Want to be more productive at work? Personal development expert Steve Pavlina has a solution: focus blocks.
Out of the eight hours you’re at work, how many of them are productive? How much work are you actually doing?
The answer may surprise you.
Personal development expert Steve Pavlina suggests, “the typical American office worker only does about 90 minutes of real work per workday.”
90 minutes. That’s less than 20 percent of the workday! But if you’re honest with yourself, it may have a ring of truth.
How much time do you spend reading industry news, attending meetings and writing endless emails? Though these activities may seem like work, they’re not truly productive. As Pavlina notes, “We have more technology to assist us in being productive, but we also have more to distract us.”
As for why this is happening, he makes an interesting point:
“The general problem is that we’re still applying an industrial age model to the productivity of knowledge workers. It makes sense to pay attention to hours worked if the productive output for each hour is roughly the same. That may be true for repetitive labor, but it doesn’t apply much to knowledge workers.”
To combat this, Pavlina works in “focus blocks”: 90 minutes stretches of intense productivity, followed by a break. (Similar to the Pomodoro Method, but with longer sessions.) When compared to the average American office worker, you could get a full day’s work done by completing just one focus block. If you finish two or three, you’ll blow the average person’s productivity out of the water.
How to work in focus blocks
Pavlina lists six steps for working in focus blocks, and we’ve condensed them below:
- Pick one theme: Don’t try to accomplish a variety of projects during this time; pick one theme, such as writing a report or answering your email, and stick with it. According to Pavlina, this will “allow your brain to load in a singular context,” making you more efficient.
- List the action steps: If you’re working on something unfamiliar to you, Pavlina says this will make it easier to get started.
- Define the finish line and work fast: Create a clear goal. Knowing what you want to achieve in 90 minutes will help you stay motivated.
- Ensure zero interruptions and distractions: Whether it’s a chatty co-worker or a beep on your phone, make sure nothing interrupts you during your focus block.
The bottom line: You don’t need to work eight hours a day to get stuff done. Try working in short, focused bursts — and you may end up more productive than ever.
Have you ever tried working in this fashion? Did it up your productivity?
Susan Shain (@TravlJunkette) is a travel blogger who loves helping people discover adventure through international travel or alternative careers.