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If days are passing like a blur to you, do this

May 12, 2020

"Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days."
― Zig Ziglar

If you're anything like me, the past few weeks have felt like an endless loop, and the days are those abstract, blurry, and quick things that happen between your first coffee in the morning and dinner.

I know I've been feeling like this lately. And the more you feel like this more anxiety creeps in. Because when the days feel like they go by so quickly, it's hard to put your finger on what you've done with your time. And there is so much to do, right? So you double down and try to stay focused. Yet you just stare at the screen, and nothing much happens.

We need to break this loop.

Have a clear goal

To me, the quickest way to feel anxious is to start working without an end goal in mind. How will I know if I've performed a good job if I don't know I've done what I had to do?

Not having a to-do list makes your brain anxious, because it's continuously double-checking in case you forgot something. This limits your capacity to focus because a big chunk of your mental RAM is taken by those checks and the short-term memory being overflown by to-dos and projects.

Keep things manageable

Your day has 24 hours. Your workday shouldn't have many more than 8. If you start your morning with already ten big items on your list, you are already setting yourself up for failure.

Also, having a very ambitious goal can make it feel daunting and hard to accomplish, which already leads you towards procrastination.

Scratch that, make it easy for yourself. Aim for three meaningful things to complete by the end of the day—three things that, if completed, move your projects forward, as well as your career.

It's hard to find that sweet spot, but practice makes perfect! That, and...

Block chunks of time for each project

Next to each of these three tasks, assign how many 25-minute blocks you're going to dedicate to it. I usually draw a square next to each item with that estimation, each square being one 25-minute block.

If I already see that a task has more than four of these blocks, it's a sign for me that this task is too big. What task, if I've dedicated two full hours of focus to it, I have nothing to show by the end of those two hours? On my experience, when it feels like that, it just means I haven't set up the right goals for it and that I'm trying to get too big too soon.

Just start

Start working on the first task, just for 25 minutes. You can't say no to a simple 25-minute focus session because it feels manageable, right?

I'm going to make this offer a bit better: once you're done, you have to take 5 minutes off. Stand up. Grab some water. Open the window and have some sun on your face. You've earned it!

All that's asked of you is to give your 100% on those 25 minutes of focus. Then take a break. Repeat four times, and take a longer break, maybe for 20 minutes.

(And don't check your email during that time, that's not a break!)

I promise you that if you work like this for a full day, working in cycles, taking breaks often, you'll feel much more rested by the end of the day. At the same time, you will have accomplished so much more than what you get done on a regular day, where you get stuck in your chair, and the day goes by without you noticing.

My challenge for you this week is to do at least four Pomodoro sessions every day. Two hours of full focus divided by breaks. Give it a try, and let me know how that goes!

Thank you for reading 🙏

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