Have you ever noticed that time just seems to fly when you get into a groove? You finally pick your head up and realize that you’ve spent the past hour writing that blog post or working on that art project or talking to a good friend?
We’re all capable of truly focusing when we get into flow. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, describes a state of flow as: “A state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.”
And honestly, it’s not that hard to find that momentum—even if you don’t drop completely into the focused state of flow. When you have a looming to-do list or a project that you’ve procrastinated on, often the hardest part is just getting started.
So today, we want to help you do just that. One of our favorite tricks is the “30-Minute Start,” which is exactly what it sounds like. Don’t overwhelm yourself with all of your varying tasks and to-dos; instead pick something to focus on and just get started!
After all, we’ve all got at least a half hour to spare in every 24, right? Set aside your own block of 30 minutes tomorrow morning, and follow our top three tricks for making this strategy worth your while.
Identify Your 30-Minute Focus Before You Sit Down to Do It
It’s important not just to start, but to start with one thing. When you’re switching your focus between several different tasks or projects, it can be hard to get anything of substance accomplished in even one area. Map out your day in your Day Designer the night before, and select the one thing that absolutely needs to get done or that you’ve been putting off or that you know you’ll be the most resistant to completing—often, the one thing you should do falls neatly into all three of these categories! That’s the one thing you’ll focus on in your 30-Minute Start.
Do Your 30-Minute Start at the Start of Your Day
Do your start at the start! If you wait to focus during your 30-Minute Start, you’ll likely find that your day gets away from you—suddenly, you’re inundated with emails and phone calls and requests from your kids. Before you know it, it’s 9pm, you’re exhausted, and that “one thing” you picked yesterday? Well, it’s gotten pushed to tomorrow’s to-do list. Take back your time by starting your day with the task you know you most need to focus on. Block off the first 30 minutes on your daily calendar to block out the outside world and get what you need to get done done first.
Go For At Least 30 Minutes
Thirty minutes may seem like an arbitrary number—but it’s not. It works! A block of thirty minutes tends to be good for most people—it’s short enough that you won’t become overwhelmed or quickly distracted, but long enough to allow you to actually get stuff done. So set a timer and don’t stop until it dings. You might also find that you’ve fallen into flow, and aren’t ready to quit when the timer goes off. That’s okay, too! In fact, you might find yourself so “in the zone” that you finish up a project you’ve been putting off for months. And that’s the goal! Once you find how much you can get done in 30 focused minutes, you’re less likely to drag out what you know you can easily get done.
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Once you’ve gotten the hang of the 30-Minute Start, regularly incorporate it into your mornings (and perhaps again throughout your days). You can experiment with it, too! Try a new environment, different projects (it works for personal and professional projects alike)—and even a different length of time! In the end, it doesn’t matter what you do, where you do it, or for exactly how long—just figure out what works best for you . . . and start.