Or “how to make progress when you have very little time”
While you and I were busy running down dead ends and wasting our effort, scientists have been busy trying to figure out what actually works. And now they know.
Small steps work. Consistent effort works. Group support works.
That’s it. Three things.Seth Godin, entrepreneur and author of 13 bestselling books
Today, we are all busier than we’ve ever been. We have so many calls on our attention. SO… how do you make your project happen even when you’re short of time?
By super-focusing for small blocks of time.You’ll be surprised what you can do in even ten minutes when you’re prepared and you focus completely on the task in hand. Most of the time our attention is divided between the task in hand, incoming emails, texts, twitter notifications and other interruptions. When you exclude everything else and focus on one task, your productivity is multiplied. Try it!
What if I’m not feeling motivated?
Don’t feel like doing anything when you come home exhausted at the end of a day at your current work? The fact is that motivation often comes after you start something, not before. Feeling overwhelmed, meeting some internal resistance, or are you prone to procrastination?
Microblocking is the cure – short, super focused blocks of time where you do the most important action on your project. On the 30 Day Challenge, we ask you to commit to doing one microblock of 20 minutes, six times a week. You can make your microblocks longer – and some of them should be if you want to make good progress on your project – but this is the main commitment.
This gives you over 8 hours of super-focused time over the course of the challenge. That might not seem that much but when was the last time you spent 8 hours of real focus on your own creative project? For a lot of people, the answer is “a very long time!” You’ll find you often make a lot more progress doing little and often than waiting for hours of time to magically free themselves up in your diary.
Here’s how to use microblocking:
- Think of the next task you need to do to move your play project forward. What single thing will have the biggest impact for the least amount of time spent? Write it down. Don’t choose something just because it fits the time – it’s far better to choose something important that you may not finish than fill your microblock with a lesser task that’s quicker.
- Decide how long your micro-block will be. 20 minutes? 30? 60?
- Write down what you can do in this micro-block. Don’t go writing things like “Learn French” or “Plan business”. Write “Do exercise 10 in French book”, “Search online for 3 good articles on making money from a blog and print/bookmark them to read later”, “Read the 3 articles printed/bookmarked yesterday”
- Get out your diary and write it in as a real appointment; eg 7:00 to 7:20 Do French Exercise 10.
- Turn up for your appointment. Make this as real a commitment as if you had a doctor’s appointment. If something truly critical comes up you might move it, but otherwise you stick to it. You never just skip it.
- Switch off your phone, your email and anything else you don’t need that might distract you. Tell others who might interrupt that you are busy.
- Use this brilliant tip from Time Management guru Mark Forster: Get a kitchen timer that counts down and set it to 20 minutes or whatever time you’ve allocated. Place the timer right in front of you and set it counting down. This will help keep you focused.
Alternatively use this free app in your browser or download the free FocusBooster App and it use it to count down a microblock.
- Do exactly what you wrote down that you were going to do.
- When the timer goes off, you can stop – even if you haven’t finished the task. (But if you’re now feeling motivated to continue, do.)
- Before you file your notes, or close your document, decide what you will do in your next micro-block. Write it down as your next action so that when you pick up again tomorrow,
you know exactly what you’re doing. Put your project away somewhere you can pick it up again quickly.
- Get out your diary and write in the appointment for your next micro-block and the action you will take in it.
- Go and relax!
You don’t need to know exactly how you’re going to achieve your project. You only need to know the next action and then turn up and do it. Your success is pretty much guaranteed if you do. Just keep moving forward and adjust your course according to your results.
Try doing a micro block first thing in the morning before you start anything else. It’s a great way to start your day and ensures nothing can get in the way of doing it. If you can grow the block of time to an hour every day, you can make a huge amount of progress on your project.
Go make an appointment in your diary for your first microblock of time now – (or even better, actually DO it). If you can do your microblock at the same time every day, why not put a recurring appointment in your calendar?
Why do we say you should do microblocks six days a week and not seven?
Because sometimes it’s good to deliberately not think about your project for a day (even God rested on the 7th day!) Strangely this time off can sometimes generate the freshest insights on your project when you weren’t even trying. It also leaves you some wiggle room for one day a week where you know it’s going to be hard to do your microblock.
Some people however find it easier to stick to a daily habit with no breaks whatsoever so feel free to break this rule if you know that works better for you.
Note: Doing 40 minutes one day does NOT make up for doing nothing on another day. The point is to keep your promise to yourself and build the habit of daily progress.