Are you really focused on the important things in your work day?
Researchers at the University of Michigan found that productivity dropped as much as 40% when subjects tried to do two or more things at once. Rescue Time did a study and shows that the average work checks email 50 unique times and instant messaging 77 times per day. The average worker also sends and receives approximately 190 messages per day.
Wow. This is crazy, but it’s the world we live in. How do you focus on anything and actually move the needle on your most important tasks and projects if you’re constantly jumping around from task to task, email to email and interruption to interruption.
The simple truth is that it’s hard and it’s not getting any easier. We consume more information in a day than the average person received in a lifetime in 1900. Seems too crazy to believe but with the information age upon us, it doesn’t surprise me.
Here’s the thing – we all have 168 hours in a week, 24 hours in a day. That isn’t changing. The key here is to make the best use of that time and I believe the managing your energy and focus is the most important productivity hack you need to master.
In Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz’s book, The Power of Full Engagement, they talk about the rhythms of our body and the importance of oscillation – which is the act of regularly moving from one position to another and back to the original position. Essentially, this is saying we’re meant to produce in springs and then sprinkle in periods of recovery. They say that this provides our bodies and minds with the proper amount of work and renewal and helps us sustain performance throughout our days. I agree 100%. Loehr and Schwartz also talk about Ultradian rhythms and the fact that our bodies are constructed to work in 90 minute cycles. Boiling this down, they’re saying we should work for no more than 90 minutes in one setting without taking a break.
I imagine most of you feel time crunched (I know I sometimes do) so you may be thinking that taking a break isn’t an option. What if I can tell you that it flat out works and you will have more energy and focus throughout the day – which will enable you to accomplish more of what you set out to do.
I like threes, so I’m going to give you three key productivity keys based on a lot of this that can help you have more sustained energy and performance throughout your days:
- Work in 90 minute increments – Think of yourself like an athlete. Oscillate between periods of sprinting for 90 minutes and renewal for at least 10 minutes.
- You need to take breaks consistently – When you renew (or take a break) get up out of your chair and go take a walk. Get some fresh air. Concentrate on your breath and see if you can get centered. You will come back rearing to go.
- Fuel your mind and your body – You must be intentional about what you eat and drink. Plan out your meals in advance as well as your snacks. Make working out an integral part of your week. It’s as much (if not more) psychological as it is physical. We underestimate the value of sleep. No question, sleep plays a vital role in your ability to concentrate and produce. You may be able to go on little sleep for a bit but it will catch up to you.
I’m sure many of you have some great ideas as well. Please leave a comment with what works for you.