Focus - How To Be More Productive
Practical Applications of Time Blocking - Free Fillable .PDF Planner
Your Ability to Focus Will Determine your Productivity.
The world is a distracting place where it is easy to veer off course.
You might be reading this article as a form of procrastination, but let's address how focus can change your life while I have your attention.
FOCUS - Follow One Course Until Successful
Some people attend so many meetings that you wonder how they ever actually get work done.
Their attention is fragmented, lost in the minutia of unstructured discussions and meaningless politics, rather than deep concentration.
Meeting minutes become an endless string of to-do lists and action points that never get completed because there is no time in-between meetings.
Why do we spend so much time thinking and talking about what we need to do instead of rolling up our sleeves and getting to work?
We end up thinking more than doing.
If we didn’t hesitate and deliberate, the time we spent thinking would have been more than sufficient to complete the task and move on.
If You Need Something Done, Give it to a Productive Person.
There is a fallacy that to be successful, we need to be busy.
But being busy often implies frantic, unbearable workloads.
The outcome is often that we produce sub-par quality work. Wouldn’t you rather be able to confidently feel as though you came up with creative solutions, rather than occupying your time with medial tasks?
We need a cognitive shift from busy to productive.
Next time someone asks you how you have been, instead of saying "busy", better to say you have been "productive".
By definition, work is difficult and requires force. Completing meaningful work is a habit that involves skills that you can develop and practice.
We seem to have a negative connotation with work.
Think of the emotions linked to the words; Homework, Work-load, House-Work.
It sounds like a chore.
Most of us are raised to believe that work is a “necessary evil”, despite the fact that some people love what they do.
What if I told you that your occupation/vocation could become the most rewarding element of your life?
You too can develop a passion for what you do.
One of the best tools for taking control of your work life is prioritisation.
The below analogy illustrates the power of priority and how small tasks can quickly overwhelm us, and fill our entire day.
The story was re-popularised by Stephen R. Covey, author of "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People."
Filling Your Jar - Rock, Pebbles, and Sand
A philosophy professor once stood up before his class with a large empty mayonnaise jar. He filled the jar to the top with large rocks and asked his students if the jar was full.
The students said that yes, the jar was indeed full.
He then added small pebbles to the jar and gave the jar a bit of a shake so the pebbles could disperse themselves among the larger rocks. Then he asked again, "Is the jar full now?"
The students agreed that the jar was still full.
The professor then poured sand into the jar to fill up any remaining empty space. The students then agreed that the jar was completely full.
The professor then fills the glass with water. "Now it's full," he says, before revealing the moral of the story: "If we had put the sand in first, would there have been any room for the big rocks?"
Identify Your Tasks
If you focus all your energy on small tasks, you'll never do what you need to do.
Each material in the story represents everyday tasks on your to-do list, whether at work or home.
The rocks are your big, long-term goals and strategies.
These require you to set aside time so that you can dive deep into them to make progress.
The pebbles are short-term goals, and the sand represents small tasks.
The water is a distraction that prevents you from getting other tasks done.
If you can define your priorities and tasks, you are on your way to producing quality work that will impact your life.
Decide what you want to do, when you want to do it, then get to it.
Planning will improve your time management significantly.
It is a commonplace observation that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. Cyril Northcote Parkinson.
Time is arguable the most valuable resource that we have.
We all get the same 24 hours in a day, and time blocking is one strategy to efficiently budget and manage your time.
To effectively time-block, we subdivide our day into chunks and plan focused time on specific tasks instead of jumping back and forth, trying to complete several things simultaneously.
Committing to a single task for a prolonged period of time is more effective than trying to multitask.
Planning and sticking to the plan will initially be challenging. It will take some time to realise how long you can focus and how long a task will usually take to complete.
It is worth easing into it and slowly increasing your focus blocks as you go.
I also recommend reflecting on your planner and shape your days based on what you managed to get done.
Learn how you operate at your best, as we all function differently.
For me, I found that I can effectively do 3 major task per day if I dedicate 2 hours per task.
Do Not Disturb
Once you have identified your tasks, it is time to set some concrete time to make your high priority tasks happen.
It is worth noting to set concrete deadlines (Date and Time) for your tasks.
When you sit down to do deep work, create a distraction-free environment to avoid unrelated tasks.
Hide all your tech-traps, put your phone on do-not-disturb/sleep mode, and close all notifications such as email.
Try My Planning Worksheet.
Click Here to get a fillable Version of the planner.
Write down your tasks.
List your top priorities.
Fill in your time blocks.
Use the bottom section for reactive tasks and scribble down notes throughout the day.
Note: Things will come up and so it is essential to be flexible. Use your planner as a guide to staying on track and "change" your course if you need to.
The four main types of tasks include:
Deep Work - Rocks and boulders that require your full attention. (Finish a proposal, write an article, or get creative.)
Shallow Tasks - Group the pebbles into multiples to be completed within a single block, such as checking emails and communications.
Reactive Tasks - Collaborative tasks can show up unexpectedly and usually rely on others. If someone wants something from you, it is okay to tell them you are busy and return when you have scheduled reactive time. Set a specific time to batch sand-based reactive and collaborative tasks. Responding to email, following up. It is vital to limit your time doing sand-based tasks because the sand can quickly fill the entire day if you let it.
Breaks - Our brain needs time to relax, and we also need time to eat and chat.
Uncap Your Capacity
Discover how much you are capable of doing.
Use time planning to determine how you are spending your time, improve your focus, and prioritise your day.
If you let your day fill up with sand, you will never have time to achieve the big goals/rocks.
Over time you will become more effective at knowing how long a task will take.
You will also discover your biologically productive times and learn to use them to your advantage.
Starting to take control of your time will give you insight into your mind.
Productivity is key.
Remove "Busy" from your vocabulary and replace it with "Productive" for the greater good of humanity.
Click Here to get the planner.