Autor: Anari Hagel • 31 January 2020

Ex-googler teaches jedi focus at sTARTUp Day

Connor Swenson, mindfulness and productivity coach, brings practical tips to practice mindfulness and achieve productivity.
Autor: Kiur Kaasik

What is produvtivity? That is indeed a million dollar question, Swenson said on the stage of sTARTUp Day in Tartu. „For me productivity is personal. It means something different for everyone,“ he said.

To Swenson real producticity is about quality, being effective and getting important things done consistently. Not answering a hundred e-mails, but long-term continual improvement. „How do you maintain high performance, this is what we talk about at Google,“ he said.

To achieve productivity, he introduces the idea of compound interest, which is generally used in the context of financial management.

„If you’re just 1% better every day this year then you’ll be 37 times better by this day next year,“ he stated.

It’s a huge mindset change one has to go through. It is a 3-step journey: first, becoming a mastermind, then, achieving jedi focus and finally, energizing and recovering like a pro.

According to Swenson 47% of the time humans are lost in thought in autopilot mode.

„A huge teaching at Google, how do you move from being reactive into being responsive? The key is to figure out how you can respond more skillfully,“ he said and gave three practical tips to achieve this:

1. Mindfulness. It´s simply being aware and present. The most important part that mindfulness plays in productivity is that it allows us a little space to choose how we respond to external things, e.g. how we want to respond to an e-mail or what a client just told us.

Attention training. It is otherwise known as mindfulness meditation. The mind is very much a muscle which you can train. We all know how important it is to train our bodies. We eat well, we sleep well, but many of us are forgetting that the mind can also be trained, you can become more skilful in using your mind.

2. Jedi focus. 69% of workers have difficulties focusing on one thing at a time. It takes 25% more time to finish a task when you’re multitasking as opposed to single-tasking. Harvard research shows that it takes 15 minutes to come back to the original task after you’ve been interrupted. Achieving jedi focus is tough.

He suggested a simple but effective tool called „One Big Thing.“ It is about picking the most important piece of work every day that you need to get done and make that the first thing you do the following day. Make that task about 60 minutes at least. Anything less than that and it won’t feel as important. But no more than 90 minutes or 2 hours, because after that amount of time attention energy starts to fade. With this method you build a sense of achievement once you´ve done that one big thing during the day.

I fyou want to achieve focus, then you need to practice single-tasking and doing nothing else but one task at a time. After practicing for a while you’ll be able to sit down for 90 minutes and focus on just one thing. It’s common knowledge, it’s just not common practice.

Dont rely on willpower, use friction, he said.

3. Energize and restore like a pro. The fact about energy is that its renewable. Productivity craters after just 50 hours. There is only limited time you can achieve focus during a day.

Managing your energy can entirely change the way you think about your work day. Take breaks, because the ultranian cycle how energy works will make you check your phone after 90 minutes of focus. Stop what you are doing for 10 minutes. Work hard and rest hard to avoid burning out.

Another tip from Swenson for how to organise your day is to divide your calendar into three zones: "me time" – 90 minutes for energising; "make time" - 2 hours blocked for one big thing and "meet time" - for everything else that you do during the day.

„Start small, tie it to existing habits and forgive yourself if you miss a day,“ Swenson concluded.

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