Did you know that an average person gets distracted every 90 seconds in a modern office setting? To put that into perspective, let me remind you that it takes an average of 23 minutes to get back on focus once distracted. That’s crazy right?
According to Dr. Sahar Yousef, we only get 3.5 hours of productive time out of an 8-hour day. This is problematic in terms of producing high quality work that brings in great results. We might have stumbled upon a solution!
Dr. Sahar Yousef is a Cognitive Neuroscientist at the University of California, Berkeley and the Founder/Managing Director of Stoa Partners, an initiative that combines deep scientific expertise, systems thinking, and practical tools to improve the modern workday and help people get impressive amounts of important work done without burning out.
We have been trying out some of these recommendations at HomeTree, and our team has found it incredibly impactful. To get started with producing higher quality work, in shorter periods of time, try out this routine outlined by Dr. Sahar Yousef:
90-minute Focus Sprints
Schedule Focus Sprints that are 90-minute chunks of focused time into your day
- Assign a goal
- Break down the goal into sub tasks
- Turn off distractions
- Focus for 90 minutes
- Rest for 20 minutes
Recognize your internal rhythms — you need to understand your natural peak and slump times of the day before improve mental acuity and performance. This is easier done while working from home rather than while having to work a nine to five. Whichever the case, the trick is simply to maintain a productivity log, starting out a trial for five days where you make notes on your physical and mental status every two hours (set an alarm to get a reminder!). With this, you would be able to find patterns of peak performance and low focus times.
Know that multitasking is a myth — Responding to emails, making calls, attending meetings are all productivity killers. But the modern day work setting is filled of those, with 15–45 minutes of work hours tucked in between. “Now, that’s where they’re actually doing this thing that they were hired to do: The creative work, the cognitively intensive, high-value work that’s actually going to move the needle forward for their company and for their team.” ~Dr. Yousef
What to do about it: Flip it over. Have allocated times, once or twice a day, for communication. Structure in one to two hours of focused time to your day. Make sure your coworkers have a way of contacting you for urgent matters during these focused work hours (this will create trust and avoid issues in the long run)
Create intentional environments for specific activities: If you are at your work desk and you feel the urge to go on social media, get up and move elsewhere to do that. “That way your mind has a preset expectation about what kind of activities and what kind of thought patterns are associated with each environment. This is especially important for remote workers — be mindful of having a work zone that is only for work and don’t take your work to other areas of your home.”
Take your breaks seriously: Having time to switch off and recuperate is essential to help clear and de-clutter your mind so that your mind can be fresh to work. Remember, the mind is a muscle which needs to recuperate after being overworked and fatigued.
“One of my mottos is that there’s no ‘on’ without ‘off.’ It comes back to intentionality for me,” says Yousef. “It’s about having a ‘work hard, play hard’ attitude. When you’re at work, focus that brain: Be that brain Olympian, be that mind athlete, respect the way it’s meant to work. Fuel it and protect it. Then have intentional off-periods where you’re relaxing, you’re not processing more information, and you’re truly resting and rejuvenating.”