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How Busy People Get Things Done in the Age of Distraction

With all the things competing for our attention these days – from text messages to tweets to news feeds to chats – it’s easy to feel busy without actually being productive. We asked some of the busiest and most effective people we know how they stay focused.

Here are their best tricks:

Be first in the office

One Managing Director of a mid-size agency swears by arriving early on the days where he needs to draft an important deck or email. Walking into an empty, quiet office is like cutting a path in freshly fallen snow before it all turns to slush and madness. Since his thoughts aren’t clouded yet by the day’s priorities or his Inbox, he can think and write without distraction.

Not only is this time of day when he feels most alert and articulate, but getting important things out of the way before 9AM means he can be present for his team and clients during the work day.

Set a deadline

Many Strategists we work with have the enviable ability of crunching through huge amounts of data and distilling it into thoughtful sound bites that we can actually use. How do they ladder between minutia and epiphany?

One brilliant strategist we know assigns himself a deadline to get the story out, much like a journalist. But wait until you here how he does it! He uses hourglasses to measure the time spent on a certain task. Knowing he has to complete something against the clock has taught him to be laser-focused and ruthless about prioritizing information. No social media breaks allowed, no multi-tasking.

Batch process

Multi-tasking does seems to be the dirty word here. To avoid getting sucked into email, another agency leader will devote time toward the end of the day to go thru her Inbox. Often, she’ll tick off responses to the easy ones in 10 minutes or less. More time-consuming replies are saved for her commute later.

Do you have a great system that works for you? Let’s hear it. Help us all get more stuff done!

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