You’re here to learn how to increase productivity. Great! Read on to learn how I used a simple count down timer to improve my focus.
How can a clock increase productivity? Read on to learn the step by step process I use.
Whenever I’m facing a task that is dull, I simply set the timer and use the Pomodoro technique. This method saves me when I’m struggling to focus. It helps fight procrastination. You can fight the urge to browse the Web too. Best of all, this technique does not cost any money and takes less than an hour to put into action.
The Pomodoro Technique to increase productivity was created by Francesco Cirillo. Before you start buying books and courses, I encourage you to experiment with this practice first. After all, it may not suit you. This productivity tip will be especially valuable if you are engaged in complex and creative work such as writing, programming, or art.
An “almost magic” way to get started with Pomodoro Technique
Getting started with this practice takes a few simple steps. I recommend you follow these steps to the letter at first. You can always make changes in the future when you are a pro. Until then, stick to the basics.
- Choose One Task To Work On. For example, “fix bugs in the customer database”
- Get A Glass of Water (or Tea or Coffee). Having a drink on hand makes life better. There is no urge to wander off for a few minutes while you work.
- Set a timer. Use your watch, smart phone or a timer website for 25 minutes
- Work: For the next 25 minutes, work exclusively on your task. Ignore everything else.
- Reward Break. At the end of 25 minutes, take a 10 minute break! I recommend actually getting up from your desk and walking around for a few minutes. You could also do a bit of light exercise – squats or push ups – and enjoy a few minutes with your current book.
- Start over at Step 1
The above technique can be applied equally well to dull and necessary tasks and creative work. This method to increase productivity is one of the best ways I know to improve your focus in a short period of time.
If you find it completely impossible to focus with this exercise, there may be more significant problems undermining your productivity. As Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain shows, the mind and body are linked. In the short term, sleeping more and getting daily exercise will do wonders for your energy. Taking care of your body will improve productivity.
The Pure Magic of Using Time Limits To Improve Productivity
Endless opportunity and endless information – that’s one way to describe the world we live in. If you even minimal curiosity about the world, you have the ability to distract yourself from work. That’s why you’re learning to improve productivity. The Pomodoro Technique understands that you have plenty of interests AND that you have work to do. Instead of forcing you to quit cold turkey, this method gradually increases your focus over time.
If you use a computer in your daily work, there are plenty of ways to improve focus. RescueTime reports how much time you spend on different applications (e.g. fifty minutes in Microsoft Word and five hours on Facebook). Monitoring may be enough for you. Peter Druck put it best: “what gets measured gets managed.”
Writers have other options to improve productivity while writing. For times where I have sought to write fiction or other material for extended periods of time, I recommend using Freedom (for Apple) or TextRoom (for PC). These tools exterminate the Achilles’s heel of productivity that afflicts many of us. The old line of “oh, I just want to check email, / Facebook / Twitter for a minute and then I’ll get back to work” trap.
Why It’s So Important To Take Breaks To Improve Productivity
Rewards are a key reason that the Pomodoro Technique has helped me become more productive. Even if I am working through a dry and boring task – like updating a complex database – I have the reward break just on the horizon a few minutes away. By deciding on your reward in advance, you will have something enjoyable to look forward to during your work. Anticipation is a key productivity lifehack.
Four Sure-Fire Ways To Stay Production Using Rewards
1) Reading From A Print Book: Reading a few pages from a print book also gives your eyes and hands a break from the computer. I’m currently reading “Imperium” by Robert Harris, a historical novel set in the Roman Republic. If you are looking for a basic and reliable introduction to the art of productivity, you cannot go wrong by reading “Getting Things Done” by David Allen.
2) Go Outside: by going outside for a few minutes, you can experience some sun and wind.
3) Read An Article: Reading is a major source of leisure for me so I often like to read to relax. If you like longer articles, I recommend Long Reads.
4) Talk To A Friend or Colleague: assuming you are based in an office of some kind, going to talk to a friend for a few minutes makes sense. Not sure what to talk about? You can always improve business relationships with a cookie!
What The Most Productive People Know About Getting Away From The Desk
Did you notice that only one out of the four suggestions for short rewards involved using your computer? That is not by accident! Giving your mind, eyes, and hands a short break from focusing on your computer is a key benefit to taking a break. If you don’t believe me, consider the recommendation of the American Optometric Association:
“Rest your eyes for 15 minutes after two hours of continuous computer use.” – American Optometric Association
Remember to give your eyes a break even if you decide to work longer than 25-30 minutes at a stretch. There’s nothing wrong with seeking to increase your powers of concentration. Simply keep in mind your body has certain limits and it is best not to test those limits too often.
5 Proven Ways To Increase Productivity Through Minimalism
The Pomodoro Technique is only the beginning of how to increase your productivity through focus and using limits. Read on to learn about five other methods that can make all the difference in helping you put on blinders to focus your mental energy.
- The Fifty Minute Focus Finder. This method to improve productivity was created by Dean Jackson. He is the excellent co-host of the I Love Marketing podcast. It is loosely related to Getting Things Done (GTD) principles.
- Reading One Book At A Time. In re-reading one of Scott H. Young’s articles about reading over 70 books in a year, I discovered this principle again. From time to time, I start reading another book. It’s one thing to decide to abandon a book that is simply not interesting.
- Creating Sub-Deadlines For Projects: This is a student lifehack I learned years and years ago that can be applied beyond the classroom. Let’s say your manager (or publisher or client) gives you a deadline to complete a project two weeks from today. Taking five minutes to plan your project into sub-components gives you smaller deadlines to reach. If you’re addicted to the “rush” of racing to meet a last minute deadline, this productivity tip is for you!
- Making Your Work Into A Game (i.e. The “Personal Record” Hack): A few weeks ago, I started to use Lift App to encourage myself to drink more water. I have also seen other people use the app to pursue fitness goals and writing goals. When I go for a run, I sometimes push myself to achieve a personal record. From time to time, it’s fun to apply the game concept to productivity too.
- The 30 Day Challenges: Popularized by Matt Cutts from Google in his TED talk, Try Something New for 30 days, this concept is a great way to hack creativity. The 30 day challenge is uncharted territory for me personally. It’s on my list to experiment with later this year. I can see great merit in applying this idea. The 30 day challenge is particularly helpful if you are seeking to build a habit. Researchers have found that habits often take three to six weeks to form.
An almost unknown way to be more proactive: use limits
Setting constraints to increase productivity is simply another way to be proactive about how you use your day. Becoming proactive can be a daunting task, especially since “be proactive” is a somewhat vague recommendation to put into action. Using timers and calendars to put structure on your time allows you to ease into the proactive mindset gently.
Applying limitations and constraints to improve productivity is one of the paradoxes of productivity I’ve discovered in my work. I find that such limits can also increase creativity. You may read this article and then that limits are not for you. You might think your work is too creative for this approach to be useful. If that’s what you think, then keep reading for an alternate perspective
You might be right! I encourage you to experiment with this approach first. It may be a key lifehack that can increase your output significantly. At the very least, your body will get some much deserved rest from constant computer use. Put the concepts of constraints into action for at least two days before you decide whether it suits you.