By Ed Gandia
Ever find yourself with small pockets of time that seem “unusable”?
For instance, you have 30 minutes before your next appointment, which doesn’t give you enough time to dive into that article you’ve been working on.
Next time this happens, resist the temptation to waste away those precious minutes on Facebook. Instead, do a “productivity blitz.”
Here’s how this simple hack works:
- Pick a task from your to-do list that would normally take you a little longer to complete than the time you have available. Say you have one hour available but have about 90 minutes’ worth of unanswered emails. Or you have 30 minutes to draft an outline that would normally require 45 minutes.
- Log out of all social media websites. Turn your phone ringer off. Close your office door. And close your email program (unless your chosen task is to reply to email).
- Set a timer for the time you have available (here’s the online timer I use).
- Get laser focused. Try to complete your task before the timer goes off. Don’t let anything distract you from your goal.
- Don’t strive for perfection. If your task is part of a writing assignment, think of it as the first iteration. If it’s email, keep your replies short.
- Wrap up your work when the timer goes off, and walk away from your desk. Resist the temptation to keep going.
If you follow this system exactly, you’ll find that 80 percent of the time, you will have completed your task fully. And when you don’t finish the task, you will have made MUCH more progress than you thought possible under these time constraints.
A Bonus Hack to Quiet Your Brain
And if you want to put this idea on steroids, here’s something else you can add to the mix: “focus music.”
I know, I know! Music can be super-distracting. I get that. I’ve tried creating “writing” playlists. I’ve tried the calmest music stations in Pandora. I’ve even done the whole “sounds from nature” thing.
None of these have worked consistently for me.
But I recently discovered a tool that allows me to listen to music AND stay super focused. It’s called Focus@will.
Focus@will is a new neuroscience-based music service that helps you focus, reduce distractions and retain information when working, studying, writing and reading. The technology is based on hard science and proven to be extremely effective at extending your attention span.
The service allows you to pick from about 10 different stations. Every track is vocal-free and has been remixed or edited to deliver the precise set of required attributes to keep you in the focus zone.
Another big plus of Focus@will is that it comes with a built-in timer. So if you use the service you don’t have to use another tool to track your productivity blitz. And, yes, there’s a free version you can try before committing anything. But even the paid version is just $35 a year—an investment that paid for itself the day I signed up!
So there you have it: a quick, easy hack to get more productivity out of all those little pockets of time that are probably going unused.
Try it today. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how well it works.
Ed Gandia is a freelance copywriter, author, speaker and coach. He’s the co-author of The Wealthy Freelancer.
Got productivity questions for Ed? Leave them in the comments.