Have you met people who are able to finish a task at lightning speed, deliver their projects before their deadlines, and still seemingly keep their concentration all day at work? Do you wish you could be more like them?
There is nothing special about those people– except that they know how to make the most of their time and energy. Don’t worry; we’re going to show you how!
The Miracle Morning
by Hal Elrod
⏱ 16 minutes reading time
🎧 Audio version available
Remove All Distractions
This is the first and most effective step you can take towards staying focused: eliminating distractions around you.
Of course, not all distractions are things you can control, but here are a few things to start off with. It starts with turning off your phone’s notifications and setting it on silent. If that doesn’t work, turning your phone off entirely also works. Even better, put it in a drawer, or somewhere out of eyeshot.
If you’re in a professional working space, close the door to your office or move to the quietest area you can find.
You can also tell others you need to focus for a period of time and ask them not to distract you.
It’s important to determine if those distractions are holding you back are external or internal. External distractions, such as noise or co-workers can be solved with the methods we just shared. If it’s your phone, you can turn it off. Or if it’s your computer, try closing any extra tabs or programs that aren’t necessary to your work.
Set SMART Goals
What do “SMART” goals stand for? It’s an acronym that stands for:
A Specific Goal, which means that you have a clear, precise goal in mind.
A Measurable Goal, which means that the goal or task ahead is something you can track.
An Achievable Goal, which is a goal that is realistic and can be done within its deadline.
A Relevant Goal, which is a goal that fits in with your general plan.
A Timely Goal. Having a timely goal means that you know how much time you need to finish this task/goal and when it needs to be completed.
The benefit of setting SMART goals is that they help keep you from feeling overwhelmed, which, in turn, minimizes your productivity and effectiveness. Because you’re breaking down goals into measurable and actionable chunks, you’re able to get them done more quickly and easily.
Clump Similar Tasks Together
One sure way to not break “the flow” of working fast– which is actually something we’ll get into in a moment– is to focus or “clump” similar tasks together.
That’s not to say multitask, which is a mess all its own. The American Psychological Association actually has official statistics for this. They say “multitasking” is not effective, nor is it efficient in the slightest. In fact, they add that it reduces productivity by a whopping 40%.
No, we’re talking about focus. Focusing on tasks that are similar in nature can make the transition from one task to another easier.
It’s because you’re not making wild leaps from one task to another. For example, you’re not finishing replying to an email, running to photocopy the papers you need for tomorrow, and then coming back to your laptop to type a report.
So find tasks that are similar in nature– such as ones that involve your computer for instance, and then organize them together.
Understand Your Ultradian Rhythm
The same way some people are night owls, only capable of getting work done when everyone else is asleep, and others are morning people, who can get an insane amount of work done before noon, there are times where your body is at peak productivity, ergo, you can’t just be ultra-focused on work, but you’re working faster than ever.
You’re probably already familiar with the times you’re most productive. Everyone’s ability to focus is ever changing. It fluctuates throughout the day. Sometimes, you can find yourself easily tackling tasks, only to find the same tasks ten times more consuming tomorrow.
The trick is to understand your ultradian rhythm in order to make the best use of your time.
Everyone knows about “circadian rhythm,” which is a person’s 24-hour internal clock. Circadian rhythms refer to the internal process that dictates or regulates the sleep-wake cycle and when you experience peak levels of energy.
Throughout the day, your body naturally goes through 90 minute period of heightened focus and productivity. This is called your “ultradian rhythm.”
Now, before optimizing it, you need to first understand it. Find the times where you seem to be experiencing peak levels of focus and energy. Make an note of it. Once you have a week or so of data, you’ll notice a pattern and bingo! Now, you can schedule your tasks around your ultradian rhythm. Match your highest levels of focus to the tasks that need you to be at your most creative and other busy work when you’re likely to have less energy and be easily distracted.
The Pomodoro Technique
There are plenty of alternatives to the ultradian rhythm; you just need to find one that works for you.
Ready to learn about methods invented by experts and figure out which one works best for you? We have a couple exciting ones ahead!
First up is the Pomodoro technique– a favorite among many.
Francesco Cirillo, who was a university student at the time, invented this method in the 1800s. The logic behind the Pomodoro technique is related to your body’s energy levels throughout the day. Cirillo understood all too well the feeling of being overwhelmed, so he tried committing to intensely focusing for a short period of time and then allowing himself a break before repeating.
This works out best when you have a project that needs focus for long periods of time. All you need is a timer or an alarm and a task. Set your alarm for 25 minutes.
During those 25 minutes, all you’re going to focus on is the task at hand– no getting up whatsoever. When that alarm buzzes, get up and take a five-minute break. Once that’s done, get back for another 25 minutes of intense focus.
The Pomodoro technique advises that after four rounds of this, you can reward yourself by taking a longer break, like 20 to 30 minutes.
The Flowtime Technique
The second time-management technique we have is the life-changing Flowtime technique. The Flowtime technique is a twist on the Pomodoro technique. In fact, you could call it its opposite.
The Flowtime technique works like this: pick a task– just one– that you need to work on during a session of ultra focus. The Flowtime technique calls this “unitasking.”
Picking just one task is the only hard rule of this method.
All right now, ready? Write down the time you start working, then dive in.
Unlike the Pomodoro Technique, there is no time limit– maximum or minimum– on how long you need to work. All you need to do is work until you get tired or notice your focus is faltering. That’s when you should take a break. Make sure to also write down when you stop for a break.
Same as with the time you work, how long your break lasts is up to you. The Flowtime Technique has a few pointers to get you started.
So for 25 minutes of work, a five-minute break will suffice. Then for 26 to 49 minutes of work, take an eight-minute break. If you work 50 to 90 minutes, take a 10 minutes break. And if you work for longer than 90 minutes, take a 15-minute break.
Follow the Pareto Analysis
Also known as the 80-20 rule; the Pareto Analysis says that 80% of your tasks can be completed in 20% of the time. Meanwhile, 20% of the tasks can take up 80% of the time.
So, how can you make the best of this? Following this principle helps those who find their schedules overly packed and not sure which tasks to prioritize.
Take a look at the tasks ahead of you and estimate the benefit each one will give you and then find the most effective action you can take to tackle each task. This helps stimulate creative thinking and organizing your thoughts.
Give Your Mind the Fuel It Needs
We’ll leave you with one final piece of advice: give your mind and body the fuel they need. The combination of hunger and frustration at not getting work done is deadly– at least when it comes to how focused you are.
Without fuel (we’re talking about proper food here, not just coffee or caffeine), your energy levels will plummet. Your emotions will fluctuate. Experts from the Harvard Medical School recommend eating a few “brain foods” to help you focus.
Include in your lunch or breakfast the following foods: berries, walnuts, greens, and leafy vegetables, such as kale or broccoli. A healthy balance of protein and healthy fats will do wonders for your energy levels. If you need to snack while working, go for some fresh fruits, nuts, and plenty of water.
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