Have you ever found yourself walking into a room . . . or opening a drawer . . . or picking up the phone—only to realize that you have no idea why or what or who you needed? Have you ever gotten to the end of a busy day and wondered how nothing on your to-do list seemed to get done?

In a world where meals are Instagrammed, emails wake you from your sleep, and political tweets are on the evening news, it’s become harder than ever to stay in the present moment and focus on the people, places, and things that are most important to us. It’s really easy to feel busy and informed, without actually being productive.

That’s why our focus this month is . . . well, focus. And productivity, too! Because while it may seem obvious to some, focus and productivity are two different, though related, concepts.

Focus is the center of your attention—whether it’s a person, an activity, a thing, an event, or so on.

Productivity is when you take actions that actually produce something.

According to habits blogger, James Clear: “Focus is the key to productivity because saying no to every other option unlocks your ability to accomplish the one thing that is left.”

It’s certainly not easy (or ideal) to be hyper-focused or “in the zone” all the time, but it helps to know how to move into that state when you need to be. Because greater focus leads to greater productivity—and greater productivity allows you to live the life you’re aspiring to design so well.

And that’s our goal here at Day Designer: to help you create a well-designed life, and then to help you actually live it. We’re going to cover several different ways you can use focus and productivity to do just that this month, including: resisting the pull of procrastination, avoiding perfectionism while still being productive, and how giving yourself a break will actually make you more successful. Stay tuned for those posts!

In the meantime, here are a few quick tips to help you manage your focus—and increase your productivity!—starting today:

Plan Your Day the Night Before

It’s a lot easier to stay focused when you start your day knowing exactly what you need to focus on. Consider everything that needs to get done. Fill these in and identify your top three most important tasks in your Day Designer, in order of importance. When you wake the next morning, you’ll know exactly what to focus on and why!

Turn Off Email and Social Media

We’re not saying don’t ever check it—just give your brain a rest from the constant interruptions of the outside world. Take email and social media off your phone, and turn off notifications on your computer. Set designated times to check in, then return your focus to the tasks that matter!

Set a Timer

It can be hard to focus when you have an indeterminate amount of time within which you need to do so. Pay attention to about how long you can stay focused on a single task. For many people, 15-20 minutes is a good block to start with. Set your timer, focus on one activity until the timer goes off—then, take a 5-minute break and start again.

What are your top tips for staying focused and productive? Share some more ideas with us in the comments below!