For many years, I wondered what was the best and most practical way to be super-productive. Finally, I figured out a method that worked for me, and today, I will share the same with you as a step-by-step process.
If you have struggled with managing time and meeting deadlines, or have found yourself wishing for more hours in a day to complete your never-ending to-dos, this is for you. We have tested these ideas in two of our bootcamps (‘Deep Work and Flow’ and ‘Extreme Focused Learning’) and found them to be enormously effective.
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So here are the steps to do more in the shortest time:
1. Work in short ‘focus sprints’
The human mind cannot maintain a high degree of focus indefinitely. Therefore, one of the easiest ways to become more productive is to work in short ‘focus sprints’. Allot yourself an uninterrupted period ranging from 30 to 50 minutes to focus on your work. During this time, work on just one task. After the sprint, take a break for 5 or 10 minutes.
- Dedicate yourself to one important task at a time.
- Avoid multitasking.
- Put your phone away.
- Close all the unnecessary browser tabs before you begin.
- Ensure that you take a short break after every intense sprint.
If you want to implement these ideas in a structured way, check out our Deep Work and Flow bootcamp. Most people find their productivity levels increasing significantly when they do focused work in short sprints like this.
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2. Invest time to plan your ‘focus sprints’
This may sound ironic, but investing some time to plan your focus sprint can actually help you do more in less time. Otherwise, when you start a sprint, other priorities may bother you and you may be distracted by things like looking for data.
So do this:
- Make a list of all tasks you need to complete, and pick one task for the sprint
- For your chosen task, keep all the data, documents, and other resources handy before you start working.
- Keep that time free of client meetings and phone calls.
In addition to planning for the focus sprints, also spend some time on your calendar. Productive people spend time planning their weekly and daily calendar so once they start working, they can easily get in the flow and get things done.
On Sundays, you can dedicate about 30 minutes to schedule your upcoming week. This will help you think about your priorities and allocate sufficient time for the most important tasks. It will help you be in control of your upcoming week.
But just be careful not to fall into the trap of overplanning.
3. Do the most important work when you are most alert
Schedule the most demanding tasks for when you are most alert. Morning persons would be better off doing the hard tasks earlier in the day while some others might be more comfortable tackling difficult tasks just after a coffee break.
- Figure out when you feel the most alert and pick the tasks accordingly.
- It is generally considered a good idea to tackle more difficult work in the morning hours when your energy levels are high.
- More mundane tasks like answering routine emails can be done even during the sluggish after-lunch period.
Focusing on the important tasks for when you are most alert can help get more done in less amount of time.
To start your day strong and ace your top priorities before noon, check out our Win Your Day bootcamp.
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4. Minimize distractions
One thing we struggle with is getting distracted by social media notifications during work time. Digital distractions are among the biggest barriers to productivity and getting things done.
Here is what I recommend to minimize distractions:
- Put your phone away or on flight mode.
- Mute the notifications on your social media platforms.
- Inform your co-workers about your non-availability for the duration of the focus sprint.
- Put a “Do not disturb” sign on the door of your office. If you use Slack or Microsoft Teams, you can change the status to ‘Do not disturb.’
- Avoid getting up from your desk during the sprint. Visit the bathroom only during breaks.
- Fetch your coffee/tea only during the breaks.
Minimizing digital distractions is the number one time management tip that you can implement in your workday. If you are used to checking your phone frequently, controlling such distractions alone will massively boost your productivity.
5. Do a brain dump before the sprint
- Write down all the things weighing on your mind, including to-dos, worries, etc. Then remind yourself to let go of them during the sprint. This will prevent nagging thoughts from coming up when you are trying to focus.
- Practice meditation for a few minutes before starting the sprint. Or you could practice breath work for a few minutes. When you feel more in control of your thoughts and emotions, you’re better equipped to focus on your work.
- A brain dump clears your mind and prepares you for peak productivity.
A brain dump is like a distraction list that you can keep handy. With multiple emails in your inbox, Slack messages, and a hundred things to do, it is easy to get distracted. A brain dump is one of the most helpful work habits that can help you stay focused and productive.
We have implemented these ideas in our habit building bootcamps and seen their effectiveness first-hand.
6. Rejuvenate your mind at regular intervals
Humans can’t focus for more than 40-50 min at a time, sometimes even less. Hence, you have to rejuvenate your mind at regular intervals to maintain a high level of productivity.
To relax during the breaks, here is what we recommend:
- Get up from your chair and stretch your limbs.
- Don’t look at the computer or mobile screen during the break. Look at some far-off things, such as the sky or trees around you.
- Wash your face with cool water if you are feeling lethargic.
- After three short breaks (5-10 minutes each), you can take a long break. During these long breaks, you could do a progressive muscle relaxation exercise if you are feeling tense.
- Whenever feeling overwhelmed, including during the sprints, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
7. Take breaks whenever required
One common myth is that working long hours gets more things done. In reality, working for hours at a stretch without a break is totally counter-productive.
Taking short breaks between intense sprints of dedicated work actually increases productivity and helps you do more in less time. You can schedule up to three short breaks and one long break.
As an example, if you are doing 30 min sprints:
- The three short breaks can be 5 minutes during which you relax or just walk around.
- The long break can be 15 minutes. You can get some coffee or tea if you like. Or, you can go to the water cooler to fill up your bottle and say hello to your co-workers.
8. How to handle distractions during focus sprints
- It is normal for the mind to wander, especially if the task is too easy or too hard. Bring your mind back to the object of focus when it wanders – don’t beat yourself up just because your mind wandered.
- If thoughts or to-dos come up, jot them down and attend to them later.
- If you find that your focus is shallow, look at a point on the screen for a minute and create visual focus. It will sharpen your mental focus automatically.
So that’s it from my side. These productivity tips will help you get more things done in less time and more efficiently. Best of all, you will feel less frazzled and overwhelmed, and more in control of your time and day.
This has been my attempt to share an actionable guide with you. These are not theoretical ideas but something we have exhaustively implemented in our bootcamps, where we also give you live guidance, accountability, and community – check them out.
I believe that focused work is the only secret sauce to success and is becoming increasingly rare. There are endless to-dos and meetings to attend throughout the day, and to top it all we also end up wasting time on social media.
Schedule some time for deep work into your calendar. You will not regret it.
If you incorporate these ideas and build your focus, you will not only boost your productivity, but also be among a small minority of people who bring focus into their daily lives. If anything can prime you for success, this will.