One of the biggest complaints that I often hear from aspiring creative is a lack of time. First and foremost, it’s important to understand that our perceptions of time are largely illusions. And one of the biggest of those illusions is the relationship between time and our ability to create value. We can do far more in a far shorter about of time than we think.
With just one focused hour a day of deep work, we can see exponential results from our efforts.
I’ve managed to write 1000 words a day, read 100 books a year, and finish a 45,000-word manuscript in 6 months with just one focused hour a day. It’s a big part of how I get shit done despite having ADD.
What matters more than just about anything else is your intensity of focus. As I’ve said before, most of our time management issues are just attention management issues. You have to avoid distractions and multitasking at all costs. If you can do this for just one hour, you’ll get more out of that one hour than most people do out of a day.
Planning your day the night increases your productivity. Because you’re not utilizing all your willpower making decisions about how to spend your day, you’ll be able to preserve it and focus more effectively.
Your one hour must be uninterrupted. Otherwise, your attention will keep shifting. Instead of doing one thing really well, you end up doing a bunch of things somewhat mediocre. So turn off all notifications. Put your phone in airplane mode or leave it out the room altogether. Say no to everything other than your essential priorities.
A big part of the reason that one focused hour works so well is that it produces flow. Hacking flow states on a daily basis is pretty straightforward. The simplest of these hacks is single-tasking. Focus on one thing for 30 minutes, put on some headphones with an instrumental track on repeat and you’ll hit flow pretty regularly. The other thing I recommend is that you pay attention to patterns. Find similarities between the days that you experience flow and replicate those on a regular basis.
Starting your day on the internet damages your brain. It literally trains your brain to be distracted. This is why I usually recommend that people allocate the earliest part of their morning for a focused hour of uninterrupted creation time. If the first 3 hours of the day could dictate how your life turns out, why leave that to chance.
Calendars are far more effective than to do lists. One of the easiest ways to make the time for your focused hour is to download the Google Calendar app. The app has a feature called “goals” that allows you to pick a goal and tell it for how long, what time of day and how many times a week you want to work on that goal. The app finds the time on your calendar and schedules it. Set it and forget it. Now you have a constant reminder of the goal you’re working on.
For the last 10 days or so I’ve had a really hard time sleeping. I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night, and have had hardly any energy when I start the day. This article was on my list of high priorities for about 7 days. But due to poor sleep, it wasn’t happening. At the recommendation of my sister, I popped a melatonin, and eventually managed a good night of sleep. On the days that I don’t sleep well my performance suffers. In Alex Pang’s book Rest: Why We Get More Done When we work less, he makes a strong argument for the importance deliberate rest. Being well rested makes a huge difference in your ability to focus for an hour.
One focused hour a day is the equivalent of having two full weeks to work on whatever it is you want. In one focused hour a day you could write a book, build a company, learn an instrument and so much more. What would add more value to your life? One focused hour a day of meaningful work, or countless hours pissed away on Facebook and twitter comparing your insides to everyone else’s outsides?
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