This column is by David Kadavy, Author, Design for Hackers
Everyone dreams of being a productivity machine. The best you can hope for is to be fully-focused on what you’re doing at any given moment.
There are 6 essential components to your life and work. Each one feeds into the other.
If you’re a writer, for example, you can’t expect to be banging out perfect prose all day. Sometimes you have to research, sometimes you have to aimlessly read, and sometimes you have to send invoices.
In the process of helping reinvent Google Calendar, I discovered these 6 essential components of achieving Full Focus. If you arrange your days and weeks with these components, following the ebbs and flows of your energy, you’ll always be fully-focused on the task at hand.
- Prioritize: Prioritization and planning enables smooth and swift action. You aren’t questioning what you should be doing, you’re just doing. You can Prioritize by deciding what to do, and what not to do, or by building habits to eliminate decision fatigue. Prioritization is the most mentally-draining type of thinking, so make time to Prioritize when your brain is fresh. I do a Prioritization session every Sunday afternoon, where I plan my week.
- Generate: Every creator loves the time when they’re Generating. This is when you’re in that flow state, and words or design or code is coming easily, while the clock glides forward. You can only be in this state so many hours in a day. Pick a time, every day, for this kind of work, and protect it. Block out all distractions. Counterintuitively, your best time for Generation may actually be when you’re groggy.
- Explore: Everyone has made serendipitous discoveries. Maybe you’re scanning your Facebook feed, and a link a friend shared just happens to have that missing piece of the puzzle. The danger of this is that you then subconsciously place too high a value on scanning Facebook — and that may cut into your Generation time. Make time for Exploration — reading books, watching movies, or surfing the web—in a way that won’t interfere with your prime Generation time. Be strategic about what you consume by following your curiosity.
- Refine: You have standards of quality, but sometimes those standards can knock you out of flow. If you’re a writer, for example, don’t let looking up a historical date, or a fact, or the spelling of a word, knock you off track. [Put it in brackets], and keep moving. Switching mind states is too taxing, and every moment of that prime Generation time counts. It’s better to make a separate session where you Refine the details.
- Administer: We all have pesky details we need to attend to. Filling out expense reports, or reviewing our site stats, for example. Don’t let the Administrative details get in the way of your most productive time. Make them the lowest priority. If I get an email from my accountant, f0r example, I’ll Boomerang it so it comes back to me on Friday. By that time, I’ve exhausted my creative juices, so it’s a good time to review finances.
- Recharge: You know you can’t produce 24 hours a day. Actually, you can, but it just doesn’t look like it. When you rest, your knowledge consolidates, and connections get made for later creative bursts. This is especially true when you’re sleeping. Make time to Recharge, even if you don’t want to. Practice doing nothing, and spend time with people you care about. Your Generation session on Monday will be more productive for it.
If you start to take note of how your work and life are made up of these 6 essential components, you can start to arrange your schedule accordingly. When each moment has a purpose, you eliminate procrastination, harness momentum, and work like a perpetual motion machine.
Tuning your work and schedule for Full Focus is an ongoing process—it doesn’t happen overnight. You may have to try some unconventional methods; but if you’re persistent, you’ll eventually achieve Full Focus, and produce great work effortlessly.
Dan Ariely and I used these concepts to reinvent Google Calendar. Listen to Dan and I talk about the behavioral science behind Full Focus »
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