Get in the zone by learning to say no. (Productivity Tip #3)
In order to be exceedingly productive, you need to have extended periods of focus. Some people call this being in the “zone”. It’s where you’re focused on the goal at hand and that’s all that matters. 2 hours… 4 hours… 6 hours… 8 hours… (some people can go 12+ hours in the zone) and you’re making tons of progress. The deeper you go in the zone, the more you seem to get done. This is especially true with work that requires intense thinking.
But working against us are the distractions of our day. Twitter, Facebook, Hacker News, Reddit, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, news sites, email, games, the list goes on. All the latest and greatest social inventions of our time are in battle mode against us… trying to distract us from our work at hand. Growth hackers go to sleep at night trying to figure out how to get us more addicted. (Ok I’m being a little dramatic. :) )
Case in point. Yesterday was Apple’s big WWDC keynote speech. I’m a huge Apple fanboy and the excitement of pending announcements is just way too tempting. How can any Apple fanboy get any work done during an Apple keynote speech or during the next few hours after when news sites are buzzing?
You have to say no. Really, that’s the only way.
Yesterday, I said no. I decided I would only follow the announcements during my 5-minute Pomodoro breaks. And I also decided I would push off watching the keynote speech until the end of the day. This decision along with committing to 3 Desired Outcomes at the beginning of the day (see my Week Chart post), enabled me to keep focused on some very important work I needed to get done. I got into a typical 6-hour “zone” of doing some crazy productive work… all on an Apple keynote day.
For me saying no means to push off distractions and focus on what’s most important. It means to get crazy amounts of productive work done during the first 6 hours I work each day. It means to decide and stick with my committed goals of the day and to do less aligned activity (HN, Twitter, email, etc) toward the end of the day.
As the world becomes more social, the more difficult focusing will become. This requires those who want to solve difficult problems to say No with even more conviction than ever.