If I told you that learning this little secret could transform your life – would you believe me?
Go on, try it and see for yourself.
We live in a world where we are constantly bombarded with information. Anywhere you go, anything you look at and every noise you hear is asking for your attention.
So how do you block out distractions to focus on things that really matter? It is not always easy. That’s because our devices ping every second, emails arrive demanding our immediate attention, social media notifications continuously break our concentration, not to mention the calls, text messages and meetings that steal our attention and focus.
But people who are really shifting the needle, doing meaningful work in their fields, innovating and pushing the bar higher are those who’ve learned to master their focus. That’s because they understand that focus is a finite resource. We are talking about the Picassos of their fields; scientists, innovators, entrepreneurs, writers, and artists who are making the world a better place.
Bestselling author and leadership expert Robin Sharma says:
‘We live in a world where focus is more important than even your intelligence’.
According to this rule by Sharma, for the next 90 days, the first 90 minutes of your workday should be focused on your single most valuable project.
So you could be writing code that could revolutionize the marketplace. You could be creating an unparalleled product or providing a service that no peer is currently offering. You may be writing a book, starting a blog, learning photography, or switching careers – whatever your game-changing move is – this rule works if you work it.
In fact, applying this rule with consistency will give you an unbeatable competitive advantage. And you’ll essentially be working as the 5% of the world’s top performers.
The problem is, in today’s world there’s so much distraction available that if you’re not acutely careful, it can dominate your days. I’ve used the 90/90/1 rule, and it has transformed my business. I found my client base growing, my health improving and my happiness levels soaring.
Unfortunately, most people play at the level of victimhood and make excuses for the ordinary results in their lives. But all they have to do is make one simple change. Instead of spending your best hours watching cat videos, surfing the internet, tinkering with notifications, or chatting with friends, do your best work in the first 90 minutes of your day.
When Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, two of the wealthiest and most influential people in the world, were asked about the one factor they attribute their success to, they both had the same answer; ‘Focus’.
Like with anything else, practice this new discipline enough, and it will become your new normal. On average, it takes over two months – 66 days to be exact – for a new behavior to become automatic.
And how long it takes a habit to form can vary depending on the person, behavior, and circumstances. According to this study, it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days to form a new habit.
When you’re focusing on important work, turn off your devices, tell your team or loved ones that you’re busy for the next 90 minutes. Maybe put a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on your door.
Block out times for important things
Sticking to a schedule and blocking time out for important things is more important than you think. If you don’t have a weekly schedule that you can stick with, you’ll have a hard time meeting deadlines and getting things done.
What’s more, you’ll find yourself in a perpetual state of stress. Not using your time wisely can cost you immensely, even with all the resources in the world.
Utilize your mornings, nights or weekends
Pick a time when other people aren’t working to focus on projects that require your maximum focus. Between 5 am to 9 am is my personal uninterrupted time to do some of my best work. I meditate, exercise and sit down to focus on writing articles and doing research.
Doing the same work in the middle of the day would take me at least twice as long because I’ll frequently be interrupted by phone calls, emails, clients needing urgent help, or the kids – since I also work from home on certain days.
Because these 4 hours in the morning are totally interruption-free, they are my most productive. But you may be different. Maybe you can get some of your best work done during the nights or on weekends. Whatever it is, find what works best for you, create a schedule and then stick to it.
Use a calendar and keep it where you can see it
When first starting my business, I noticed that I was constantly canceling dinners with family and friends because it always took me longer to complete projects. I also felt I wasn’t eating as healthy and wasn’t getting enough exercise because my schedule was disorganized and basically a mess.
Moreover, my stress levels were also rising. This one change helped me focus on all the important priorities in my life. Every Sunday, I used a calendar to write out a detailed schedule for the entire week. I would print it out and stick in front of my work desk from where I could see it every day for the next seven days.
With the help of the schedule, I would pre-block time for family gatherings throughout the week, meeting with friends, meditation sessions, exercise, making healthy meals and working on some of my best projects. After a few weeks of doing this, I realized that I had more free time, I was getting more done, and I was available for friends and family too.
Spend some alone time to step into the alpha state
Spending time alone has some excellent benefits in terms of productivity and creativity. These are the two key assets you need to thrive in today’s world. Contrary to popular belief, a little solitude and quiet time isn’t a waste of time. In fact, it makes you a lot more productive, according to this study.
Ever wonder why authors and artists prefer to spend time in a cabin in the woods or a private studio with a nice view to work? Because nature and alone time spark creativity.
Some alone time also gives you the opportunity to look at life from a different perspective. It gives you a chance to analyze what’s working and what isn’t. In fact, your brain steps out of the beta mode and into the alpha mode when given some alone time.
It is the state where you’ll create some of your best, most groundbreaking work. You’ll be surprised to note that research confirms that trying to come up with creative ideas with other people actually comes in the way of the creative thinking process.
Apart from giving a boost to your professional life, some alone time will help you become more emphatic and build mental resilience that will go a long way in terms of both your personal and professional lives.
Don’t panic when things don’t go as per plan
There will be times when things don’t go as per schedule. Meetings may run late, conference calls and projects may take longer. Sometimes, we just may need some downtime, and that’s normal. Delays are part of life, and instead of getting worried or anxious you’ll just have to find intelligent ways to deal with them.
Not to mention, that when you have set up a structure and things arise at the last minute, it’s a lot easier to deal with them.
There will be times in your life when you feel you’re not where you want to be in your career, or for that matter, in your life. But never think that change is impossible.
Don’t allow your future to be limited by your current circumstances. Start small, be consistent and you’ll notice that you’ve come a long way in a short time.
Stop worrying about what could go wrong and start getting excited about what could go right. There’s an old joke where a man says, “I really want to go to medical school, but it takes at least seven years–and I’ll be 50 in seven years!” His wise friend replies, “And how old will you be in 7 years if you don’t go?”