The Powerful Productivity Technique that Saved Dan: Part 3
This is the third and final part of Dan’s productivity enlightenment.
I suggest you check out the earlier parts before looking at this one. Otherwise, you will miss out on the context of this story.
Before we head out into mistakes and solutions, a little heads up on…
A quick reminder about how Timeboxing works:
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 you don’t get distracted or interrupted during your timebox. (How? Details later)
- Show up:
At that time and place (of battle!).
Turn your phone on the silent mode, log off from any distracting sites.
- Work for an hour!
All set, now let’s get on with…
The Biggest Mistakes
These are the most common mistakes that people make when they try this out.
1. Jumping in Suddenly
When Dan understood the concept, he wanted to do a timebox right then – in the middle of the day. That has too many loopholes. You don’t know what work will get dumped on you in the next 15 minutes. Instead, I asked him to plan for it. Deliberately choose a time when you are highly unlikely to be disturbed.
2. Relying on Willpower
In the last mail yesterday, I had specified a number of steps that need to be followed for effective timeboxing. If you skip certain crucial steps like blocking the time on your calendar, proactively avoiding interruptions and switching off your phones, everything else is a waste. People think they can ‘wing it’ and use their willpower to ignore those distractions. You know how that story goes, right?
3. Unreasonable Expectations
Some people expect to get timeboxing process perfectly right on Day 1. Others expect to reach Zen levels of concentration by Day 3. Both are unrealistic. Keeping such expectations will set you up for failure. You will get discouraged and will not try again. Give timeboxing a week, at the minimum, to show you the money (read: results).
4. Running on Low
Any time when your energy levels are low, is a bad time for a timebox. You need high levels of concentration, which will only come when you have high levels of energy. Don’t do a timebox after a hectic day at work, when your willpower is at its lowest. Avoid doing this on a completely empty stomach. Low blood sugar levels or hunger are bad for concentration.
Make it Easy Peasy – The 9 Solutions
Here are the 9 ways to make timeboxing easy/simple:
1. Self – Regulation
Often the problem is not with other people bothering you. It’s you being hooked to your devices. Install Freedom, an app that will block access to your devices for a defined period of time. Celebrities like Seth Godin and Tim Ferris use this while writing.
2. Do it for 20 minutes
Does an hour long timebox seem too formidable? Do it for 20 minutes. Once that becomes a habit, increase the duration.
3. Do it at home
If you can control your environment at home, practice this for a few times at home before you try it in the office.
4. Do it first thing in the morning
Wake up early and do this at a time when no one else is awake. Countless successful people follow this approach.
5. Go to work earlier
Arrive an hour earlier before your colleagues get there and the office becomes noisy. You can also leave earlier!
6. Book a meeting room (just for yourself)
I have done this countless times myself!
7. Do it when you have fewer calls
May be during lunchtime (Not while eating though!). You can always grab a bite earlier or later.
8. Delegate calls to a subordinate
If you can afford it, don’t take all calls unless it’s vitally important. This will free up uninterrupted time for a timebox even in the middle of the day.
9. Get 80% Right
Even after doing all the above, you might not be able to get perfect isolation. That’s ok. Even if you can eliminate 80% of the distractions and interruptions, that’s good progress.
Dan was eager to work on timeboxing, but was worried about the hows and wheres – the execution part. We discussed and settled on an initial 20-minute routine which fitted with his daily schedule. Then, he gradually scaled it up to 90 minutes.
What about Other problems?
- You have a colleague who continually walks up and begins to chat?
- You have a neighbor who talks loudly on the phone?
- You don’t have anyone to delegate calls to?
- You have a client who might need to reach you anytime?
There are solutions to all the above. I have had clients who have had every single one of these challenges, and have overcome them!
Are there Other Ways to Boost Focus?
Timeboxing is only one way, but there are many others. I also use various other techniques to boost my concentration. However, timeboxing is one of the most powerful.
The Truth about Productivity
What might work for you, might not work for me, or might not be easy for me to execute. That’s why having a coach like me helps. I can quickly recommend a path that will work for you.
Have more questions?
How do I…
- Plan better?
- Prioritize when I have too much on my hands and conflicting deadlines?
- Manage my emails better?
- Make my team more productive? How can I delegate?
- Maintain high energy levels?
- Overcome procrastination?
- What apps can I use to stay productive?
Want specific solutions to your own challenges?
If yes, I invite you to get on a Skype/ Google Hangout call with me.
I will to listen to your challenges and questions about productivity and recommend a course of action that is best suited for you.
A one-one discussion with an expert is the easiest way to boost your productivity quickly.
Spots for my one-one coaching are now open. Click to get the details.
Peter ‘Have-the-Answers’ Banerjea