Have you ever thought: “Look at my colleague over there. Such a hard worker. Wonder what’s their secret?” and wondered how you could become that person? The one who always seems to get the most done is hyper-focused and envied by everyone? Then, you’ve come to the right place!
Smarter Faster Better
by Charles Duhigg
⏱ 15 minutes reading time
🎧 Audio version available
Declutter Your Desk
On your journey to becoming super focused at work and the office’s envy, one of the first things you should do is have your space reflect that determination.
A decluttered desk dramatically helps you minimize distractions and interruptions. When your workspace is organized and, by extension, aesthetically pleasing, you can work peacefully while knowing that whenever you need something, you won’t need to actually get up and look for it.
Turn Your Phone Off
You can’t possibly hope to improve your focus at work if your attention is constantly and consistently caught by your phone buzzing with a new social media notification or if your computer is continually popping email updates.
Be the professional you aspire to be and turn your personal phone on airplane mode. Go the extra mile and have all notifications on your computer disabled. So there, no electronic interruption will come in your way!
Write Your Tasks By the Hour
The major hitters like Bill Gates and Elon Musk employ this method, though they take further and divide their schedules by five-minute blocks. So here’s our next mind hack to accomplishing a ridiculous amount of work each hour! Keep your brain focused by physically writing out each task you want to get done within the next hour.
This to-do list will help guide your focus on each project at a time.
Plus, the one-hour deadline will add a beautiful sense of urgency that will help you stay on course and not stray to another time-consuming task.
Alternate Between High and Low Attention Tasks
You can have all the to-do lists in the world and wonder why you can’t seem to apply yourself to them. Have you considered this method? Alternate between tasks that require high and low attention.
Let’s say you have to write a challenging report. Afterward, you’ll probably feel drained. And the last thing you want to do is dive into another report. So instead, you’ll find it a godsend to busy your mind with a low-attention task. This includes anything from filing to replying to emails.
Work on this for 15 minutes or so before diving back into a high-attention situation; you’ll find yourself even more productive!
Use a Headset
This is a bit of a more fun hack, but it’s no less useful! If you can, purchase a phone headset. It will save you the trouble of reaching for your phone whenever it rings, and if your coworkers believe you’re busy talking on the phone, hard at work, they are considerably less likely to interrupt you.
By now, they’ve probably started admiring you for how dedicated you seem.
Set Deadlines for Yourself
Deadlines– love and hate them all you want, but the thing about them is that they’re efficient. Deadlines help you get all your ducks in a row, and more importantly, they help push any procrastination desires away.
Give yourself a deadline, for example, 30 minutes to finish organizing your file cabinet. Remember, the deadline has to be reasonable and in line with the task. And there, you’ll find yourself leaving work without a heavy heart, knowing you finished all you needed to do!
Apply the Two-Minute Rule
The two-minute rule is a favorite among many hard workers. It’s simple and strangely effective. Look at a task. If it takes less than two minutes to accomplish, then do it.
What’s the alternative? Even if you don’t mean to, these little tiny tasks, each worth two minutes, will build up at the bottom of your to-do list.
Harness the Full Power of Your Mind
“Harness the full power of your mind” is a fancy way of saying figure out how your mind works best when you’re most productive and how to convince your brain to do deep work.
Let’s break it down. Every person has a different body clock. Some are more productive in the morning. Some, though rarer, can only function at an alert level later in the afternoon or even at night. The trick is to find your natural rhythm. This way, you can figure out how to schedule your day around your peak levels of productivity.
Take a Mental Break
This trick is just for you. Never in the history of time has a person been able to continually work for long hours without a break without burning out. Making the time in your schedule for a strategic, productive break can wildly boost your focus later on.
It’s during those productive breaks– and we call them that because you come back even more productive from them– that some of the best ideas emerge—otherwise, mental fatigue and a sense of feeling burnt out can occur soon enough. So put your laptop down, go for a walk, have a snack, or simply talk to a friend for a few minutes before returning to your duties.
Work for 90 Minutes at a Time
Several studies show that that 90-minute cycle is oddly effective. Your mind works in cycles of 90 minutes. During this time, you can naturally focus more and be more engaged with your work.
Those 90 minutes are followed by some 20 minutes where your mind needs a break, so it enters what’s called a “brain dog,” where you have a hard time focusing as much. Work ahead of your brain and harness this cycle. Work for 90 minutes and take a break between cycles.
Use the Pomodoro Technique
Speaking of natural cycles and breaks, the Pomodoro Technique will have your coworkers wondering what’s your trick. The Pomodoro Technique has you set a timer for 25 minutes, no more and no less, and then work for that amount of time without a single distraction.
When the timer dings, take a five-minute break before resetting it. There’s a little reward system set in for your benefit, too. After four Pomodoro cycles, lengthen your break to 15 to 30 minutes.
These techniques and tricks will help you concentrate better at work, and before you know it, people will be asking you what your secret is!
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