Here Are The Best Productivity Hacks For Time Management And Focus
Workin' Girl

Here Are The Best Productivity Hacks For Time Management And Focus

When we think about how our brain is able to manage all of the decisions and operations going through our head, we can thank one cognitive role for keeping everything running smoothly: and that’s executive function.

What Is Executive Function?

Think of executive function and self-regulation skills as mental processes that enable us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully.

There are three common parts to executive function:

  1. Working Memory: Consider this to be your mental sticky notepad to help you remember things temporarily while you're doing something, like following instructions, solving problems, or planning tasks.
  2. Inhibition: Think of this as the traffic cop of your brain that assists you in stopping and thinking before you act, so you can make better choices — like pressing a pause button before doing something impulsive.
  3. Cognitive Flexibility: This is your mental adaptable problem solver for switching gears and seeing things from all angles.

But living in our current “ADHA culture,” the self-regulation of day-to-day tasks has gotten more difficult to balance, causing a dysfunction in the brain — and I’m one to admit my own struggles in this department.

One part due to adulthood, another due to not reporting to an office setting every day — not to mention the many distractions that we navigate on a daily basis — concentration and moving from one task to the next don’t always come easy to me.

It’s almost as if my brain needs its own personal assistant to delegate the list of responsibilities in my head in order to execute them efficiently. And while I haven’t been formally diagnosed with ADHD, I knew that there had to be something more to my struggles with prioritizing my to-do list, switching from one task to another, and easily getting distracted. And in learning about executive function, I could breathe a sigh of relief when I discovered that there was an actual name to make sense of this miscue in focus and that I wasn’t the only one struggling with it.

“I like to think of ADHD and executive function as a dynamic duo with a unique relationship between the two,” Corey Lewis, CEO and co-founder of the 1AND1 app, tells xoNecole. “As someone who has spent a lot of time around very successful people with ADHD, I've been able to gain insight into the relationship of ADHD with executive function. It's like a rollercoaster ride, with moments of brilliance and occasional challenges. ADHD can impact executive function, making it harder to stay focused, regulate impulses, and manage time effectively.”

"ADHD can impact executive function, making it harder to stay focused, regulate impulses, and manage time effectively."

For both Lewis and his co-founder, Thomas Drew, President at 1AND1, being former professional football players turned entrepreneurs, Drew and Lewis are normalizing mental health conversations through their wellness platform, 1AND1. “We designed the 1AND1 app to aid people in their journey toward becoming 1% better every day through incremental changes,” Drew shares.

Procrastination is a common challenge for those who struggle with executive function because of its direct impact on their ability to initiate and sustain focus on tasks. Due to executive function deficits, prioritizing, planning, and breaking down tedious and monotonous tasks into manageable steps can be difficult to manage, which tends to lead to feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and avoiding tasks altogether, thus resulting in procrastination.

“The key to conquering difficult or monotonous tasks is to break down big goals into small, achievable steps,” Drew explains. To work through these moments of monotony, Drew implements a color-coded system for prioritizing tasks based on urgency. “This helps to identify what needs immediate attention, what can be completed at a later time, and which tasks can be delegated,” he explains.

"The key to conquering difficult or monotonous tasks is to break down big goals into small, achievable steps."

Improving your executive function takes time, effort, and, most importantly, patience. But when you have the right strategies and celebrate small victories, you’ll start to see a boost in your productivity before you know it. And to help you and your brain on track, Lewis and Drew share their top strategies to enhance executive function.

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How To Boost Your Executive Function Skills

Establish And Stick To A Daily Routine:

“Prioritize tasks by importance and urgency, and break them down into actionable steps. Utilize visual aids like calendars, to-do lists, or digital apps to keep yourself organized.”

Gamify As Many Tasks As Possible:

“It gives us the extra dopamine that our brains lack and helps us to get into that hyper-productivity, mega-flow state that is an ADHD superpower. I regularly use our 1AND1 App, which uses AI to build repetition into my schedule.”

Practice Mindfulness And Stress Management Techniques:

“[These] enhance focus and reduce distractions. Taking care of your physical health is also very important. You can accomplish this through regular exercise, proper nutrition, and quality sleep. Small tweaks to your routine can lead to significant improvements in your executive function skills.”

Apply The OTB Strategy:

The OTB Strategy is anchored by the time-blocking and color-coding method. First, color code your tasks using the system I mentioned previously. Then, start to time block and schedule your daily tasks based on your rules”.

“After you color code and time block, for each day, identify your 'one big thing' — which is the one big thing that, if you were to fully get that done within the day — it would make the day a success. For ADHDers, we need rewards, so even if you don’t get everything done that you wanted to in a day, you can know that you accomplished your OBT, which ultimately made the day a success.”

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Featured image by LumiNola/Getty Images

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