How to become extremely productive

and how you get paid to recharge

Flow is the highest productive state

Have you ever experienced flow? Do you know how it feels? The feeling of being fully focused and forgetting about all else? I hope you have experienced it. If not, then there is a massive opportunity waiting for you. 

Flow is the highest productive state and this is crucial if you want to become highly extremely productive. Here is some good news: Getting into flow is simple.

All you have to do is not get distracted for about 10-25 minutes while focusing on a single task. Do this and there is a high chance you are in flow.

On an average day, how often do you get distracted?

Here’s a different question. On an average day, how often do you get distracted? Is it every hour, every minute or every few seconds? Here’s a useless sentence so you can think about your answer before reading on. The answer is that you get distracted every three minutes on average. If you work with a computer it can even be every forty seconds.

I only finished high school but even I understood that we have a problem here. If it takes you 10-25 minutes to get into flow, but you are distracted every three minutes, you will never get into flow. This is the reality for most people. Most people are never really fully focused at work.

Flow is similar to R.E.M. sleep

It’s not the amount of time you’re in bed that determines the quality of your sleep. It is the amount of time in R.E.M. (rapid eye movement) which is one of the deepest phases of sleep where you recover. You can be in bed for 10 hours, but if you keep getting disturbed by barking dogs, creaking doors or some overenthusiastic bird, you wake up dead tired. So it’s not the time in bed but the time in R.E.M. 

Flow is similar to R.E.M. sleep because it’s also not the amount of time you spend at the office, but the amount of time you spend in flow doing work that actually matters.

You can spend less time in bed and still wake up energised because it is the time in R.E.M. that counts. Similar to this you can also spend less time in the office and still be extremely productive, because it’s not the time but the amount of time in flow.

This is the time that really counts. Focus on this and you’ll be amazed at how much you can get done in little time. Please read the above section again.

The requirements for flow

If you want to get into flow you need 2 things: A bubble of silence (a distraction free environment) and a clock or timer. As soon as I discovered this, I wanted to put this to the test. Which I did. That’s why I copied it exactly as I was taught. Here’s how it works.

1. Choose the most important task you currently have and free up 90 minutes in your agenda. 
2. Go to the toilet before your 90 minutes and get yourself a glass of water.
3. When you are in the office, it is crucial that you create your bubble of silence by removing all distractions. 
4. Set a timer to 90 minutes and don’t allow yourself to do anything but the task at hand

Even the smallest distraction can kick you out of flow

Even the smallest distraction can kick you out of flow. Just like waking up at night and having to go back to sleep. The more intense the wake-up call the longer it takes to get back to sleep.

So make sure you remove or minimise all distractions for those 90 minutes. I myself use headphones with background sound. I rarely use music as it’s more distracting for me.
Once all is prepared, I go to work.

I was probably distracted when concentration was handed out

The first time I tried this, I was bad at this. Really bad. I was probably distracted when concentration was handed out. What I did have was perseverance and a burning desire to solve my problems. 

So when the timer started and I got to work something special happened. I finished the task at hand. I was very happy because I thought that my 90 minutes must be over now. Well, this was not the case. Far from it actually.

How much time do you think I had spend on the task? How many minutes did I actually work? Fourteen minutes. I thought my timer was broken. I was also shocked because I had completed a very important task in 14 minutes and that’s how I discovered that it worked. But I still had 76 minutes to go, so I grabbed a second task and got back to work.

And then I met him

During the second task I encountered the man with the hammer. I was done with this productivity stuff. Do you know that feeling? The feeling of being done. Not wanting it anymore and not feeling like it anymore. 

Well I was tired of it and glanced at the timer. And it didn’t show 90 minutes. Not at all. It told me that I had worked 28 minutes. I then realised how bad my concentration was. How much I had lost my ability to concentrate and work in focus. I realised I had some work to do.

The good news is that if you keep doing this, and finish the 90 minutes you will have an unprecedented feeling of satisfaction after your first session. For me this became addictive in a good way and this is also the only way I get work done right now.

These days I can concentrate for 2 hours without any problem, because I have trained the mental muscle of concentration. Training the mental concentration muscle over and over again is one of the reasons why I was able to change my life.

Resting and recovering is just as important.

Resting and recovering is just as important. Most people don’t understand this. Almost everyone understands that you have to work to get the results you want. Rest and recovery is something that is incredibly underestimated. 

The difference between a good athlete and a great athlete is not only the quality of the training. The difference is often made in the quality and amount of recharging. The coach says to the athlete, “Train!”, and the athlete starts training.

Chances are that the athlete really likes the activity and gets a lot of pleasure out of it. Then, after training the coach tells the athlete to rest and this is something not every athlete likes.

The coach will even go so far as to pay the athlete to rest so that the athlete can return to the very highest level when it counts.

You get paid to recharge

Just as an athlete gets paid to recharge, so do you. You get paid to recharge. As crazy as this sounds, this is absolutely true but this idea of always doing and doing and doing is so deeply ingrained in our culture. I experienced the same growing up.

When I was a young kid, I came home from school and sat down on the chair to drink a cup of tea and eat a biscuit. Within 15 minutes, I would soon hear something like: “Go do something!”, and then I would say: No, I have just spent 6 hours of time in a place I didn’t want to be and now I’m going to eat a cookie and drink a cup of tea on this chair.

Doing nothing makes us feel guilty and that’s why we ask way too much of ourselves. This is why we always keep busy and many people experience the problems in the form of long term stress and burnouts. Working in 90 minute sprints and then recharging well is one of the reasons why I was able to change my life.