Once again, you’re facing an impending deadline and there’s nothing to bail you out. The stakes are high and the project work is terrifying.
You only have one choice; put your head down and power through the impossible task list like your life depended on it.
And you crush it!
I think we’ve all experienced these epic moments of zen-like concentration and performance at some point in our lives. Hell, sometimes we even amaze ourselves.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out this way. Sometimes we feel lazy, unmotivated, and distracted—and our performance reflects it.
Imagine all you can accomplish if you could just flip a switch and enter this state of pure concentration whenever you want?
As a computer programmer myself, this one skill has been crucial to my execution. And it saved my ass dozens of times.
So here’s 3 techniques to try yourself to help you concentrate like a champ and get shit done!
What To Do
Technique 1: Dial Up The Pressure
You know the saying, pressure makes diamonds. Just as ordinary ol’ Carbon can transform into a strong, elegant, valuable diamond, our concentration—with the right amount of pressure—can elevate our performance to levels we didn’t know exist.
- Raise the stakes. Assume responsibility. Don’t just do it for yourself. Promise your team, community, or family that you are going to produce results. Since your brain is more interested in a task that requires validation from others, you can use social rejection as a forceful motivator. Do whatever it takes to avoid letting down those you care about.
- Cut the excess. There is no time for the non-essential. If it’s not required, cut it out of the picture. The name of the game is results—not how many unimportant tasks you can string together to appear busy.
- Be a superhero. Rise to the challenge. The world is depending on you to produce. Nothing else should matter, or even exist, until you have accomplished your mission. Be epic.
Technique 2: Create the impossible to-do list
When we create our to-do lists, many of us severely underestimate how much we are capable of accomplishing with a good dose of concentration.
The brain is addicted to completed to-do lists, so it will try to convince you to play it safe and not schedule too much in fear of coming up short. Don’t fall for this.
Parkinson’s Law states that the time to complete a task depends on the time allotted.
In other words, if you give yourself three hours to complete a 30 minute task, your brain will interpret the task as unrealistically complex and difficult. It will find a way to use as much time as it is given.
Add a couple more tasks to your to-do list. Come up with a number you feel is slightly beyond what you believe you can complete. But don’t give yourself any additional time! You’ll be surprised at how much you can accomplish.
You can apply the 40% rule for some motivation to complete your to-do list.
Technique 3: Bump up your deadlines
This also feeds off Parkinson’s Law. I think we can agree, concentrating on a project far in the distance is tricky. It just seams too far off to be important.
And then it sneaks up and bites us in the ass…
Your brain is built to increase attention and concentration on urgent matters. This is why priority dilution becomes such an issue—see Method #2.
We can use this to our advantage. By bumping up our deadlines, we are signaling our brain to automatically increase and focus its attention.
Simply set your deadlines a few days sooner. The key though, is to forget that you did. You must consciously treat the new deadline as absolute. Make a habit of bumping up your deadlines for recurring tasks and sticking to them!
- These techniques will NOT work for everyone. Some will thrive from increased pressure, others will experience unhealthy levels of anxiety (remember though, a little anxiety is a good thing).
- If you find yourself constantly distracted when you work, it could mean you are uninterested in the subject—OR it can also mean you’re underestimating how much you can actually get done, and your brain is just filling in the gaps with novelty.
- Procrastination is NOT an effective strategy for increasing pressure. When you put tasks off till crunch-time, you’re unknowingly wasting energy on anticipation and guilt the entire time leading up to your task. Your mental performance will be taking an unnecessary hit without you even realizing. Bump up your deadlines instead.
- Oh and when you bump up your deadlines, don’t even think about using your old deadlines as a crutch!