Fight Distractions and Stay on Task With These 13 Productivity Strategies

What is a key strategy you use to stay productive and focused when you are extremely busy at work and need to get things done?

Productive business woman

These answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invitation-only organization made up of the world’s most successful young entrepreneurs. YEC members represent nearly every industry, generate billions of dollars in revenue annually and have created tens of thousands of jobs. More information at

1. Use a ‘traffic light system’ for availability

Eliminating distractions is the first order of business. I use a traffic light system: a light above my office door turns red when I am busy or unavailable, yellow is only for urgent matters and green is for my open-door policy. This has been adjusted by our team members in Slack when they change their status to demonstrate availability, and it helps build respect among colleagues by setting clear boundaries.

– Shay Berman, Digital Resource

2. Create a comprehensive to-do list

It’s very easy to get sidetracked, even if you’re the best at multitasking. I find that making a to-do list helps me visualize my day. I prioritize the important projects and then block off time slots for the remaining tasks. What’s really great is the feeling of satisfaction when you complete completed tasks. At the end of the day my planner is full of scribbles, but what a wonderful mess!

– Andrew Saladino, Kitchen Cabinet Kings

3. Prioritize your tasks in the morning

I would make a to-do list the night before for the next day. I looked at the list in the morning to prioritize before the workday started and left the list in a visible place while I worked. It reminds me that I’m on the right track when I get derailed from the task at hand. If I find myself getting distracted, I take a short break and then come back to regain focus.

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– Meeky Hwang, Ndevr, Inc

4. Build in time for distractions

Budget limited time for your favorite distractions and tasks. There should be tasks that are negotiable and non-negotiable. Reward yourself for each task completed. For each two-hour task, set aside time for your favorite distraction for at least 30 minutes and up to one hour. Don’t make excuses to get distracted, find ways to be rewarded with a chance to have fun.

– Daisy Jing, Banish

Self-employed man who works all the time

5. Focus on one task at a time

People tend to multitask when there is a certain amount of work to be done in a short period of time. Businesses often lose productivity due to multitasking, which will inevitably hinder sales. When you are in the right flow and completely absorbed in one task, your productivity peaks. So drop everything and focus on one task at a time.

– Vikas Agrawal, Infobrandz

6. Divide tasks into groups

To stay productive when I’m super busy, I divide my tasks into groups: one critical task, three medium tasks, and five smaller tasks. You can change the amount depending on how much you need to accomplish that day, but it generally works for me when I have a lot on my plate. I can focus on one thing at a time and rest easy knowing I have a plan to get everything done on time.

– Jared Atchison, WPForms

7. Listen to music that promotes productivity

To stay productive, I put on focus-specific music designed to help you get a lot done in a short amount of time. Some examples are the music on or classical music playlists on YouTube. These somehow help me stay on task and get my to-do list done faster.

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– Stephanie Wells, Formidable Shapes

8. Prioritize a healthy lifestyle

An overlooked productivity hack is a healthy lifestyle. Numerous studies show a direct link between health and mental acuity. Make time every day to exercise and clear your head, even if it’s just for a walk. Eat clean throughout the day so you don’t feel lethargic in the afternoon. By taking care of your body and giving it the right fuel and exercise, you can maintain your focus much more easily.

– Shaun Conrad, Guitar Repair Bank

9. Turn off your phone

Turn off your phone if you want to concentrate. Put it out of your physical reach. I promise you that most of the time the messages and phone calls can wait. If you have an assistant, let them know that you don’t want to be disturbed for an hour, or however long it takes to complete your priority project. We all live in a world full of distracting habits, rings and warning banners. Turn off the sound.

– Tyler Bray, TK Trailer Parts

Business woman does creative thinking

10. Cancel part of your day

Disconnect your WiFi and cancel part of your day if it’s really important. Disconnecting prevents distraction. Canceling some of your meetings gives you the time to not only be productive, but also be more creative.

– Adam Crawshaw, General Assembly

11. Find your rhythm

For me, productivity is about finding a rhythm. When I feel ‘off’ it is difficult for me to perform at my best. I’ve found that small but essential things like breakfast, music and a space to stretch my legs keep my energy up. The result is that I can stay productive from the moment I start work until the end of the day.

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– John Brackett, Smash Balloon LLC

12. Take short breaks

Take breaks, even if they are small. This may seem counterintuitive, but it really isn’t. If you’re trying to get 20 things done in a day and you’re working at full speed from 8am to 5pm without a break, you might think you’re getting things done, but that’s actually not the case. Take it easy, give yourself a breather every few hours and you’ll be sure to get things done with a high degree of quality.

– Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance

13. Start with your most difficult task

Focus. If you want to do many things well in one day, you have to do them one by one. Before you start the day, you need to know what tasks you need to complete that day. Start with the hardest and most important ones before you do anything else. This way, in the long run, you can get important work done every day and therefore maintain high productivity.

– Samuel Thimothy, OneIMS

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