Do this to increase focus and output

“I don’t care how much power, brilliance or energy you have, if you don’t harness it and focus it on a specific target and hold it there, you’re never going to accomplish as much as your ability warrants” - Zig Ziglar

We’re more effective when we’re able to work in a rhythm. However, performing at our optimum level within an office environment can be challenging due to fragmented and disjointed workflows that can happen when trying to work amongst a level of interruptions, distractions and meetings. To succeed, it’s imperative to establish and maintain our preferred rhythm that’s complimentary to achieving targeted outcomes within expected timeframes.

We find ourselves bouncing between tasks when we don’t minimise interruptions and distractions. Many workers fall for this trap of being busy but ineffective. The reality is they achieve less, make more mistakes and feel exhausted. See Stop pretending you're good at multitasking

What we need to do is maximise whatever focused time we have. A way to do this is to work in short sprints. Not in an Agile organisational 2 week sprint context, but in 20 to 25 minute sprints. For some workers, this could be the only dedicated time available, so it’s important to make the most of it.

What does a sprint look like and what work should we do in it?

A sprint can be scheduled and structured or it might just be a small window that unexpectedly becomes available. Either way, it could be used to focus on the important high impact tasks or even to batch together and process small like-minded tasks. There’s no right or a wrong answer. The key is to make the most effective use of the time.

A popular structured approach for doing short sprints is the Pomodoro Technique (named after the tomato shaped timer by Francesco Cirillo). Benefits of the Pomodoro Technique include increased productivity, achievement and focus and less procrastination. The framework is:

  • Plan and prioritise your task list
  • Set the timer for 25 minutes for a task or batch of small like-minded tasks
  • After 25 minutes take a 5 minute break to refresh
  • Start the next Pomodoro group
  • After 4 Pomodoro’s take a 15 – 20 minute break

Sometimes gaps in the day are the only time we have available to get our work done. Instead of wasting these opportunities, maximise and leverage them. Batching together like-minded tasks in focused sprints can help to keep things moving and increase output while reducing the number of outstanding items on a To-Do list.