If staring at your screen all day is leaving you feeling fatigued and unproductive, you’re not alone. In a world filled with constant distractions, it can be tricky to actually get work done. Thankfully, there are some time-tested strategies for optimizing your focus. Try these three clever techniques for settling into deep work.
Banish brain fog with Mab & Stoke’s Focus Mab Sticks, which are packed with Lion’s Mane, Centella Asiatica, Rhodiola, and other herbs to help you snap to attention.
Use a work-rest interval.
Why: Regular breaks are important for effective work, according to Amrita Mandal, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at the National Institutes of Health. Planning your workload in intervals also fosters a sense of accomplishment each time you finish one, which helps motivate you to keep going.
How: Perhaps the most famous work-rest interval setup is known as The Pomodoro Technique. Here’s how it works: Choose a task you want to complete. Then, set a timer for 25 minutes and work away. When the timer rings, take a five-minute break, and use your break to do something relaxing. That might mean a quick stretch and walk, doing a breathing exercise, or making yourself a refreshing drink. Every four intervals, take a longer 15- to 30-minute break.
If 25-minute intervals feel too long or short, play with the work-rest ratio. There are many versions of this technique, including the 90-20 rule: Work for 90 minutes, rest for 20.
Try the Eisenhower Box method.
Why: When you have lots to do, feeling overwhelmed can be a major hit to your productivity. If you’ve ever worked late wondering where the time went, this method is for you. Named for its creator, Dwight Eisenhower, this strategy helps you prioritize the work that’s most important and eliminate activities that are side-tracking you from your key goals, according to habit and productivity master James Clear.
How: Write a list of what you need to get done. Then separate the list into four different categories or “boxes”:
- Urgent and important (Tasks you’ll do immediately.)
- Important but not urgent (Tasks you’ll schedule to do later.)
- Urgent but not important. (Tasks you’ll delegate to someone else.)
- Not important and not urgent (Tasks you’ll eliminate.)
If you’re wondering how to differentiate between “important” and “urgent,” urgent tasks are time-sensitive, while important tasks are ones that meaningfully contribute to your long-term goals.
Know your productivity time peaks.
Why: Most people hit peak productivity in the late morning hours, followed by a dip after lunch, followed by another peak in the early evening, Christopher M. Barnes, an organizational psychology researcher, explained in the Harvard Business Review. Saving your most demanding (and most important) work for those more focused hours can help you get more done.
How: The trick is to shift the work that demands the most focus to late morning and early evening, using the time between to answer emails, take meetings or calls, or take breaks. Another strategy: Mab & Stoke’s Focus Mab Sticks were specifically formulated with plants that will help you break through that midday “dip”. Lion’s Mane, for example, is an adaptogenic mushroom used for mental clarity.
The catch: There is some variability in productivity time peaks based on individual body clocks, or chronotypes. So figuring out your own individual time peaks—and scheduling your workload accordingly—can be a game-changer. You may already have some idea of whether you’re a morning person or a night owl. If you’re the former, your peaks will happen on the same schedule, just shifted a few hours earlier, and if you’re a night owl, they’ll happen later.