How to be free to focus?

In our society, the most significant word is “more”-we are bombarded by more goods, more pace, more work and more tension. We still strive to fit more into our already busy timetables. That’s why, you guessed it, we crave more efficiency. But how far are we going to extend ourselves and our timetables? An alternative to this road to self-destruction is given to us by Michael Hyatt. He argues in the novel, Free to Concentrate, that we are striving for the wrong objective. We don’t have to do more, only more of the right thing.

This is easier said than done, especially in a workplace full of distractions that drain our focus and ability to concentrate. Our efficiency will skyrocket if we can get a handle on these things, and we can leave work feeling relaxed and happy.

There are meetings to attend, presentations to give, reports to compose and tasks to complete. Workdays are packed with an endless litany of duties. But seldom are our actions enough. Often it feels like we’re in a leaky boat, bucketing water over the side frenetically. Water builds up, and we’re starting to sink. That is the moment when we begin to buy into the efficiency fallacy. We think we’d be all right if we could work a little quicker. We start searching for life hacks, each of which promises to give us a couple of more minutes of time.

But in fact, obsessing over speed reduces our productivity. That’s because we want to do more with our time, and by cramming more stuff into our overflowing schedules, squander any time saved. For example, finding a faster way to write our regular emails only means that we’ll start preparing emails earlier tomorrow.

We begin working overtime to finish all our tasks in another faulty approach to increasing productivity. We justify this often by reminding ourselves that overtime is temporary and things will eventually settle down. The reverse is real, however. The findings of several major studies looking at workplace efficiency were collected by Jack Nevison, the founder of New Leaf Project Management. He found that, owing to stress and mental exhaustion, employees who clock more than 55 hours a week are actually less effective than those who work 50 or less.

Our prevailing efficiency myths are unsustainable and ineffective. That’s why we should start striving for equality, instead of efficiency. There are many things independence can mean. For example, the freedom to concentrate, which means having the time to concentrate and to do intense, uninterrupted work. This is the most significant and often most demanding form of job, as it produces more outcomes and requires hard mental labour. Since deep work requires intense concentration, it is exhausting and every day is only feasible for a limited period.

This makes another efficiency target even more important, i.e. the right to do nothing. It seems counterintuitive, but when our minds are at ease, most of our breakthrough ideas actually happen. Being busy during the week implies that in our days off we gain the opportunity to do nothing, and that’s when the creative juices really start flowing.

We instinctively cut back on leisure and relaxation as our calendar begins to overflow and our to-do lists become longer than shopping lists. Busy times mean canceling dinner with a friend or getting a few less hours of sleep for most of us. Yet our mental wellbeing is not only impaired by skimping on rest and recreation, it is also totally counterproductive.

Many of us believe that time is versatile and that our energy levels remain constant during the day. We believe that we can extend our workday by 20% and do 20% more. But time is set and the level of energy is finite. In the morning, while our minds are new, we generally get our best work done, although we are slower and less active after lunch. This is regular evidence of the versatility of energy levels, and concentration and willpower are scarce resources that need to be replenished.

Here’s another productivity theory which seems paradoxical: we can’t skimp on rejuvenation if we want to optimize our focus and become more efficient. This revitalizes our exhausted minds and energizes our bodies. Sleep is the most critical – and sometimes neglected – type of rejuvenation.

In our relentless march toward productivity, our social lives are another victim. Humans are fundamentally social beings, and our emotional well-being includes close relationships. Some of our most significant relationships are those we have with our families, and it is a bad idea to disregard these for work. Our resources, morale and mental wellbeing suffer if our personal relationships deteriorate, and this affects our productivity.

Do not underestimate, ultimately, the force of play. For the sheer pleasure of it, play refers to any leisure activity performed. Hiking, drawing, fishing or just taking the children to the park are all part of this. After all, playing means you’re not working against your looming deadline, but they’re actually a powerful productivity tool. These outings might seem inefficient. Play is one of the best ways to recharge your mental batteries with a new, laser-sharp emphasis and launch into your job.

Productivity can obviously give you more time to rejuvenate, making you more concentrated and successful, but how can you accomplish this? The first step includes behaving like a gardener. You need to prune away the nonessential things in your workday to save time. It might seem odd to do less to be more active, but it’s the most important key to effectiveness. Productivity is not about doing more of it all, it is about doing more of the right stuff. This means finding key things to concentrate on and trimming all else down.

By determining your passion and proficiency for each mission, you will classify candidates for elimination. Passion refers to the high degree of inspiration you carry to such assignments. On the other hand, proficiency means that you are skilled in the field and that this task contributes greatly to your job.

You will find the best ones to cut out by comparing your passion and competence for each role, those tasks that score low on both passion and ability. Maybe ordering office supplies bores you, and anyway, you still get it wrong. You could start delegating this to staff if you are in a management role.

Tasks for which you are professional but have little passion may also be pruned. Tasks that you’re enthusiastic about, but not especially competent about, are more challenging. These are simple distractions, but low proficiency means that by doing them yourself, you are not adding value to your company. If you love web design but are not very familiar with it, when a dedicated web developer can build them much faster for you, you might quickly find yourself getting bogged down designing new sites.

The most rewarding and high-value way of spending your time is to spend your time on things that you are both enthusiastic about and proficient in. You’ll be more efficient than you ever knew you could be by making tasks with high passion-proficiency scores your leading professional light, and taking away all else.

It is convenient to be overworked and overcommitted nowadays, the hard part being to prioritize the discipline. How is it that in the same period of time, certain individuals manage to do so much better than others? One explanation is that the power of no is recognized by highly productive people. Productivity superstars will say no, both to needless tasks and to requests from their colleagues and customers. They know that these tasks and requests will eat up all their time and energy if they allowed them to, and discourage them from concentrating on genuinely important work.

For yea-sayers who are grappling with no, note that behind every yes, there is one lurking. You are saying no to your morning run if you plan to meet for breakfast at 07:00 a.m. Saying yes to working overtime implies saying no to your partner’s meal. Keep this in mind when the next person asks you for something, and be strict with yourself. If anyone asks you this evening to proofread their paper, but you were planning to work out, just say you have an appointment later. You have an appointment with yourself. This is absolutely valid.

Another instrument that can help safeguard your time and improve productivity is routines. This means creating small routines that organize your actions during your week. One of the great things about routines is that the day ahead or closure on the day behind you would give you clarity. This clarity translates into work in the morning that targets the vital objectives. The sense of closure will leave you happy in the evening and help you rejuvenate, ready for tomorrow to be a productive day.

Rituals are also incredibly useful-they are tremendous time savers once created and require very little willpower to implement. The morning routine and the workday start-up ritual are two perfect routines. The finer points can vary from person to person, but items like making coffee, meditating, journaling and reviewing the objectives of the coming day can be part of a morning routine. Similarly, catching up with emails, checking your schedule and reminding colleagues of the hours when you will be unavailable today may be part of a workday start-up routine.

Check out my related post: How do you take better meeting notes?

Interesting reads:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s