A Simple Tip to Improve Your Productivity

We’re connected to the rest of the world now more than ever.
But at the same time, we’re increasingly becoming disconnected from the immediate world around us.
It’s exhilarating to see the advances in technology that have improved our lives for the better – yet simultaneously, they’ve made us more and more like robots.
I fear that Albert Einstein was correct in his prediction many years ago. It has now become true.
 ...and this is the day.  ...and this is the day.
I honestly can’t remember the last time I sat at dinner with some friends and had every single person fully engaged in conversation the entire time, not looking down to check their phones even once. And this is incredibly, incredibly sad.
Not only that, but we’re finding it increasingly difficult to focus on one task at a time. We’ve become a generation of multi-taskers – and that’s nothing to boast about.
What if I told you this: [Tweet "Each time you check an email that comes into your inbox, it takes you 67 seconds to re-focus."]
And given that the average individual in America checks his or her smartphone every 6.5 minutes for a total of about 160 times per day, that’s nearly 3 hours lost.
I promise you, those e-mails can wait.
My theme that I set back in January for the year was mindfulness. As I reflect back on these past few months, I can do an honest assessment with myself and note that I’ve been doing the following things right:
  • Not checking my phone at the table – in fact, my fiancé and I always stack our phones face down when we go out to eat. Whoever checks his/her phone first has to pay for the bill (though if neither of us does, then he pays by default – of course. Heh).
  • Turning off e-mail notifications on my phone – that way, I’m not jumping and getting distracted every other minute.
  • Turning off all notifications from social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.
  • Setting my phone on Do Not Disturb mode during the workday – if someone texts me, I’ll get to it on mytime. If it’s an urgent issue, I’ll receive a phone call.
  • Spending more time reading everyday – I’ve been shooting for 2 hours a day and am hoping to increase it to up to 3 hours. Nothing nourishes my soul more than a good book.
  • Keeping a tidy home office – less clutter equals a clearer and less stressed mind
The beginnings of my home office. 
The beginnings of my home office.
At the same time, there’s still a lot of room for improvement in the area of mindfulness for me. I still find myself feeling frequently frazzled and overwhelmed, and I know that those are sentiments that are completely within my control.
For one, I catch myself checking in on social media without even realizing what I’ve done until I’m scrolling through the newsfeed. It’s disheartening, because really, I feel like a zombie – it provides me with absolutely no gratification whatsoever, I do it out of sheer habit, and it’s completely mindless. Why do I do that? FOMO? That’s ridiculous. I don’t have to be checking into Twitter every few minutes just to see if anyone’s got some retweet-worthy tweet.
I also find myself easily distracted by my own thoughts. I’ll be working on article (like this one!), for example, and then I’ll remember that I need to tell one of my clients something – so I’ll click away and shoot her an email right away. Or I’ll decide that my hands are feeling a little dry, so I’ll scoot over to the bathroom and get some lotion right that very minute. It’s almost as though I’m incapable of sitting still and doing just one thing for any appreciable length of time. This is something that I’d really, really like to change.
I know you can probably relate. I know you or someone you know is living a similar life of overstimulation, under-connectedness, and overwhelm.
Let’s fix that.
But rather than trying to make a whole lifestyle overhaul, just focus on one thing for now.
Try this:
Put your phone on silent and set a timer for 90 minutes.
During your workday, that’s how long you’re going to commit to work for without any distractions. Science has shown that that’s about how long the average human can go for without a drop in productivity. So don’t check your e-mail, Facebook, or text messages during that time. You’ll notice that you get a whole lot more done during that focused time period, and on top of that, knowing that a mental break is just around the corner can motivate you to stay on task.
Once the 90 minutes are up, do whatever you want for about 20 minutes. I recommend you get outside and take a walk, but really, whatever you want to do to rejuvenate is up to you.
Go play with your dog.
Take a coffee break.
Chitchat with a coworker about last night’s baseball game.
I’ve been implementing this 90:20 work-rest ratio for the past week, and it’s worked wonders for me. I’m finding myself finish my work a lot quicker, I’m feeling more satisfied, and I actually have ample time to unwind in the evenings rather than working right up until the minute I go to bed.
And as for my phone, absolutely nothing has happened that’s required my immediate attention. Really, if someone’s wound up in the hospital, am I going to receive a text about it? Or are they going to call me? :)
If you catch yourself reaching for your phone during these 90 minutes, try putting your phone out of reach. Maybe place it somewhere across the room or in a different room entirely if you can. Hell, even pawn it off to a friend or a coworker for the time being.
If 90 minutes feels like too big of a jump for you, start with just 30 minutes. Just half an hour may feel sufficient difficult in the beginning, but just give it a shot. Then every week, increase that work time by 10 minutes.
You may find over time that 90 minutes is not your golden number, and that’s completely okay. Some people work better in 45-minute spurts followed by 10-minute breaks. Whatever your work-rest ratio is, I encourage you spend a couple of weeks finding your sweet spot, the length of time that allows you to work at your best and stay the most focused.
Social media isn’t going anywhere, I can tell you that much.