We have established by now that being busy does not exactly mean you are being productive. In the last blog, we learned that the biggest pitfall of busyness is it takes you away from the goals that truly matter. We learned two major focus tips:
This is part of the ‘10X Your Results’ series where I am sharing practical tips on focusing your attention to achieve 10X results. This week, I have two final tips that I am hoping would blow your mind, and help you achieve the results you have been longing for.
In my early career, I prided myself in my ability to multitask. I worked on two, three, or more projects at one time, switching from one to the next and then back again. As a project manager, I often was required to attend long meetings. Whenever the meetings turned to topics that did not concern me, I would quickly turn to responding to emails, writing reports, and doing other tasks. However, I found these meetings and the simultaneous multitasking left me feeling exhausted.
And then I noticed that two of my mentors worked substantially fewer hours than most executives and yet ran multi million businesses, coached successful business people, and had written several books. “How is this possible?” I wondered.
The answer: focused attention.
Cal Newport, author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, proposes this law of productivity:
High-Quality Work Produced = (Time Spent) x (Intensity of Focus).
He explains, “To produce at your peak level you need to work for extended periods with full concentration on a single task free from distraction.” When you work in a tight bubble of total focus, you enter a state of flow.
Now, I find that I can get more things done in a few hours of deep work than I used to do in an entire workday.
Nancy K. Napier, a professor of strategy and leadership, pointed out,
“Neuroscience tells us that the brain doesn’t do tasks simultaneously.” Instead, it switches from one task to another. The truth is that multitasking comes at a high price, multi-taskers are chronically distracted.
After intensely working on a task for 10 to 15 minutes, your brain switches into a peak state of performance in which you can accomplish more than usual. This optimal mental functioning is called a state of flow and can supercharge your momentum.
A 10-year study by the global management consulting firm, McKinsey, on flow and productivity reported if you spent 15-20% more time in a state of flow, your productivity would double.
That’s how top performers achieve more than average. And as an added bonus, in a state of flow, the brain waves change and enhance your creativity. Thus, not only will you get more done, but also you will produce your best work.
Newport recommends working intensely in 90-minute increments and rest and recharge in between. I find that when I get in a state of flow, I can accomplish more in a single 90-minute cycle than I typically can in many hours.
Deep focus requires much mental energy, so it’s essential to schedule your flow-state activities during your brain’s peak energy levels. Most often, we are at our best in the morning. Therefore, if you begin your day by reading your messages and browsing through your newsfeed, you may not have enough energy left afterward to enter into a state of flow.
Adam Grant, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School’s top-rated professor and best-selling author received his full professorship in 2014. By that time, he had already written over sixty peer-reviewed publications and several best-selling books. Cal Newport states Grant accomplishes this by stacking “important intellectual work into long, uninterrupted stretches.”
During intense research periods, which can last up to three or four days, Professor Adam Grant often puts an out-of-office auto-responder on his email so correspondents will know not to expect a response.
Focusing our attention not only applies to the business world. God wants our undivided attention, too. Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” If you want to win the prize God has in store for you, you must pursue your mission while focusing on Him.
Saint Augustine said it well:
“Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.” And don’t forget about the devil, who is another distraction fighting for our attention because he doesn’t want us to succeed.
As Peter wrote, “Resist him, standing firm in the faith.”
You may wonder how you can achieve your audacious goal. Perhaps you feel overwhelmed like I did when it came time to launch my first book.
I used to be a poor writer in school, so writing a book was quite a challenge. But then I realized that the writing was just the beginning. How would I come up with a good title? How would I design the cover? What about the interior layout of the book — how would I handle that?
As I struggled to come up with ways to do all of these new tasks myself, I realized I needed to focus on my strengths and find others to help me do the things I was unfamiliar with.
In his book, The Big Leap, Gay Hendricks observes that we work in four different zones:
In The Big Leap, Hendricks invites you to ask yourself these three questions:
What activities do you do that don’t feel like work? Focus on those. You’ll discover the things you’re truly gifted in. And radical focus on your Zone of Genius will enable you to make great advancements in your field.
Not long after Pentecost, the twelve apostles forgot to operate in their Zone of Genius. They were doing too many things. “As the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. The Greek-speaking believers complained about the Hebrew-speaking believers, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food.” Pondering over the issue, the twelve realized, “We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program.” To have the most impact in the world, they needed to stick to what they did best.
In short, we need to focus on our 20% and get rid of the 80%.
In his book, Eat That Frog, Brian Tracy, the self-improvement guru, proposes the ABCDE Method to identify the activities you should delegate to others. When considering all of the tasks necessary to reach your objective, he suggests you divide them into five distinct groups:
A: Must do
B: Should do
C: Nice to have
Tracy suggests you focus on your must-do activities since these are the ones that bring you closer to your objective. It doesn’t mean that the D activities are not important. It’s just that they are outside of your Zone of Genus and would be completed easily by someone else.
To quote Dan Sullivan and Benjamin Hardy, “Having a 10x mindset means you know and understand deeply that to accomplish more, you must actually do and focus on increasingly less.”