Our society is separating into two camps:
- People who can focus (are masters of technology)
- People who can't (are slaves to technology)
You have 80,000 hours of your career. Are you going to spend 10,000 of those hours flicking through social media posts?
If you're like the average smartphone user then yup, you will. The average smart phone user spends 3 hours per day on their phone. That's 21 hours a week 1,092 hours a year...
The call to action
In a society of constant distraction, how can you focus on the most important task every minute of every day?
You need a system.
I'm always experimenting with different ways to focus on what matters most, every minute of every day. Until now, I didn't have a reliable system.
The Pomodoro Technique
A while back, I discovered the Pomodoro Technique. It's a simple yet powerful productivity method.
Each time you start a task, set a 25-minute timer. Focus on the task for 25-minutes. When then the alarm rings, take a five-minute break.
This technique leverages the two modes of thinking called: "focused" and "diffuse". Your brain needs to balance the two modes of thinking to solve problems. The diffuse mode is where the subconscious makes connections and discovers insights.
Most of us run around in a state of perpetual distraction. We never let our minds rest. We never enjoy the "diffuse" mode of thinking and its benefits.
The Pomodoro Technique helps us focus on a specific task then let our mind rest for a set amount of time.
The challenges of implementing Pomodoro
I've been trying to use this technique every single time I work on a task but I kept running into a handful of obstacles:
- How do I remember to set a 25-minute timer each time I work on a task?
- How do I ensure that I stay on task while I'm working?
- How do I force myself to take a break and stop working when the alarm goes off?
- How do I make sure that I only take a five minute break, not a much longer one?
I've tried a bunch of different ways to overcome these obstacles. Nothing seemed to work.
Mike introduced me to Datexx "blocks of time":
Heard about these from @BJFogg. My @TinyHabits hack with them ~ I call 'Blocks of Time' - [they're sold as 'Datexx' on Amazon]. Never been a big fan of Pomodoro, but these puppies give me masses of flex, map to my motivation levels + remind me to 'Celebrate' = key to Tiny Habits. pic.twitter.com/V230itIfV0— HELPING CREATIVES STAY ON THEIR A-GAME. (@mikecoulter) April 10, 2019
Tiny Habits is a method developed by Dr. BJ Fogg PhD at Stanford University. It is a research-backed method for creating lasting behavior change.
Tiny Habits rests on the intersection of three key insights from BJ's research:
- The easier a behavior is to do, the more likely we are to do it
- Behavior only happens when prompted.
- The best source of prompts are behaviors we already do in established routines.
The Tiny Habits + Pomodoro System
The Tiny Habits + Pomodoro System is an eight step behavior sequence, as shown below:
- After I open my computer, I will say out loud, "My intention is to ___________" (the task I am focusing on).
- After I state my intention, I will set a 25-minute timer with a block of time.
- After I hear the confirmation beep of the timer, I will focus on my task for 25-minutes.
- After I hear the alarm of the timer go off, I will close my computer immediately (I will NOT finish my thought / sentence).
- After I close my computer, I will stand up and celebrate. (I throw my arms in the air in victory, say "YES!", close my eyes and breathe).
- After I celebrate, I will set a 5-minute timer with my block of time.
- After I hear the confirmation beep of the timer, I will not focus on anything, letting my mind relax and wander.
- After I hear the alarm of the timer go off, I will celebrate. (Then the cycle begins again).
Notice how all the behaviors in the sequence follow a specific structure:
After I [existing behavior], I will [new behavior].
This is important! It makes troubleshooting your behavior sequence much easier. When a new behavior isn't happening, you can figure out why. Go back to your prompt (the existing behavior). Ensure the prompt is happening. Then make sure your new behavior is as easy to do as possible.
A powerful vehicle, over time
This system will allow you to invest time in what matters most, every single day. Write a book. Launch a business. Learn a skill. Pick up an instrument.
Step I: Make it automatic
It may take a while for the system to become automatic. Once it's automatic, you can extend and change as you like.
First, make sure you can do the system each time you work on a task, you complete the entire loop of the system. Do this each time you work for at least three days.
Step II: Extend + improve
Then, try adding tasks that don't need mental energy into your five-minute break. They can be:
- Playing a musical instrument
Make sure you choose pick behaviors in your breaks that need little to no mental effort. If you have to focus too much, you'll tire out your brain and the whole system will break down.
Want to go deeper? Check out the following resources:
- Tiny Habits (online course)
- Six Years with a Distraction-Free iPhone (Article)
- Learning How to Learn (online course on Coursera)
- Make Time (Book)
- Digital Minimalism (Book)
- Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less (Book)
Let me know!
If you're experimenting with changing your own behavior for good, let me know how it goes! I'd be curious to learn from your experiences. Send me a note: firstname.lastname@example.org