So, in case you’ve been on the edge of your seat (I’m sure you have), and wondering if I signed up for Ed Gandia’s Effortless Productivity class; yes, I did. And yes, it was very worthwhile. This month is proving so.
August is typically busy for me. In my work life, I annually have two of my biggest graphic design projects. In my non-work life, my garden is in full harvest. And since I pretty much merge the two lives, I find myself wandering from one to another trying to stay on top of both.
In spite of this seeming chaos, August is actually a productive month. I work best under pressure because I know I have no time for distractions. And because, in my mind, August is a turning point towards a new season, I always tend to renew my focus. The 50-20-50 system has helped a lot.
I actually knew of the 50-20-50 system (a.k.a Egg Timer System or 50 Minute Focus Finder) before taking Ed Gandia’s class. But since he explained it so clearly, I’ll paraphrase him and supplement with practices of my own.
- Eliminate ALL external distractions.
Okay, let me preface by saying this is the hardest step. Turn off all telephone ringers, email, social media (yes, even Facebook) and close your office door. As Ed says, “This is not a suggestion, it’s a MUST-DO! This technique won’t work without 100% compliance in this area.”
- Set an egg timer for 50 minutes and work on one project for that entire 50 minutes.
Ed uses this online timer. I’m kind of old school and use a hand-held. I find it helpful to have my project set up in advance, otherwise I spend half the time gathering files, looking for this, going online for that—all of which lead to distraction. Believe me, those 50 minutes go by fast and every minute should be used to work on the project.
- If the phone rings or you remember something else you have to do, do NOT stop what you’re doing.
Instead, keep a notepad handy and write it as a “to-do” for later. This notepad is also good for ideas that pop into your head but don’t relate to the project at hand.
- At the end of the 50-minute stretch, stop what you’re doing and set the timer again for 20 minutes.
This is your break. Step away from your desk and your computer. Do something completely different that will clear your head. Ed exercises or takes his dog for a walk. This month I’m working in my garden and canning produce. Normally, 20 minutes isn’t much time, but knowing I have to beat the egg timer is great motivation to keep on-task even during a break. In fact, it almost becomes a game.
- When the timer goes off, set it again for 50 minutes and go back to working on your project.
Continue working until the timer goes off again.
These 50-20-50-minute segments complete a full 2-hour session. I’ve found it to be a very creatively and mentally focused period and sometimes after one session, I need a break. I then set my timer in alternating 50-20-50-20 increments. Other times I get into a roll, and after the last 50 I want to keep going. For those times, I set my timer for 50-20-50, 50-20-50.
And then every once in a while there are days when I set my timer for one 50-20-50 session and then I head out the door. Because that’s the joy of being self-employed.