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Yesterday, I talked about doing too many thing at once and the importance of focus. Today, I want to continue with that theme and talk about how to get more done in a day. The most common struggle I get people writing me about is not having enough time. The emails say, “There’s just not enough time in a day. I need more time. There’s not enough time to go to work, be with family, read, work out, etc.”
Here’s the thing: you don’t need more time.
We all have the same 24 hours in a day, and we can’t do anything about that. Time is an abstract concept; there’s just the now. The sun comes up at some point and it goes down at another point. It doesn’t really matter.
You don’t need more time, you need more focused time.
So many people split their time and their attention. You’ve got multiple things coming at you constantly. Distractions, interruptions; people trying to talk to you and send you messages. If you want to get more done in a day, you absolutely cannot have this. It is crucial that you do not have this. You must protect your focus like your life depends on it.
You probably know people who you’d swear have more time in a day than anyone else. They just seem to accomplish an inhuman amount of things in a day. They must have more time or they must know something you don’t. What they have is an understanding of the power of focus.
Tending to Someone Else’s Agenda
Your calendar last week, very likely, was not 100% scheduled—meaning, you didn’t have an event scheduled in every hour slot of every single day. Yet I will bet you that your time was 100% filled. You likely didn’t find yourself sitting around going, “I think I’ll just sit here.” You filled the time with something. That means your time was spent doing things that weren’t important enough to be on your own calendar.
You were tending to someone else’s agenda for your life. Maybe those were choices you made or choices you allowed someone else to make for you. You didn’t put up a fight. You fell back to a default. You said yes. You filled time—either purposefully by accepting more events into your life or by falling back on a default like Netflix or other time fillers you have.
You spent 100% of your time even though there were not things on your calendar. You found things to do or you let other people find things for you. You are not short on time. Let me repeat again: you are not short on time. It’s focus that you’re are short on.
You can get more done in a few hours than most people do in an entire day with focus.
Workers are interrupted once every 10.5 minutes on average. That’t not the worst part. Studies also show that it takes, on average, 23 minutes to regain that focus. A seven minute interruption is costing you half an hour in actual focused work time, which is terrible!
Most people aren’t working 8 hours a day—they’re getting interrupted for 8 hours. You don’t need more time. You need more focused time.
Setting Money on Fire
If you want to set money on fire then let distractions and interruptions happen at any time because that is literally what you are doing.
Focus is how you make money. Focus is how you can make more money than other people in one hour when they work 8. So what do you do with the other 7 hours? Well you can either enjoy yourself because you’re par for the course, or you can use it to get ahead! Take a short break and then do some more focused time!
You might be calling something focused time but if you know that someone could knock on the door at any minute or you could get a push notification, or someone could call and interrupt you, then it is not focused time!
How to Get More Focused Time
How do you get more focused time? Two ways:
- Minimize distractions.
- Eliminate the possibility of interruptions.
Let’s look at both of these:
Minimizing distractions is a “now” thing. Wherever you are presently, if a distraction comes in, you want to minimize that. Subdue those distractions. There are simple tricks like using airplane mode on your phone, do not disturb on your computer, turn off notifications, don’t get push notifications of emails, use one window or just a single tab in your browser, things like that.
I like to use what I call the whiteboard trick. When a distraction comes up—something I know I’m not supposed to focus on—I write it on the whiteboard. Then, if that temptation comes back to me, I say, “Nope! It’s on the whiteboard.” I’ve got it out of my head and I’ve written it down: this is a thing I’m not going to do. That’s minimizing distractions: auditing the things happening to you in the now and getting rid of them.
When I say “eliminating the possibility of interruptions,” I’m not talking about telling someone “Don’t interrupt me, I’m busy,” but stopping even the possibility of interruptions. It’s a preventative measure. You’re doing whatever it takes ahead of time to create this safe space.
This could be preparation of your environment or it could be communicating with the people around you, whether that’s family, coworkers, a boss, or employees. “I am not going to be available.” It’s creating this safe space ahead of time. You’re preventing the possibility of interruptions. This allows you to enter a state of full focus where you know without a doubt that no interruption will come. That’s going to bring about a peace of mind, a clarity, and a focus that’s unlike any other. You must acquire this if you want to get more done in a day.
Lastly, I’ll share some brief tips to help you focus:
- Assign a focus to a device.
- Assign a focus to an area.
- Assign a focus to a time.
Let’s say you want to write, but you’re having trouble focusing. An example of assigning a focus to a device would be to only write your blog posts on your iPad with a bluetooth keyboard. This way, you create an association with the device that helps you focus on a particular task.
You could also assign a focus to an area. If you want to stretch in the morning, you could dedicate a space in your living room to do so.
Lastly, you could assign a focus to a specific time of day and create a routine. An example would be to always come up with the next week’s topic on Mondays at 11am.
If you really want to amplify the benefits of this approach, you can combine all of these methods. So something like writing your blog post on your iPad in the living room on Mondays at 11am. This habit stacking is going to create a strong association that will maximize your focus. If you do this with as many of your most important tasks as possible, you’re going to get much more done in a day.