How can you be productive in business when the modern world is designed to distract you?

Posted by Derek Mason

16th February 2021

Picture credit: on Unsplash

At the moment it can seem like the world is determined to distract us from our work. Many people are understandably feeling anxious about everything from the global pandemic to climate change to political upheaval and unrest. So how do we stay focused on our businesses in this challenging and distracting world?

With the current ups and downs, it’s more important than ever to be able to stay on track in our work, and to support our staff to do the same.

Here are some useful ideas for you, to help you increase productivity and effectiveness in your own business. I’ve found it’s best to implement one thing at a time, as that gives you the greatest chance of making it stick, so that it becomes your habitual way of doing things.

First, let’s look at a tip recommended by many, including the motivational speaker, Tony Robbins:


This one can work well if you’re feeling overwhelmed by having too much to do and not enough time. You group similar tasks together, so you can plough through them faster.

There are three steps to chunking:

  1. Capture everything you need to do this week by writing it down. Include ideas, goals, and situations that require your attention.
  2. Search for common threads among your tasks, or tasks that relate to the same area of business and put similar tasks in the same “pile” or list – these are your chunks.
  3. Choose the most urgent and important actions within each chunk or category and work on those first. This helps you to keep making progress in each area of your business.

The next tip is something recommended by time management coach, Elizabeth Grace Saunders. She suggests we reuse previous material.

Reusing Previous Material

Wherever you can, copy, paste and edit. Use work you’ve done before. This can be within emails, presentations, training courses, proposals or pretty much any activity where you’re letting someone have similar information to that which you’ve already produced.

It’s especially useful if you get the same questions from potential customers dropping into your inbox again and again. Or if you regularly give talks to different groups on the same subject. The best speakers tend to repeat their speeches – partly because practice makes perfect and partly because it saves them an awful lot of preparation time.

This third tip comes from the book, The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande.

Checklists and Templates

The Checklist Manifesto is about how we can improve our work, especially in terms of safety and reliability, by using checklists. They’re often used in aviation and healthcare to support decision-making and help avoid human error.

For example, a hospital in Hull developed a checklist for all patients suspected of having COVID-19, which they then shared for other hospitals to use.

But checklists are not only of value in critical situations. If you perform the same tasks routinely in your business, it makes sense to create a checklist. It means less brain power is required to carry out your tasks, and you’re much less likely to miss something important.

Using templates will also speed things up. You might create a “respond to enquiries” email template, a “follow up with leads who’ve gone quiet” email template and multiple proposal templates for specific types of project. In terms of checklists you might have an “onboarding a new client” checklist, a “monthly finances checklist” and a “writing a blog” checklist that includes elements like sourcing a picture and writing the headline.

You don’t need fancy software to achieve this – keeping your checklists in Word and your email templates in your drafts will work fine while you’re getting these habits to stick. You don’t want to pay for software that you might not use.

These tips above are useful ones to put in place while the world is in crisis mode, as they are all things that will help you get more focused in a very distracting world.

If you can implement these now, you’ll be all set to be much more effective and efficient when the country opens up more fully.

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