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You switch tasks every 40 seconds, productivity expert says—here are his 5 tips for staying focused

You focus on one thing for 40 seconds, on average, before getting distracted and moving on to something else. When this happens, it takes you 50 percent longer to complete your work, compared to when you stick to one task from start to finish without interruption. It also takes you an average of 25 minutes to resume working on that original task.

All of this is according to productivity expert Chris Bailey, who is the author of the recently released book "Hyperfocus: How to Be More Productive in a World of Distractions." For a year, Bailey ran a productivity project where he conducted intense research on how we can be as productive as possible in a world full of technology.

"The fascinating thing that I discovered about our attention is that we are wired to be distracted," he tells CNBC Make It. "We are wired to pay attention to anything that is pleasurable, threatening or novel. And this has actually served us pretty well up until this point in our evolution."

Non-stop technology distractions that include email, social media and Slack messaging alerts makes staying focused on one task more and more difficult.

But, according to Bailey, for every minute you spend taming the many workplace distractions you face, you gain an extra 10 minutes in productivity.

Businessman checking cell phone during a meeting in office
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Below, he outlines five tips that everyone should follow to remain productive in their personal and professional life.

1. Change your phone to grayscale mode

People check their phones every 15 minutes or less, even if they don't have any alerts or notifications, according to psychology professor and author Larry Rosen. That's why Bailey suggests changing the settings on your phone to grayscale mode where everything on your screen becomes black and white.

When you do this, he says, you will spend less time on social media because your phone screen will look far less appealing.

"The intentional architects who build these applications build them to take advantage of our attention," he explains. "We're wired to pay attention to anything with these high-saturated colors that are very stimulating and pleasurable and threatening to look at."

Japanese commuters on the Tokyo subway
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2. Turn off notifications

One of the biggest distractions that lead us to check our phones more often are app notifications. That's why, Bailey says, "one of the most productive things you can do is go through the notification settings on your phone and disable any alert, audible or vibrating, that you don't want to lose 26 minutes of productivity over."

He emphasizes that each time you pull your phone out of your pocket, you spend roughly 25.5 minutes going down a rabbit hole of distractions and "it's critical that [you] get ahead of this impulse."

3. Use airplane mode

Another way to keep your phone from being a major distraction is placing it in airplane mode. Bailey leaves his phone on airplane mode for half the day so that he can be focused on the tasks that he set out to complete.

"When I'm interrupted by my phone, that interruption is the least productive thing that I could be doing in that moment," he says. "It chops up whatever I am experiencing into smaller pieces of time and it makes me see less meaning in the world around me."

Bailey explains that you tend to see meaning in the experiences that you are able to process and focus on deeply, whether it be a conversation with a loved one or an assignment that you set out to complete at the beginning of the day. When these moments are constantly interrupted by technology, he says you start to create a life that feels distracted and overwhelming.

But, he says, if you make an active effort to give complete focus to the things that are important, you will feel a lot more productive and accomplished at the end of each day.

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4. Disconnect at night

Between the hours of 8 p.m and 8 a.m., Bailey implements a shut-off ritual where he is completely disconnected from the Internet. These are the hours where you have the least amount of enthusiasm and so being distracted during this time frame is rarely ever useful.

"I think it's so critical to defend not just our time during these periods, but also our attention, because our attention is vulnerable when we have the least amount of energy."

5. Delete the email app

The average worker checks their email eleven times per hour, or 88 times over the course of a work day, so, Bailey says, one of the most productive things he has ever done is delete the email app from his phone altogether.

While the idea of this may be scary at first, he says, the goal is to train yourself to not feel like you have to jump every time you get a new message.

Video by Beatriz Bajuelos Castillo

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