It’s the 1992 NBA finals. After sinking his sixth consecutive three-pointer, Michael Jordan looks over at Magic Johnson and did a shrug said it all – Jordan was in ‘the zone’.
The zone is an incredible state of mind. It can turn athletes into heroes, surgeons into miracle workers and you into a productivity super-human.
But like all great things, it’s not easy to achieve. To get into the zone you need to focus on one task for a decent amount of time – without distraction.
Think about it. When Michael Jordan was on a jump-shot roll, he never stopped to check his email. His was dedicated to the task of the game. He was in the zone.
In the New York Times best seller, Rework, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson compare this type of effective thinking to sleeping. We don’t fall into a deep sleep as soon as we close our eyes and we don’t instantly get into the zone at work. It takes focus, dedication and time.
That’s where the two productivity methods that we share in this article come into play.
Pomodoro Technique was developed in the 80s and involves focusing your work in 25 minute increments.
A Pomodoro routine should look like this:
1. Choose something to work on
2. Set a timer for 25 minutes
3. Work solidly until the timer goes off
4. Take a 3 to 5 minute break
Once you’ve gone through the steps four times, you’ll have earned yourself a 15 to 30 minute break. This when you can check emails, go for a walk or do a few quick stretches.
Your Pomodoro sessions will probably be interrupted by workmates. A lot. If it’s urgent, you can deal with it then and there. If they want to complain about the instant coffee, it can wait.
Why use the Pomodoro Technique?
It teaches you focus
When you’re working on a task, you need to give it your undivided attention. That means no emails, no phone calls and no getting tea. That’s what your break is for.
You learn to break down big projects
The longer you practice this technique, the better you get at estimating how much you can actually do in 25 minutes. This is a powerful tool when working out how realistic a work request is.
Getting Things Done
The second method, Getting Things Done (GTD) was first introduced by David Allen. The core objective is get your head out of ‘memory’ mode and into ‘productivity’ mode. Basically, it’s about thinking in the now. This helps with both your focus and your ability to prioritise.
GTD works like this:
1. You write down all your projects and tasks
2. Then you order them into categories like ‘to do today’, ‘next action with others’,‘revisit later’ and ‘large projects’.
3. Now you’ll need to compile these lists. The Trello and Asana apps can help you organise your lists and are both free.
4. Next, you create the category ‘doing’, which has the task you’re working on right now.
5. Finally, you create the category ‘done’.
GTD works best when you keep your tasks moving rapidly. Your tasks should quickly evolve from ‘to do’ into ‘doing’ then into either ‘done’ or ‘next action with others’.
Over time you’ll see where your gaps in productivity are and tackle them head on. It’s a good idea to do weekly review of all tasks you’ve moved through the ‘doing’ category.
So that’s it. You now know the secret to being a productivity super-human. Once you get the hang of each system, using them together comes really naturally. You can use the GTD to prioritise your tasks and the Pomodoro sessions to get the work done. Keep at it for a while and you won’t just get into the zone, you’ll own the zone.