will help you focus on the task at hand and complete it within one attempt.

Such a ritual will let you prepare both your workspace and your mind for a strenuous effort. Like every other routine/ritual, it will save you some decision-making time and make psychological space for creativity. The research also shows that rituals increase our involvement with the upcoming experience – and that is what we want, right? :-)

1. Declutter your workspace

It is much easier to concentrate on a task when the space around you is neat and clean. Seeing a lot of papers and things piled up stresses me out. It reminds me of all the stuff I haven’t done yet and that needs to be done really soon. It just makes me anxious!

Spend some time tidying up your desk and the entire space around you. If there is a lot of stuff and you want to start decluttering right away, you can place all of the things from your table into a box, which you then put aside somewhere. This will be your “inbox” which you’ll clear out later.

An extra idea that I haven’t tried yet but which sounds interesting is placing a distinctive object on your desk. It is supposed to trigger you to refocus. It could be something as simple as a flower or a candle. By associating the object with the need to stay on task, you will be reminded to get back to work each time you look at it.

2. Declutter your mind

It’s really difficult to give a task 100% of your attention when there are tens of things that occupy your thoughts. Upcoming meetings, important phone calls you need to make and the article you promised to write. Oh, and there is something you had to do about your kid’s school excursion. But what was it?

The best thing is to sit down and list all your thoughts, doubts and ideas. This way they will be safely waiting for you to finish with your crucial task and you won’t need to worry about forgetting something important.

You can use your notebook or put all these things in your Nozbe Inbox.

3. Get the right attitude

When working on a difficult and demanding task it is worth it to remember why you are actually doing it. Understanding the real purpose behind a given job and how it aligns with your goals is key!

Practice being thankful. Try to fixate on positive thoughts about your work and envision the moment when you achieve what you have planned. What you can do? Take a look at this year’s road map or your list of goals. Read a testimonial from your client or a positive comment from your blog reader.

4. Eliminate distractions

Now – the obvious. After dealing with your working space and attitude, make sure no external distractions will hinder your work progress and ruin your efforts.

Turn off push and desktop notifications, as well as the sound of your phone. You can also set some kind of anti-distraction application that will prevent you from visiting social media or news sites on the web. If you work in an open space or you share the office with others, ask them to wait with any requests and chats until you’re done. You may also suggest they try to work in silence too so that the level of noise in the office goes down. If you work at home, have the same conversation with your family or housemates.

5. Avoid coffee and black tea

Although there are various theories regarding to the influence coffee and tea have on your neurological system, I suggest you don’t drink coffee or strong black tea before getting to work on an important task. Too much caffeine or theine can leave you frazzled. Go for a glass of water instead. (Not too large though ;-) – otherwise you will quickly need to take a short break. And that will distract you and use your time.)

Final thoughts

In order not to forget anything you might want to write a checklist with all the stages of this “focusing ritual.” Use a pen and paper or an app like Nozbe to do that.

We’ve prepared a simple template to save you some time and effort. Feel free to use it. If you don’t have a Nozbe account, save this URL ( in your browser and go back to it every time you need. If you use Nozbe, add this template to your project list, make your own template out of it and start a new project every time you want to go through the ritual.

Now, just follow these steps, concentrate and get to work. Good luck! I’m sure you’ll do a great job!

Meet the well focused Productive! Magazine team :)

Execution: Magda Błaszczyk
Editing: Emily Derr, McKinley Coles and Daniella Conley
Design: Radek Kozieł
Technology: Radek Pietruszewski and Tomasz Kapelak
Video editing: Marcin Hinz
Vision (that’s me!): Michael Sliwinski

Michael sliwinski

Michael Sliwinski

Michael Sliwinski is the editor of Productive! Magazine and the founder of Nozbe (a time and project management application for busy professionals). He is a #NoOffice working style evangelist and the best-selling author of #iPadOnly and It’s All About Passion.

Visit Michael's blog Follow @MSliwinski on Twitter Check out his book: #iPadOnly