Have you ever had the time where in just a couple of hours you were uber productive? All of the stars were aligned and something just clicked. You were able to get more done in just those few hours than you did the whole day! What if you could re-create that every day? What if you could design a magic formula to get the most out of those few precious hours you set aside to get work done?
Carving out a time for a work session is tough. Life has so many distractions, phone, email, friends, spouses, kids, pets, laundry, housework, that dirty spot on the wall…In my article When are you your best? I wrote about some strategies you can implement to get the best work out of yourself. For example, I am most creative in the mornings, so I save tasks where I need to be creative for that time. Years ago I realized that for me to be productive on demand certain things had to happen. As I researched myself even further, I was able to develop a small routine of steps that got me to focus when I sat down to work. Here are the steps that I follow to have a powerful work session.
- Set a time limit. – Matt Mullenweg commented in a recent article, Thirty one about using a Pomodoro Timer. The concept is that you work for 30 minute sprints with a few minutes off. There is much more detail on how people implement it that you can look up. I found that worked best in 2 hour sprints with 15 minutes off. I used the BreakTime App, which actually dims your screen to force you to take a break.
Have a task list. – Don’t just go into this willy nilly, you have to have a plan. Your task list for your work session shouldn’t be your task list for the whole day, but should be prioritized by the main thing you want to get done, peppered with some additional smaller high priority items. Organize the list with some quick to do’s that you can knock out quickly to get momentum. It’s always satisfying to check off some tasks, right when you get started!
Prepare your body and mind. – When you sit down for a work session, you want to commit. Make sure you have a snack, go to the bathroom, take a shower or even go for a walk if you are tired or anxious. Get the big distractions out of the way.
Choose your work space and environment. – If you have to get some serious work done, sitting in a busy open area with a bunch of loud talking or screaming kids, may not be setting you up for success. Either choose that time to knock off tasks that don’t take a lot of brain power or find a quieter spot. Sometimes a coffee shop can provide just the amount of white noise you need, while being at home with TV on and a busy household doesn’t fit. It’s not the same.
Stick to your rules. – I know a lot of people that turn off their phone, exit chat windows, turn off notifications and stay away from all social media. This is essential and does get easier. You don’t always have to respond. I don’t shut everything down anymore, because I’m pretty disciplined with my time, but if you need to create a cone of silence, then do it.
There are many many articles written about being productive with your time, but you really have to test and figure out what works for you. I found that creating a warm up routine helped me get the focus I needed for each time. Since my schedule varies from day to day, sometimes I can’t choose the optimal time to work on something, so I need to force myself into the “mood.” It gets easier as you go and you refine your routine to get to that focus point faster. What have you found that works for you?
(If you don’t have problems working when you sit down to work, share your strategies with the rest of us in the comments below!)