Do you have trouble focusing? If you’re like most people reading this, then you’re probably nodding your head with a resounding “uh huh.” I feel your pain. I’m the first one to admit it: I’m terribly unproductive at times.
Without systems in place, I quickly become host to shiny object syndrome: Facebook, checking news sites for the umpteenth time, that tenth cup of coffee (debatable if this is a problem, though); I’m like a bug to a light. I. just. can’t. resist…
People tend to think of productivity in the context of time management. But I think the term “time management” is a bit of a misnomer. I mean, you can’t really manage time — but you can manage yourself within time. When it comes to increasing productivity, I prefer to think of it in terms of “self-management.“
Self-Management Vs. Time Mangement
Time management focuses on time as the standard unit of productive output. Effective time management might sound something like, “I got more done today by skipping lunch and logging each hour of my working day.” (time-based)
Self-management, by contrast, focuses on how productive you feel and perform working within the context of time. You might even think of it as “mindfulness.” Productive units of output don’t rely on time so much as they do on the cultivation of productive states of wellbeing.
Applying self-management sounds like this: “I took a longer break than usual, I felt like I needed to get out of the office and get some fresh air. I feel more grounded now.” (flexible and inwardly focused)
Time management approaches productivity from the outside-in; self-management approaches it from the inside-out.
The advantages of thinking in terms of self-management
- Self-management is human – Time management feels robotic; and, if you’re anything like me, it eventually leads to burnout. Whenever I try to do “time management,” I end up with little time for spontaneity or reflection. I become a slave to the clock. I’ll even end up starving myself without realizing it; don’t want that lunch to get in the way of my “productivity”! Self-management recognizes that we aren’t machines; it’s much, much kinder.
- Scale– You can’t scale time, it’s finite. But you can definitely scale things like inspiration, creativity, positive emotions, and self-reflection. A healthy emotional state pays out a high ROI.
- Flexibility – Self-management allows for the individual expression of personal preferences. It’s flexible. Time management is fixed. Being flexible allows you to quickly adapt when things don’t go as planned.
Ok, so at this point, you might be wondering if I’m saying time management is unnecessary. I’m not saying that. I think self-management and time management are both useful tools; one flows, the other simply goes, and goes. I think you need some measure of both. And it’s certainly not my intention to create what some might deem a false dichotomy.
I consider self-management to be one of the most useful productivity hacks: it helps me naturally achieve the best management of my time. Time management is, therefore, an end and not a means unto itself.
Below you’ll find a list of unique productivity hacks that help be more productive. Some focus on time, while others focus on the self. And, before you say it, I know what you’re thinking, “But I thought you said self-management was the focus?” It is.
Heres the deal: applying the concept of self-management means observing how these tools make you feel.
Do they drain you, or do they leave you feeling balanced? The measure of productive output is emotional wellbeing. We want to feel charged, inspired and creative. It’s not about seeing how many more hours of work you did by not taking a single break. If you’re managing your emotional energy well, the hours will take care of themselves.
Six Unique Productivity Hacks To Help You Improve Your Focus
1. Coworking Space At WeWork
WeWork is amazing. Imagine a place you can go to get things done, be part of a community of creators, and have an endless supply of cold brew coffee on tap (there’s beer, too.). There are nooks and crannies, private study areas, and a variety of inspiring workspaces to help you be productive. Sometimes, getting into a new environment is what your brain needs to focus. And, with over fifty-eight locations across the world, WeWork is that place. Get started with WeWork Here.
2. The Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro technique is a method of breaking your work up into chunks of time with room for small breaks in between. It was invented by productivity specialist Francesco Cirillo. It’s like sprints for your brain. I like this tool because of how it makes me feel. I don’t feel like I’m working against the clock so much as I feel like I’m balancing my emotional and creative energy stores.
Here’s how to do it:
- Set your timer for twenty-five minutes and start working.
- Once your twenty-five minutes are up, take a five-minute break. This is one Pomodoro. Repeat the cycle again until you’ve completed four Pomodoros in total.
- When your four Pomodoros are up, take an extended break of fifteen to thirty minutes.
- After the extended break, start back at step one and run through four more Pomodoros.
I use this method and it rocks. The breaks allow you process information better and prevent burnout.
Pomodoro Technique Resources
Tomato-Timer – Simple and easy to use Pomodoro timer for your web browser.
Marinara Timer – Alternative to the Tomato-Timer listed above. It has additional options and features that allow for customizations.
https://cirillocompany.de/ – Official website of Pomodoro Technique creator Francesco Cirillo
Productivity 101 – Comprehensive layout of the Pomodoro Technique from Lifehacker.com
3. The Passion Planner
The Passion Planner is an amazing tool that helps you focus your life by months and weeks, step by step. I wake up every day to line up my week and keep track of my work activities. It’s an introspective tool that helps keep you accountable. If you don’t have one, get one. You’ll reach your goals in less time and crush the day. It’s awesome. Get it HERE.
I use a small journal in conjunction with the passion planner to keep up with my emotional and spiritual life. I write down my thoughts, challenges, insights, and ideas. This tool complements the Passion Planner in that I have a tool for organization, and a tool to record the chaos in my brain. I use both these things first thing in the morning and sometimes before going to bed. Getting the stuff out of your head and onto paper helps my emotional and spiritual life, and also helps me be more creative. Journaling is awesome!
5. The Notecard Method
I stole this idea from Nate Green (Note: follow him, he’s awesome). It’s similar in practice to the Pomodoro Technique. I like the notecard method because it allows me to put my intentions out into the physical world; something about putting thoughts and intention on to paper helps me be productive.
Here’s how it works:
- Grab a note card and write your desired outcome on it.
- Give yourself a block of time to accomplish the task(s). I usually go for 90-minute blocks at a time and then break. I write the block of time I’ve cornered off to get it done (i.e. 7:30-9:00)
- When you’re done working, make a block for lunch or whatever it is you want to do, then make another 90-minute block. Try it, it works.
6. Browser Extensions To Block Social Media And Email
It’s not the daily increase, but the daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential. – Bruce Lee
A big part of staying focused requires taking away the things causing distractions. Social media and the repeated checking of email are major culprits. It’s time to take away their power. Here are browser extensions that will prevent you from checking facebook and email. There are several others out there, but I’ve found these two to be the most useful.
Inbox When Ready for Gmail™ – Blocks you from checking your email, because, let’s face it, you don’t need to check it ever twenty seconds.
News Feed Eradicator For Facebook – Your obsessive fascination with the Facebook newsfeed is replaced with inspirational quotes.
Using these productivity hacks and focusing on self-management has improved my focus, and also my emotional, spiritual, and physical wellbeing. I’m confident they’ll help you, too.
Let me know what productivity hacks you use by commenting below.
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