Successful and productive entrepreneurship requires a lot of focus and effective execution, but it’s so easy to get distracted by all the notifications, messages, emails, and the tempting allure of our Instagram feed.
So how can we increase our productivity and creativity? Keep reading…
First, we need to understand that our brain has two primary ways of operating:
The obvious answer would be the “Focus mode”, right? but this was actually a trick question (sorry….). The surprising answer is that strategically switching between these two modes of thinking is actually the best way to be productive and creative.
This is especially important for learning, creative work, or ‘deep thinking’ that requires both modes to work together. Creating the perfect balance between creativity and performance for best results.
First of all, when we are immersed in a task and fully focused on it – we lose the ability to think outside of the box. It’s that tunnel vision of productivity, remember?
If we walk away and let our mind wander, our brain is able to form a creative solution, link ideas, and tap into areas of our subconscious we didn’t have access to before. That’s why we get our best ideas in the shower when we’re talking a walk or just before bedtime.
Fun fact: Einstein figured out relativity during an argument with a friend. Not making any suggestions here – just pointing this out…
The second reason we need to switch between Focus mode and Diffuse mode is that taking a break allows us to rest and recover so we can actually be more productive and get things done when we’re in focused Mode.
Not so fun fact: after figuring out relativity, Einstein then spent decades refining and clarifying his theories for publication, working until the day before his death. Not to bum you out or anything but yes, we actually need to put in the work to get things done….
I like to think of working long hours (focusing and concentrating) like running a marathon. We start with our energy at its peak, knowing it has to last us the entire day (or run), so we subconsciously (or, even on purpose, sometimes) pace ourselves back, dedicating only a small portion of our energy to each task (or mile of the run), so we never reach our true productive potential (or our true speed).
When we take intentional breaks for renewal, it’s like running a series of sprints. We give our best focus to each task (sprint) because we know we can let our mind (and body) rest in a short time, resulting in higher and more sustainable productivity overall.
The problem is most of us are never fully ‘on’ and never fully ‘off.’ When we’re supposed to focus on work, we get distracted by messages, social media, or news websites.
And on the other hand, most of us never fully relax or let our minds wander as we occupy them with other things. Stepping away from our laptop does not automatically qualify as a break – taking a break just to Netflix or scroll through your Insta feed – it’s not turning your mind “off” – it’s just killing time.
I want to introduce you to the 50-10-50-30 strategy that helps us be “fully on” and focused and “fully off” and reset, and effectively switch between them. This is how my clients and I get amazing results – get more done in a shorter period of time, get more creative with easee and feel calm and at ease.
Block off 50 minutes of your time, clear all distractions, and turn off notifications. A true state of “flow” requires that your mind be dedicated to a single task (NO multitasking!!) So choose a single (preferably important) task to focus on and give it all your attention, focus, creativity – don’t worry about pacing yourself.
Imagine that this is the only task you have to do today. This would allow you (and your subconscious) to let go of any inhibitions or fear that you will exhaust yourself and not have anything left for the tasks to come. And because you know that you’re going to have a break soon – your FOMO-induced anxiety should decrease (you can also tell close friends/family/clients that you may not be responding to their messages as quickly as you used to – and THAT’S OK).
In this break, we need to switch into Diffuse mode. Take your focus away from the task and allow your mind to recover and wander. Checking your inbox/Insta feed is NOT a break, but you also don’t just have to sit in total silent boredom; you can “multi-task” to a certain extent with manual, repetitive tasks that don’t require your full attention but allow you to practice them mindfully – like washing the dishes or folding laundry.
If you were sitting, get up and walk around, stretch lightly and drink a glass of water. You can also take a few deep breaths, meditate for a minute or two, or just close your eye and listen to background music.
Once you’re recharged, it’s time to get back to work –
Again, choose a single task to focus on (you can continue the same task as before) or batch fewer smaller tasks like answering emails/DM’s, etc.
Again, give it everything you got – don’t pace yourself or hold back.
This time, take a long, half-hour break, rest and recover. You can go for a short walk, take a nap if needed or have a snack/small meal.
The times of the modes can (and should) vary according to your personal ability and energy on that day- it can be between 40-60 minutes of focused time and shorter or longer breaks if necessary. play with that to find what works best for YOU!
You don’t have to do it all day long as this is especially effective in creative tasks like content creation, clients work, etc. but definitely incorporate this into your schedule when you can and do as many rounds as necessary.