2019 is here! Your mind is probably racing with all the things you want to do, see, accomplish, and complete this year. The question is: how? The list of things is long, and time is limited.

While it is tempting to get started on several of them at once, that approach is not going to do you any favours.

The key to achieving your goals and aims is intensive focus – not frenetic multitasking

Multitasking requires a significant mental exertion, which is neither sustainable nor productive. If you are a chronic multitasker, this is why you have days when you are completely exhausted even when you’ve slept well the night before.

The brain is an organ which is affected by stress in similar ways to other organs, as well as in many others. The brain also regulates our stress and mood systems and responses and, if we don’t pay attention to these, we can end up doing ourselves a lot of harm.

The starting point for intensive focus is the cultivation of internal and external environments which support it. In a world that glorifies ‘busyness’, and condones practices which allow people to behave in ways that would ordinarily be socially and culturally unacceptable, complete focus is difficult to attain (and maintain).

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These are some of the tools you can use:

1. Take a deep breath and start small

Deep breathing and breath control is a scientifically-proven way to calm ourselves down, and get ourselves focused on the task or situation at hand. Yoga and Tai Chi can support you in making this practice a regular feature in your life – just make sure that you research the different types/forms before signing up for a class.

2. Learn to break tasks up into manageable chunks

We feel overwhelmed when things seem too large, convoluted, or when we can’t immediately understand the scope. Tasks are easier to complete when they are broken into smaller parts. Prioritise what needs to be done, then focus on achieving small milestones.

3. Use an app to regulate, measure, and even reward, your productivity

While this sounds simple enough, it is challenging for people accustomed to regularly checking their DMs, emails, social media accounts, and other distractions, to be truly productive. Try these free apps: Any.do, Asana, Todoist, IFTTT, or Google Keep, or hire a personal productivity person (PPP).

If you are a chronic multitasker, this is why you have days when you are completely exhausted even if you slept well the night before

4. Clear the clutter

The beginning of a new year is one of the best times to get rid of things that you no longer need, and freeing up your physical space often frees mental space too. Remember your local charities and recycling depots when clearing up.

Read more: Let the re-gifting begin! SA’s top unwanted Christmas gifts

5. Learn to say yes – but only to the right things

Be realistic about what you can and cannot do and accomplish. This will be a lot simpler once you become truly productive, and see the benefits of being productive.

Productivity also brings with it the advantage of knowing how your time is spent – allowing you to plan and prepare for tasks better.