We’ve all heard of working smarter- I mean why spend 3 hours on a task that can take an hour if done well? However, it’s very easy to spend time procrastinating or what I call productively procrastinating (doing everything but the urgent task) and end up missing homework deadlines or falling behind on work. So, today we’ll look at some ways to carve out time for deep focus work and then look at techniques to help us make the most of our deep work time.
How do we make time for important tasks?
- Bulk reply to messages
Pick set times for example e.g. 8:30 – 9:00am, 11:30am – 12:00pm and 4:30pm – 5:00pm to bulk reply to non-urgent emails and messages if you can. The chart below is also really helpful for sorting out your inbox on one of those days when it feels like everyone is sending multiple emails. If it’s something you can handle immediately then do so but it it’s not, mark it as a ‘to-do’ to ensure that you don’t forget anything.
- Turn off social media notifications
I know some of you might not like the sound of this one but trust me, you don’t need notifications on for every single social media app. The first time I got Snapchat, I had my notifications on and I found that as soon as a snap came in, I had to click through and see what it said. The annoying part was that I would abandon my state of focus, open my snap, only to find out it was a streak with a blank picture and no important message. It’s not worth it and I would argue that we would enjoy our time replying to messages and interacting with our friends online more if we weren’t constantly checking our notifications.
In addition to allowing us to work uninterrupted, turning off social media notifications can help improve our wellbeing as we prevent over-consuming information and be more conscious with what we consume. If you’re not convinced yet, here’s a quick summary of the benefits of turning off your social media notifications:
- Be more present for others
- Remember what is truly important
- Have interrupted blocks of time to achieve your goals
- Start your day less anxious
- Support conscious and intentional consumption of information
Ok, so now we’ve carved out some quality time to work on important tasks but how do we ensure that we make use of this time as productively as possible?
Portion your time
The Pomodoro Technique is one of my favourite techniques to use, especially when I’m finding it difficult to motivate myself to study. ****It increases productivity by dividing your workday into highly focused chunks separated by short breaks. Here’s how to apply and use the pomodoro technique:
- Create and prioritize a list of all the things you need to accomplish.
- Set a timer for 25 minutes and start working on the first task.
- If a distraction arises while you are working, write it down on a piece of paper or a post-it note and go back to it later. Keep working.
- When the timer rings, you have finished a Pomodoro! Take a 5-minute break, and then start another pomodoro.
- Once you have finished four pomodori, take a longer break- anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.
- Repeat this cycle until all of your assignments are done or the workday is over.
The beautiful thing about the Pomodoro technique is that it allows you to work on tasks which require focus and time- without feeling like you’re just at your desk working for hours on hours without a break.
Ask for help when you need it
Contrary to what we might sometimes think, asking for help is a very positive thing and and can help us work effectively. If you’ve been struggling with the same Maths problem for 2 pomodoro sessions then perhaps it’s time to ask for help. This could mean looking at your textbook or looking on Youtube to see if there’s an explanation. Afterwards, you might ask a friend, a family member or your teacher. Asking for help and communicating early when you need it helps save time and stress.
Now, the key part is putting all of this into action. Write down the 2-3 top things which you feel like don’t allow you to manage your time effectively. Then, from the techniques we’ve discussed today, choose the ones (or all if you like!) which will allow you to solve those problems accordingly. If you’ve found that you find it hard to sustain motivation over a long period of time then try breaking up your work and adding some variety through the pomodoro technique. If you’d like that extra bit of accountability and want to share, let us know which technique(s) you’ll be implementing in the comments!