Everyone has their way of getting things done. For a couple of years, I’ve contracted a method I describe as the power session.
So what is it?
- A set of rules to accomplish more by working in small focused sprints.
- 45 min of deep productive work.
- Usually focused around 1 task or problem.
- Used to handle the toughest or demanding cognitive tasks. The power session should not be used on simple, small, or daily tasks. Avoid over usage to dodge inflation of the tool itself.
- All power sessions require considerate preparations and a post-session break.
- During sessions, the goal is to reach complete immersion. The level of immersion should get to such a level so that when the 45 min timer goes off, it catches you as a surprise.
- Get more done in less time.
- Spend as much time as possible in the zone.
- Estimate more easily.
- Raises awareness of how dangerous distractions can be.
- Feel better by getting more done. Feel ok when putting work away.
Examples of tasks that would be suited for power sessions:
- Writing a blog post.
- Start working on a new software feature.
- Solving a very hard software bug.
- Cleaning the bathroom (yes, it’s also suitable for non-screentime tasks)
How to use it
Start by identifying your most urgent or impactful task to be solved. Make sure you practice thoughtful prioritization of what you find most important at this time. It could be a task that carries some sort of grudge, or one that has already been postponed multiple times. Approach the hardest tasks first.
Practice an absolute clean desk policy. Both on your physical desk and your computer screen. Only keep open tabs, apps, or windows directly related to solving this specific task.
Make sure you’re hydrated, have eaten and that you’ve been to the bathroom before getting into a session. Basic natural needs are easy distractions that might as well pull you out of the zone when things get hard.
Find a timer that can be activated effortlessly. I use Siri on the iPhone for this with the simple command ‘Hey Siri, set timer for 45 minutes’.
Optional 1: Practice rewards after session end. Might be a coffee, drink, or other snacks.
Optional 2: If you find it hard to stick to the current task, or if you’re easily distracted, you can try talking to yourself while working. Background: Humans can only handle a couple of activities at the same time. So if you spend one of your simultaneous abilities to talk or having a conversation with self, you prohibit other factors like sound, noise, smell, etc. to distract you. The point is to stay focused, even if the means are a bit weird.
Introduce power session logs and set daily targets
If you do these sessions right, you’ll start to notice how difficult it is to perform a large number of sessions during a single day. This is ok. The brain behaves like a muscle, and it gets tired faster than we might think. As entire days can not be filled with power sessions, I am normally pleased if I manage to complete 3-4 sessions during a day. This might sound like lazy days, but considering all the time spent during work that is not ‘in the zone’, I assure you 3-4 sessions a day will get you a long way.
I prefer to log my sessions in a paper notebook. I typically try to complete 2 sessions before lunch, and 2 sessions after lunch or in the evening.
If you’re interested in reading more about highly effective productivity tips, I recommend this book:
Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport