The Powerful Productivity Technique that Saved Dan: Part 2
How did Dan make massive improvements to his productivity and get back on track to completing his crucial project?
Dan was collapsing under his workload that was affecting his health and relationships. But after implementing this productivity technique, he’s back in the game and crushing it! The project that is going to get him a promotion to a Vice President’s role in his company is under his control.
Before we dive in, can you guess who’s Dan’s productivity inspiration?
Or rather, JK Rowling, the author of Harry Potter.
Remember, ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’? The one that sold 2 million copies in pre-orders and broke all records?
When Rowling was working on that book, she was stuck (Just like our Dan).
She was unable to reach the right levels of concentration needed to create a brilliant piece of work. There were just too many distractions.
So what did she do?
She checked into a hotel and continued to work from there. (Smart, what?)
It’s the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh, Scotland. People pay a thousand pounds a night ($1400) just to experience the suite that Rowling wrote her masterpiece in!
I can see the Frowns
Does this mean that Dan checked into a hotel?
Nope, Dan didn’t. Neither do you have to!
Remember the productivity equation I talked about yesterday. This is based on the work of Georgetown University Professor Cal Newport, the bestselling author of the new book, “Deep Work.”
High-Quality Work Produced = (Time Spent) x (Intensity of Focus)
To reach those levels of intensely high focus, you need to isolate yourself from distractions and interruptions. That’s exactly what many super-successful people do when they work on important projects.
But how do you do that?
You might not be able to avoid distractions all the time. But can you do it just for a little while?
Maybe just for an hour a day?
Within that hour, you can accomplish a huge amount of work. This is not an ordinary hour – it’s an hour of intense focus.
Here’s what I told Dan (all ears now!):
I told Dan to create a timebox – a dedicated hour when he would switch off his phone, shut down Slack, Skype and email. He would just work alone on the most crucial aspects of his project – the parts that require intelligent analysis, planning and decision making.
The ‘This is Impossible’ Camp
I can hear you saying: I can never shut down my phone for one hour. I will lose business. I could get fired.
Believe it or not, there are multiple ways to do this. I know salespeople, who are supposed to be available 24/7, find ways to get offline. I will tell you about the workarounds and the way to execute it soon.
The ‘This is easy’ Camp
I know what you are thinking. This is really easy to do and you could do this whenever you want.
You are right, and wrong! This is easy only if you…
- Follow the right process,
- Avoid some specific mistakes, and
I have seen many smart people try and fail. But, I won’t let that happen to you. I ‘ll tell you exactly what to avoid.
But first, let’s understand…
Why Does Timeboxing Work so Darn Well?
The obvious reason is cos you don’t get interrupted. But there’s far more to it than meets the eye.
- Warm Up
It takes 10 – 20 minutes for your brain to reach a high level of concentration. Getting interrupted before you reach this threshold forces your brain to start from scratch every time. Remember yesterday’s graph? As a result your brain never reaches the higher levels. With timeboxing, you can reach the higher levels of concentration.
- Fringe Benefits
Working in timeboxes improves your overall levels of concentration in everything that you do. Even when you are not working within a timebox, you will be able to focus better.
- A Clear Direction
Before you begin the timebox, you determine a clear agenda that you want to fulfil. You don’t hesitate. You don’t ask – what is it that I should work on? Having that clarity helps you to work much faster.
- Goodbye Mr. Parkinson
Having too much time to work on something invariably leads to some kind of procrastination. Remember Parkinson’s law? Work expands to fill the time available. Timeboxing is a great way to avoid that. You give yourself a limited amount of time to work on something and that makes you faster.
- Trigger it!
The more you practice timeboxing, the more you condition your brain to switch on a higher state of concentration during that period. Your brain accepts the timebox as a trigger to reach higher states of concentration. To know more about this, check out Charles Duhigg’s bestselling book, ‘The Power of Habit’. Over time, you reach intensely high levels of concentration. Levels that you can’t even imagine right now.
Timeboxing is like a keystone habit. A single habit that creates a domino effect and leads to benefits in several other areas of life. Adopting a timebox habit makes you far more productive in terms of other areas like planning, prioritizing, reducing procrastination, managing emails, etc. It builds up discipline, makes you more conscious about how you are using/ or wasting your time.
The Most Valuable Benefit
Timeboxing helps you think at far deeper levels. To access parts of your brain that you are not using right now. You will see solutions to insoluble problems. You might recognize huge opportunities in your career.
Bill Gates is famous for his ‘Think Weeks’ where he takes a complete week off to think and strategize in isolation. Warren Buffet used to isolate himself for hours while analysing potential investments. Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, often keeps a timebox in the middle of a busy day for reflection. There are countless other examples.
The Actual Process
Let me spell out what you need to do to work in the timebox:
- Pick a time:
Select a time of the day when you will do this. This should be a time when you are far less likely to get interrupted. Or find a place where you won’t be interrupted.
Make a note of this time and place in your calendar (Google, Outlook, desktop, etc.). This creates a sense of commitment.
Anticipate any distractions that might occur during that time. Write them down.
- Take Steps:
Take proactive steps to ensure that you don’t get distracted or interrupted during your timebox. (How? More details later)
- Show up at that time and place.
Turn your phone on the silent mode, log off from any distracting sites.
- Work for an hour!
Sounds ridiculously simple? There’s more to it, of course. An entire book has been written about it (which is now a bestseller!)
Sounds good, but…
The 4 Biggest Mistakes and 9 Solutions
You won’t be able to create a perfect timebox on day 1. Not gonna happen. Sorry!
Most people get it wrong because they make at least one of the 4 usual mistakes.
They also don’t know anything about the 9 solutions (to overcome the mistakes), so they never try again.
Insider Intel – Tomorrow
Tomorrow, I will spell out the 4 mistakes you need to avoid and also give step-by-step instructions on the 9 solutions that will make it effortless for you to do this.
Just make sure you don’t miss my email tomorrow.
Want Direct Access?
Do you have questions about how to become more productive?
Rather than take the trouble of going through blogs or books and figuring out solutions by yourself, you can just ask me directly.
I am opening up spots for my one-one productivity coaching sessions. Over the past few years I have coached numerous people: leaders across levels from Fortune 500 companies, millionaire entrepreneurs, small business owners and writers to become more productive and accomplish their goals faster.
Want to know more about what this coaching program can do for you?
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Peter ‘Boxing-with-Time’ Banerjea