Staying focused at work can be remarkably challenging. What is one key strategy people can use to stay productive when there are a lot of calls for their attention, especially if they are extremely busy?

Busy small business owner staying productive

These answers are provided by Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most successful young entrepreneurs. YEC members represent nearly every industry, generate billions of dollars in revenue each year and have created tens of thousands of jobs. Learn more at yec.co.

1. Break Your Day Into 15-Minute Intervals

I’m a big fan of planning my day ahead of time. I’m so meticulous about it that I now block out my entire day in 15-minute intervals. That way, when I arrive at work, I have a game plan ready to go and if I stick to it, those days are highly productive. – Colbey Pfund, HUGS Wellness

2. Use Your Chat or Email Platform to Set Your Work Status

We have a status that we use on our Slack channel called “head down” time. Essentially, this means we have our heads down and we are hard at work on a specific task. Our notifications are muted and everyone knows that they can contact us in case of an emergency. I’ve found that this technique works if you need to focus time on a project or assignment. – John Turner, SeedProd LLC

3. Create a Chain of Command

A chain of command in your business will help you get more done, even if things are pretty hectic. We usually assign each of our teams a manager, and then have another higher-up available for multiple teams at once. This tactic allows our employees to get their questioned answered while allowing us time to stay focused and get our job done. – Chris Christoff, MonsterInsights

4. Create Visible Evidence of Every Job Done

Having many tasks to do can feel overwhelming and muddling. A helpful way to stay productive is to keep a track of all your tasks and mark them off when done. You can do this by making a list and crossing off an item. You can also shift marbles from one jar to another empty jar. A symbolic representation of completed tasks can have a powerful effect on your morale and improve your productivity. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

Employee wearing headphone accessing audio content

5. Play ‘Brain Music’

Sometimes in order to stay focused, you just have to put on some headphones and tune everything out. I like to listen to “brain music” which is music designed to enhance your focus. If you need to stay focused on a task, put on headphones and listen to brain music for an hour. An hour of uninterrupted, focused time on work will help increase productivity. – Thomas Griffin, OptinMonster

6. Plan Ahead the Night Before

If you’re a busy person, then planning ahead is key to ensure you get all your tasks done and do so before the deadline. The night before, plan out the next day so you can mentally prepare yourself for what’s to come. When you’re prepared for it, it seems less stressful and easier to tackle. – Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms

7. Delegate What You Can

Hire good people and delegate. With the right team, you will be able to focus on what you need to get done. They will take care of their responsibilities without needing your input every step of the way. It can be hard for entrepreneurs to delegate, but the alternative is constant distraction and no time to focus on what you’re best at and what matters most to the health of the business. – Chris Madden, Matchnode

8. Work Around Your Energy Levels

Everyone has different levels of energy throughout the day. Some are more productive first thing in the morning while others thrive as night owls. Once you figure out what kind of worker you are, use that to perform your tasks and projects accordingly. If you work better late at night, then tackle the biggest projects at that time when you feel more motivated. – Jared Atchison, WPForms

Make it happen

9. Establish Fixed Goals Every Day

To avoid toggling between items on an endless list of tasks, set a handful of key priorities for your day and execute on those. All other things can take a backseat while you maintain focus on completing your most important projects first so that you never end up derailing your overall productivity. Set deadlines for yourself for when you’ll complete each item as well. – Firas Kittaneh, Zoma Mattress

10. Limit Your ‘Just Checks’

Most of us claiming to work at one single task are, in reality, often punctuating their work with a series of “just checks” (quick glances at email inboxes, text messages, etc.). Research indicates that there’s a significant cost associated with “just checks.” Instead of frequent interruptions, set aside blocks of time for focused work. You’ll be surprised how much more productive you’ll feel. – Constantin Schreiber, Blair

11. Put on Headphones

We have an open floor plan office which can mean that everyone is often getting pulled in one hundred directions at once. When I need to focus and get things done I put on headphones without sound on. This signals to everyone that I’m engrossed in what I’m working on and that I can’t be disturbed. – Ashley Merrill, Lunya

12. Turn Off Your Phone

So much of our lives are now run through our phones. I find that if I cannot focus because of a barrage of distractions, simply turning off my phone for an hour or two allows me to focus and get done what I need to get done. Pushing your texts and calls aside for a few hours will not hurt anyone, but it will help your productivity. – Rana Gujral, Behavioral Signals

List of tasks

13. Create Lists to Prioritize Your Tasks

Start each day by drawing three columns on a piece of paper. Yes, paper! List pressing matters in the column to the left, less important things in the middle and those items that can wait in the third. As you go through your day, draw a line through each item as it is completed. Research shows retention is greater when words are written and crossing items off provides a feeling of accomplishment. – Elisabeth Swardstrom, PixelFish

14. Set Boundaries

Setting boundaries is key! Know what is important and what is distracting. Your job at work isn’t just to react and put out all the fires. Your job is to recognize what is a true fire and what is actually just a distraction. Your attention should be on the most important things to move the needle forward on your business, so if something is calling you away from that, set a boundary. – Diego Orjuela, Cables & Sensors