Gwen had a hard time focusing on her work. As a successful interior designer, Gwen thrived on the design aspects of her work. But she easily got bored with and put off the back-end tasks required to run her busy firm, Place It. She worked out of her home office. When she sat down at her desk, her two dogs Archie and Bella invited her to play. Birds on the maple tree outside her window sang and she turned her attention there. Chores like invoicing clients or writing copy for her website dragged on for hours. The phone rang, beeped and vibrated. Each time it chirped, she glanced at it. She couldn't focus! Hours went by.
We came up with a simple two-part technique:
First, turning off and putting the phone out of sight was crucial to her ability to focus. According to The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, our brains have been trained to seek a reward each time the phone beeps. It wants that pleasurable hit of getting a new message, text, or notification so we automatically respond by reaching for the phone when we get a cue. But turning off and putting the phone out of sight broke Gwen's automatic cue-response-reward habit.
Second, using the timer creates pressure that helps to spur us on. It gives the illusion of urgency on a deadline. And according to a study published in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Professor Sophie Leroy found that time pressure helps us “disengage from the first task… and contributes to higher performance on the next tasks.”
Gwen explains: "Tasks used to drag on and on. With the timer, I feel like I can just do it so I don't have to put it off forever. Using the timer, I can do all of this in one hour. Otherwise it usually took four hours. Now I can focus the time I saved on what I really love: fun work such as design."
So why not set a timer to one hour? The power of using 50 minutes instead of one hour is in those 10 minutes. They provide the crucial transition time to disengage and move to the next activity. Gwen continues: “Those 10-minute breaks are really important. I turn on some music, pet the dogs, and eat a snack.” After intense focus, our minds need a break, but not too long that we get distracted.
Try This For Yourself
Ready to regain precious time in your day? Try this for one morning and see for yourself.
Want help on this and other productivity techniques? Get in touch today.