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I want you to get the most out of your day, and to be productive, you need to plan your day. You need to schedule it in advance and find focused time.
Most people work 8 hours in a day, but they don’t really get 8 hours worth of work done. They’re distracted, they take breaks, they get interrupted, and they browse Facebook.
What they really get done in a day is equivalent to something like 90 minutes of focused time.
If you had a 90-minute block of focused time for the most important work of your day, you would be as productive as most people in an 8-hour work day.
Workers are interrupted every 10.5 minutes on average and that’s not even the worst part. Studies show that it takes 23 minutes on average to regain focus. It takes 23 minutes to get back into the flow!
This means every 7-minute interruption costs you half an hour in actual focused work time.
If you’re working in a place where you’re constantly getting interrupted, you’re simply not working. You can’t get back into that flow without another 23 minutes every time you’re interrupted.
You need to protect your focus like your life depends on it and like your work depends on it, because it does!
Minimizing vs. Eliminating
Minimize distractions, yes, but also eliminate the possibility of interruptions. Minimizing distractions is a now thing.
When a distraction comes up, you want to minimize it. You’re reacting to it in the now, but eliminating the possibility of interruptions is a preemptive thing.
It’s something you do ahead of time. If you’re getting interrupted, it’s one thing to minimize those when they happen, but you need to prevent them in advance.
This might mean if you work at home, and your family members are knocking on the door and interrupting your focus, you have to tell them ahead of time, “This is when I’m going to be working.”
You need to know without a shadow of a doubt that you will not be interrupted.
You need to eliminate the possibility of interruptions.
If you don’t do this, there’s always going to be a process in the back of your mind that’s running, wondering whether or not you’re going to get interrupted.
You’re always going to be wondering whether or not someone is about to interrupt you and that’s taking some of your cognitive bandwidth. That’s stealing some of your focus.
We know distractions are bad and interruptions harm our productivity, but we don’t know how bad they are.
Define a Successful Day
We don’t really have a good grasp on how harmful interruptions are to our productivity. The reason for this is because we don’t define what a successful day looks like. We don’t know what tomorrow’s version of success looks like.
We’re not defining that ahead of time, so we go into the next day without any definition of success. It’s no wonder that we don’t recognize how harmful these interruptions and distractions are!
On a subconscious level, we actually crave these interruptions, because as we mentioned, studies show it takes 23 minutes on average to regain focus.
During those 23 minutes, you have to work hard to regain that focus and that’s not fun. It means applying yourself and interruptions are relief.
Interruptions are relief from having to work and apply ourselves at regaining focus, so we actually secretly want those interruptions to happen.
There’s all kinds of tricks for minimizing distractions and eliminating interruptions—everything from turning your phone on Do Not Disturb Mode to using apps that limit what you can do on the internet, or writing down distractions on your whiteboard, but I’ve found the most effective thing to be planning your day in advance.
Plan tomorrow’s success. What does a successful version of tomorrow look like?
What are the three most important things you want to accomplish tomorrow? Write those down!
Write it on an actual sticky note, not just in an app, and put it on your computer monitor, so when you show up in the morning and you look at your desk, you know exactly what you need to do.
You know the three most important things you need to accomplish this day in order for it to be a success.
Schedule Focused Time
Lastly, schedule a 90-minute block of focused time—just one!
If you can do multiple, that’s awesome, but just start with one.
Schedule one 90-minute block of focused time where you tell everyone around you who could possibly be messaging you, knocking on your door, or tapping you on the shoulder, that you are not going to be available.
Put your phone in airplane mode and go in a place that’s going to be quiet. You need silence.
The people who are successful don’t have more time in a day, they have more focused time in a day.