3 Powerful Habits That Help Me Conquer the Day, Every Day

Sira Mas

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A few years ago, I couldn’t consider myself very productive. I just couldn’t get things done as I wished, and my mother called me “the procrastination queen.”

For example, I always had my cell phone in my hands and checked the notifications every two minutes. Another thing I loved doing was turning on the TV and zapping through channels — while I had to study.

As you can imagine, too many useless activities were absorbing my energy. And then I complained I didn’t have the time to get things done.

“If you don’t pay appropriate attention to what has your attention, it will take more of your attention than it deserves.”
― David Allen

However, I also spent some time reading self-improvement content and observing my university mates and co-workers who always seemed to achieve the best results in anything they did.

In the end, applying what I read in personal growth books and trying to imitate my most successful friends and colleagues helped me identify what I was doing wrong and what I could improve to get more done.

Thanks to my obsession with self-improvement, I now have my set of habits, on which I will probably never give up.

1. Asking Someone to Hide My Phone

One of my university friends, Giulia, was particularly productive. During our last semester together she prepared a complicated Marketing exam in two days. One day I was having lunch with her and I asked her how she could be so effective. She gave me this piece of advice.

When you are working or studying, hide your phone behind your computer.

“Why should I keep the phone behind my computer?” I thought. However, I decided to give it a try. On that afternoon, I studied for a few hours —with some short breaks to recharge — and kept my phone hidden behind my laptop, where I couldn’t see it.

Then I understood. That simple piece of advice helped me remove my worst distraction and temptation — my beloved phone — and it helped me focus. I was studying for a statistics exam and on that day, I completed two entire chapters. I was surprised.

However, during the following days, I noticed I still had the temptation to check my phone from time to time. I thought of things I had to check, and since I had my phone there, just behind the computer and within hands reach, I took it and let the distractions in, again.

So I realized the productivity hack I had learned was good, but there was something I could improve.

Instead of just keeping my phone on silent mode and out of sight, I also had to keep it somewhere I couldn’t easily reach it. So I asked my mother to hide my phone in another room where I couldn’t easily find it, anytime I was studying.

This simple habit helped me boost my productivity as I finally got rid of the need to check my phone every two minutes. Most importantly, ten months later, I graduated.

How to apply this habit, in a nutshell

When you are studying or working, put your phone on silent and ask someone you trust to hide it somewhere you can’t easily find it.

If you can’t ask anyone to hide your phone — because for example you live alone, and study or work from home — you can leave your phone in another room on silent. I tried it and found it almost as effective as someone hiding it for you.

2. Using the Cherry Technique

You have probably already heard of the Pomodoro Technique.

However, just in case you’re not familiar with it, it’s a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo, an Italian entrepreneur. It consists of working in small shifts of twenty-five minutes of focused work — that is, with no interruptions — with short breaks of three to five minutes.

The technique was named after the kitchen timer that Cirillo used, which had the shape of a tomato — Pomodoro in Italian.

The benefits of this time management technique are many. For example, it helps reduce distractions; it makes you much more productive and helps you get things done; you can measure your work, so you have an idea of how long you have spent on your daily tasks.

After using this technique for a while, I realized I could adapt it to my rhythm. So I tried some alternatives. I broke down my daily work routine into forty-minutes and fifty-minutes time blocks, with longer breaks.

After trying several alternatives, I found my ideal Pomodoro duration. Now, I usually work in twenty-minutes intervals — with no interruptions and removing any distraction — and take a small five-minutes break in between. Since the time blocks are shorter, I decided to call my customized method Cherry Technique.

It’s only five minutes shorter than the Pomodoro technique, but I find it has a huge impact on my productivity, as my attention span significantly decreases after around twenty minutes.

How to apply this habit, in a nutshell

Simple, find your ideal shift duration. Try to work with different intervals — for example, you can try twenty, thirty, or forty-minutes time blocks — and see what works best for you.

And don’t forget to keep track of the time blocks you’re working on — I like to write them down on a piece of paper. I find it’s a great way to feel excited and eager to get as much completed as I can. Not to mention, seeing how much I worked at the end of each day gives a good boost to my self-confidence.

3. Focusing on the Circle of Influence

One of my favorite self-improvement books is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. In case you have never read it, I highly recommend it.

There is one idea I learned in this book that reframed my mindset, helped me become more productive, and taught me to waste less time and energy on useless tasks. The concept I’m talking about is the Circle of Influence.

According to Covey, there are two areas where we can focus our time and energy. The first area is our Circle of Concern, and it consists of all the things that might affect us, but that we can’t directly control. For example, something that belongs to this circle could be what our friends think, the weather, your neighbor’s opinion, the stock market, you name it.

The second area is our Circle of Influence, and it represents the things we can control. For example, when we wake up, how much time we decide to spend on an important project, how many times a week we work out, what we eat, how much water we drink, etc.

As you can imagine, if you stop paying attention to anything belonging to the Circle of Concern and you start focusing only on the Circle of Influence, you will immediately start seeing results. You will start getting more stuff done — which will make you feel great and less stressed.

Proactive people focus their efforts on the Circle of Influence. They work on the things they can do something about.
— Stephen Covey

Only becoming familiar with this concept helped me become aware of where I was putting my energy and on which circle I was focusing. And of course, applying this habit helped me become more productive and less stressed at the same time.

How to apply this habit, in a nutshell

Write down the activities you usually spend time on, that don’t contribute to reaching your goals. Then, write down the tasks you think you have to focus on to get more done.

Once you start avoiding the time-wasting activities and focus on what gives you real results, you will get much more done, and move every day closer to your goals. I know it’s easier said than done, but it’s all about practice and consistency.

The combination of these three good practices — asking someone to hide your phone, working in short time blocks, and focusing on your Circle of Influence — can transform your days. And if applied, they are a great tool to be healthily productive and get more done every day.

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