Use Timed Intervals to Get Anything Done
You’ve been there before — you have a million things to do. When you think about everything tucked underneath your covers, you imagine how good it would be to not get up today. The weight of the tasks that stand between you and an evening victory seem like unslayable giants.
Over the last two years, I learned how to remove procrastination from my day.
If you are success-driven and have huge goals, you might be prone to doses of procrastination. Why? I’ve read somewhere that procrastination is a coping mechanism for stress. You’re putting things off because you know how much work you have to do to reach your goals.
Sometimes looking too hard at the BIG picture is a bad idea.
Having monster goals is important but thinking about them all at once is intimidating. The goal turns into a problem that you haven’t solved and may not know how to at the moment. Your optimism turns into a whale or unscalable mountain.
That’s why I break down my projects into digestible bits, using time intervals to get everything done.
Instead of thinking about how much work you have to do, work on your project for short intervals, focusing on the time spent instead of the ultimate result you want.
How do I know it works? I’ve used this method and finished more projects in the last three months than in the last THREE YEARS. I’m not kidding and I’m not a lazy person either.
Say you need to build a new website for a business you’re launching. Don’t make the mistake of focusing on the laundry list of tasks you need to do to complete the project: graphic design, pictures, copy, products, marketing, payment gateway, testimonials, sales. The list is too long…
I guarantee that if you think of everything left to be done, instead of working on it, you’re more likely to go see a movie with a friend or start binge drinking.
It seems illogical, and it is, but it happens because you psych yourself out with what seems impossible to complete in the near future. Why bother? You’re not getting what you want anytime soon, might be your thoughts in the background.
The key to being productive is working in intervals, like 30 min or 60 min, and focusing on one key area at a time. Don’t focus on the entire project. The scale is too wide. Break your work down into bite-sized pieces.
Here’s how the conversation goes in my mind:
I can’t build the whole website today. There’s too much to do. Can I even do it myself? Not sure but I can commit to working on it for 60 minutes. Yeah. That’s sounds good. That’s not so bad. Let me grab my phone. Start the timer. Let’s see what happens. Here we go…
When you use timed intervals to attack a project you get immediate wins.
- After the time goes off for the interval, you will feel instant relief that you are free to move on to something else.
- You will be empowered. Instead of avoiding the things you know you should be doing, you committed to the time and followed through. You were true to yourself.
The interesting thing about using timed intervals is that you find that you get inspired and motivated to do more. There’s is something to be said of deadlines and constraints on the creative spirit. It’s better to put yourself in a box and explode through the top then float around in fade out into nothingness.
Every time I avoid a project, it’s because I’m thinking about the whole thing. I’ll I have to do is focus on one thing, working on an aspect of it for 30 or 60 minutes, then I’m good. That’s usually all it takes.
I’m always surprised when I keep working after the time goes off, lightning strikes, in the groove, ideas and execution flowing like a river.
There’s some positive psychology at work with giving yourself a quantifiable amount of time for a task, then walking away for a while. It’s a relief, breath of fresh air, when the time is over, even if you have a thousand more things to do.
Doing what you say you will is a small victory. Small victories count and are what create BIG wins.
I laugh at myself all the time when I forget to do something. I ask myself why I haven’t finished a project, like my monthly original music playlist or my online music school, then I realize, O yeah, I haven’t worked on that beast using timed intervals. How could I forget? What an idiot.
I can’t do everything today to move a project forward. It’s too huge, but I can work on it for 30 or 60 intervals. No problem.
I guarantee that if you adopt a timed interval approach to your workflow, you will beat procrastination. You’ll also feel better about what you’re getting done and will still have time to go see a movie with your friend.
Here’s the plan — use the timer on your phone (set it for 15, 30, or 60 minutes) and pick your biggest whale of a project that you’ve been putting off.
All you have to do today is hit the timer, stay in it for a short period, focus all of your attention on one micro-aspect, then you’re free for the rest of the day. I know you can do this.
I used this method every day and it has multiplied my productivity. Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve accomplished more in the last three months than in the last THREE YEARS. Using intervals is the only way that i’m able to manage being a musician, startup entrepreneur, father, and decent human being.
What’s absurd and refreshing about this approach is something I experienced writing this article. I’ve been avoiding writing as much as I need to. Why am I not using an interval to get this done, I thought. So I set my timer for 60 minutes and I was done with the article with 30 minutes left to spare.
Since I followed through with working on what I was putting off, I’m energized and feel like I could tackle another article with the remaining time. That’s pretty good since I was procrastinating for two days prior without anything to show for it.
I’ll say it another way; make time work for you, own it, be it’s master and leverage the powerful effect that constraints have on your productivity. Channel the focusing power of timed intervals. You’ll thank me later.