Let me ask you something…
Have you ever tried to focus on something for several hours in a row? If so, then you know how exhausting it can be and how easy it is to start getting distracted. You might start off strong, but after a while you find yourself just staring out the window or doing something distracting surfing the internet. This is especially true if you don’t take any breaks.
You can think of this sort of session as a marathon session. Hour after hour, you just keep plodding along and going through your to-do list. By the time you’re finished with your list, you’re tired and unmotivated. You may not even feel like doing anything else.
So here’s an alternative: Work in short, concentrated bursts.
See, instead of focusing yourself to focus for hours on end, you instead focus for a short burst, such as 15 or 20 minutes. Then you stretch, take a break… and do it again.
Here’s how it works…
First off, you need to take care of all your personal needs and anything else that might distract you during your activity burst. That means that before you begin you should walk the dog, use the restroom, get something to eat or drink (if you’re hungry or thirsty) and take care of anything or anyone else that might distract you during your burst.
Next, prepare to do your task. For example, if you’re about to do some writing, then make sure your resources, outlines and other materials are at your fingertips. You don’t want to waste your concentrated activity burst to do something relatively mindless like shuffle through a bunch of papers or search for a website.
You should also close out any distractions. That means closing any computer windows that you’re not going to use, turning off your phone, shutting your door and doing everything else you can to eliminate distractions.
Next, set a kitchen timer or other alarm to go off in 15 or 20 minutes.
TIP: You may be tempted to set your cell phone alarm/timer since that’s so convenient. However, that means you need to leave your cell phone on and nearby, which can easily become a distraction. It’s better to use a dedicated, single-purpose timer for this exercise, such as a kitchen timer or alarm clock.
Another note: Be sure to choose a timer that won’t distract you. For example, some kitchen timers make a “tick, tick, tick” sound. That sort of sound could be distracting to you. Or at the very least, it could continually draw your attention to the sound so that you look to see how much time you have left.
To avoid the distraction of continuously checking the time, put the timer or alarm on the other side of the room from you. Just be sure that you can’t see the alarm/timer or any other clock face.
Once you’ve set your alarm or timer, then get to work. Focus 100% on the task in front of you. Don’t pause. Don’t take a break. You may even pretend that you’re in a race or challenge yourself to see how much (quality) work you can get done before the alarm goes off.
Once your time is up, stretch and take a two to five minute break. Then re-set the timer and do it again. After you’ve worked an hour (or whenever you start feeling fatigued) you may want to take a longer break.
Give it a try and see if this little trick doesn’t skyrocket your productivity. And then keep an eye out for your next lesson, where you’ll discover how creating a sense of urgency can result in you getting more done in less time!