Focus on one task at a time

Let’s face it, when you have something important to do that you don’t want to do, even doing your friends’ homework seems appealing (and urgent) in some sort of weird way.  This is why we can be ‘working’ 8 hours a day and only get results for what we could have done in less than half of the time.  Because of this, I encourage you to use a ‘focused-work’ system.

When you have a task at hand, and you know you have to do it eventually, just set out 25-30 minute intervals to work on it uninterrupted.  You heard me, uninterrupted.  If someone calls you, and you know it’s not urgent, let the phone call go to voicemail and return the call after your 30 minutes focused work session is over.  No checking e-mails, text messages, facebook, instant messengers, blogs, etc.  None of that.  You are just going to work for 25-3o minutes purely on your task at hand, and then you will reward yourself with a 5 minutes break.

During your 5 minutes break go ahead and return that phone call, or check your e-mail/facebook/etc.  Then look forward to your next 25-30 minutes focused work session and your eventual 5-minutes break.

To put this into practice all you need is a timer.  This timer will preferably not be your cellphone.  Once you have your timer this is what you can do —

  1. Make a list of the tasks you need to work on.
  2. Make boxes to its side, one box for each 25-30 minutes time period you will need to finish the task.
  3. Now, every time you work on the task for 25-30 minutes uninterrupted make a checkmark on the box — if you allowed yourself to get distracted, instead of a checkmark make an X or other symbol.

This system will allow you to see how often you can actually finish a focused work period, and at the end of the task you can also get a good estimate of how long you ACTUALLY worked on a project.  You’ll be surprised when you realize that those 10 hours papers could actually be finished in 5 hours.

At the end of the day, it comes down to your own work style.  I would rather work very efficiently 5 hours and then go enjoy 5 hours getting a good dinner, some tea, and relaxing,  rather than spending 10 hours working inefficiently just because of the instant gratification of allowing myself to give in to distractions.

On a separate note, I just accepted a job offer from Accenture as an Analyst, so I will be working there shortly after graduation next June 2010.  I’m thrilled about this opportunity! 🙂

Published by Omar Eduardo

Passionate about building great products; Product Manager @ Google; ex-consultant @ Accenture; MIT chemical engineering graduate

2 thoughts on “Focus on one task at a time

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