As an entrepreneur, you need to be on top of your game every day. For most of us, our companies, our employees and our families all depend on our delivering top-notch results on a daily basis. So, anytime I can find a way to boost my productivity in a lasting way, I jump at the opportunity.
That’s why, today, I’m sharing two of my most time-tested productivity hacks with you. These are concepts that time and time again allow me double my output. If you start using them today, I promise that you’ll notice a giant boost to your energy level and your results within the first week, if not within the first few hours.
DISTRACTIONS DESTROY PRODUCTIVITY
Did you know scientific studies show that, on average, when you and I get distracted away from a task it takes 15 minutes to get back into being focused on that task?
Note that I didn’t say “up to 15 minutes!” That was an AVERAGE of 15.
In other words, if you stop your work to respond to that text that just beeped on your phone, even if it’s only for 2 minutes, you’re likely going to waste 17 MINUTES trying to get back to focused work!
Isn’t that crazy? It is. But it’s also true.
Now to be fair, the average distraction time of 15 minute is actually for guys. Apparently, it’s harder for us to get back on track.
If you’re a woman, you are better at diving back in – but it still takes you, on average, 8 minutes to get back in the groove. So, I guess your 2-minute text message takes only 10 minutes, instead of the 17 minutes it takes me.
Either way, it’s important to recognize that this is a key reason that, in a world so full of distraction after distraction, you find yourself getting less and less done.
TECHNIQUE #1 – PUT YOURSELF IN AIRPLANE MODE
So… what do I do to solve this for myself?
I use a simple technique to keep myself distraction free – and I definitely pull it out whenever I need to hunker down and get focused.
I call it AIRPLANE MODE.
A quick story — I used to find that my most productive time anywhere was always when I got on a long plane flight. No wifi. No phone service. Just my noise canceling headphones and my laptop.
I found I could always power through huge piles of work — whatever the task — be it strategizing, writing, responding to emails or creative thinking. I would sit down, focus and at the end of the flight I’d be amazed at how much I accomplished.
I remember wishing that I was flying long distances more often, just so I could get some more of my critical work done quicker.
But then I realized I was thinking about it all wrong. Instead, I started wondering, “How can I recreate the airplane experience in my office so that I can be super productive without traveling all the way across the country?”
I spent about 15 minutes on a brainstorming session and wrote up a little checklist for myself.
And then, of course, I did what we all do. I did a little internet searching to see whether I was alone in my endeavors. Turns out that there are a lot of people already using this trick. And I snagged a couple of great ideas from my research.
So now, here’s what I do when I’m ready to go into “Airplane Mode”
Test it out. I’ll be surprised if your first session doesn’t hook you in right away.
TRUST THE TOMATO
Now, if you’re anything like me, you’ve got a lot on your plate, and you like to check things off your to-do list on a regular basis.
Sometimes, however, I work way too hard. When I get really focused, I can forget to eat. I don’t drink enough water. I don’t get up and stretch my legs. Heck, sometimes I don’t even take any break at all for hours.
And while I often “feel” like I’m being extremely productive, when I look back on how much I managed to accomplish in the time I spent — if I’m really honest with myself — I don’t work nearly as efficiently or effectively as I could.
Often when we try to focus for long periods of time, our brains actually become less productive, even though it feels like we’re doing lots of work.
Studies show that the longer we work, the more easily we’re taken off into unnecessary tangents (I like to called them “rabbit holes”), the harder it is to make decisions and the tougher it is to solve difficult problems.
A quick story about a master of using his time and his brain for success — Albert Einstein. If you ever studied much about Einstein and the way that he used to work, it provides some fascinating insight into the human mind. Einstein solved many incredible physics puzzles.
And his biggest technique for solving the really tough ones will surprise you.
He did it by not working.
Instead, he leveraged his subconscious brain to solve problems for him.
How did he do that? By taking breaks.
What Einstein used to do anytime he found himself stuck on a major problem that he was having trouble working through was simply STOP. He’d recognize that he was stuck and then he’d get up from his desk, walk out of the building and go for a walk. He’d force himself to stop thinking about the problem and hang out in nature for a few minutes. Or he’d just look out the window and daydream as he watched the clouds go by.
What he found was that, in not thinking consciously about the problem, after a few minutes, he’d invariably be struck by inspiration from his subconscious mind.
By not consciously focusing on the problem, he allowed his brain to literally solving the problem for him while he was taking a break.
This is just one of the many examples of how taking regular breaks can benefit your productivity.
But, if you’re like me and you forget to take breaks because you get so focused, how do you force yourself to do so in a productive way?
TECHNIQUE #2 – TRY THE POMODORO TECHNIQUE
Created in the ‘80s by Francesco Cirillo, the Pomodoro Technique is great little time management hack used by many popular writers and business leaders. The goal of the technique is to help you achieve maximum focus and creative freshness, which will allow you to complete your projects faster with less mental fatigue.
The process is easy. For every project you take on, you budget your time into short, specific time increments with clear break times.
Following the traditional method, you work for 25 minutes, then take a break for five minutes. Then you start again with another 25 minutes, and take another five-minute break. When you’ve done four Pomodoros in a row, you’ve earned a longer break, so now you take a 15-20 minutes.
Each 25-minute period is known as a “pomodoro”. (Pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato. Franceso Cirillo used to keep track of his time using a tomato shaped kitchen timer, hence the name.)
We now know that the results are based firmly in the science — when you watch a timer wind down, it actually drives you to complete your current task more quickly. Using a timer is also proven to make you more accountable and reduce the amount of time you spend procrastinating. So the timer is a key element of your success.
There are two other elements to the system that people often neglect. (Don’t miss these!) They are as important to your success as using the timer.
First, you need to clearly define the task that you’re working on. I recommend writing the task down on a piece of paper or a notebook you keep close at hand as you start your Pomodoro.
Second, if a distraction pops into your head you immediately write it down and then you get back on task. (A notebook works beautifully for this, too.) Don’t get sidetracked from your task by your thoughts. At the end of the pomodoro you can deal with the distraction.
HOW I MODIFY THE METHOD
Now, while I use the Pomodoro technique all the time, I’ve found that it works better for me when I modify my work periods and my break times to be a little longer. I do the following:
50 minutes of work (Pomodoro #1)
10 minute break
50 minutes of work (Pomodoro #2)
30 minute break
Other than changing the times, the principles remain the same.
Francesco Cirillo recommended using a low-tech approach to the technique — a kitchen timer and a pen and paper. While I do use a pen and a notebook to focus my task and jot down my distractions, I actually use an app on my phone to track my Pomodoros. Use whatever works for you.
TAKING THE POMODORO INTO THE AIR
Now… if you’re a real overachiever, you can combine the two techniques and use Airplane Mode with a Pomodoro timer. This helps me get into insanely high levels productivity, especially when I need to do an extended amount of work in a short period of time. I like to call this my Air Pomodoro time.
Credit: Thomas Le Maguer – www.ErationalMarketing.com