8 Minutes

Doing great work requires focus, and you need to be intentional to create time to focus.

In any classic bank robbery film, there’s always a safe to crack. As the leaders of the heist put their team together, they always need to find the ex-locksmith guy who will know how to crack this particular latest-technology lock. Once they find their man (and convince him to do “one more job”), the team huddles around a table, eyeing blueprints illuminated by a single hanging lamp.

The leader will inevitably turn to Safe-Cracker and ask, “How much time do you need?”

Safe-Cracker says, “eight minutes” (it’s always a very precise number).

Then the team will figure out how to keep the heat off to give Safe-Cracker uninterrupted time to work his magic.

I often feel like Safe-Cracker when I’m trying to make progress on a project that requires some deep thought. I just need 8 minutes. But the heat always comes on strong, and often here’s no one guarding the door.

The enemy to focus storms in in the form of new emails, tweets, and phone calls. But unlike big cops with guns, these interruptions seem friendly enough, it’s tempting to let them in.

Here are a couple ways I guard the door while I need to focus:

  • Turn off everything. Turning off all programs unnecessary to the task at hand helps limit interruptions. Better yet, if possible I turn off the computer entirely and pull out pen and paper.
  • Work early or late. Many business leaders point to early morning as the best time to make traction on projects. I often feel I can accomplish in 30 minutes at 6am what would take 2 hours once everyone else is awake.
  • Timing interruptions. I recently set Mail to retrieve emails only once each hour, meaning I quit getting interrupted by the frequent “ping” of new messages.

Give yourself your 8 minutes. Just like in any con man will tell you, the payoff will be worth it. Minus the risk of jail time…

Related:
Tim Sanders: You don’t need more time, you need uninterrupted focus

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