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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

Want To Unlock Your Brain’s Full Potential? You Should Know This 90-Minute Trick

Want To Unlock Your Brain’s Full Potential? You Should Know This 90-Minute Trick

The brain is complex and mysterious. It does everything from composing music to solving the most complicated mathematical problems in the most elegant fashion. It is the source of all of your behaviors, feelings, wisdom, and the storehouse of your memories. Is it powerful? You bet it is. Are you using your full mental potential? Not really.

Why Most People Aren’t Using Their Full Mental Potential

Want to unlock your brain’s full potential? Learn to use the Ultradian Rhythm, your natural body rhythms that occur at intervals of less than 24 hours. You experience this by feeling invigorated for an hour or two, then you become unfocused and lethargic.

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Most people spend their entire day working in a relaxed fashion and without a break. They are not productive because they are not focused and not using their full mental potential. The trick is learning to harness these periods of high energy to be productive during this time period, and then learn to relax, rest, and recharge your energy.

Ultradian Rhythm = 90-Minute Deep Work + 20-Minute Rest

Ultradian Rhythms take place at intervals of 90-100 minutes all through the day. During this time, you experience high energy productivity. This is followed by a 20-minute span of low energy. The interval starts again with another round of high energy productivity.

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The way to take advantage of this is to work on a task for 90 minutes and use the 90 minutes for uninterrupted activity. Take a 20-minute break after that. Then work for another 90 minutes of uninterrupted time, followed by another 20-minute break. By staying tuned to these time intervals you will be using the full potential of your brain. Exercising your ability to focus is like muscle building—the more you train the better you get, and the more focused you become.

Being really good at this is only the first part. It’s really important to disconnect yourself fully during your breaks. Being able to disconnect is a skill in itself, because it is at the core of your ability to rest and properly recharge your energy.

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When you take a break, you “change your channel,” and do something completely different from the brainwork you’ve been doing. Some suggestions are going for a walk, meditation, or taking a 20-minute power nap. Your creativity will soar when you take the time to recover. Taking a break may be hard for you, especially if you’re a workaholic. But you need to let yourself take a break.

By blocking out uninterrupted time intervals, you are making a commitment to yourself to be fully focused on a single important task. Whenever the impulse comes to do other things, like check email or visit websites, you can say to yourself, “I’ll do that during my break”. You can design your time any way you want. For tasks that do not require consistent focus, you can bundle and perform them in one time interval.

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Manage Your Energy Instead Of Your Time

In order to do something, the one thing that matters is how much energy you have to do it. Time is irrelevant when you’re out of energy. You must understand that your body needs rest instead of pushing through the day by drinking coffee or eating power bars.

Acknowledge your natural body rhythms of high and low energy, and use the 90/20-minute system. After taking a break you will be energized once again and can continue your work.

It’s Up To You

Now that you have the knowledge and the tools to unlock your brain’s full potential, work on a schedule that best fits your energy cycles. Take notice of when your brain and energy levels are mostly high, and plan to do your deep work during this time following the 90/20 plan. You might find that you get a lot more done, and feel happy at the same time.

More by this author

Anthony Pica

Freelance Writer

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

What Is Block Scheduling? (And How It Boosts Productivity)

What Is Block Scheduling? (And How It Boosts Productivity)

On August 6, 1991, the world changed forever when the internet became publicly available. Less than 30 years later, our lives have been irrevocably transformed. We can now learn, explore, and communicate 24/7, which is both amazing and, as we all know, hazardous to our productivity[1]. This is why the question, “What is block scheduling?” has become important.

To be clear, the internet isn’t life’s only distraction, and while productivity has become a huge buzzword in recent years, it’s simply a measure of progress: Are you doing what matters most? Actively moving toward your goals?

Author Neil Pasricha writes in Harvard Business Review[2]:

“As our world gets busier and our phones get beepier, the scarcest resource for all of us is becoming attention and creative output. And if you’re not taking time to put something new and beautiful out in the world, then your value is diminishing fast.”

Most entrepreneurs relate deeply to this sentiment. Pasricha solved his own productivity challenges by instituting “untouchable days” that shield him from texts, phone calls, meetings, alerts, or appointments of any kind. He says these focused sessions have enabled him to produce his most creative and rewarding work.

I love Pasricha’s approach, but it’s not always realistic for me. As the founder and CEO of JotForm, I need to weigh in on a variety of daily decisions, from hiring to product roadmaps to financial planning. I suspect other founders feel the same way. Yet, I do believe in the power of focused work, which is also why I recommend block scheduling.

What Is Block Scheduling?

Entrepreneurs often flaunt their multitasking as a badge of honor. After all, starting a business is a tug-of-war between competing priorities.

However, while multitasking might feel efficient, research shows that shifting between tasks can slash productivity by up to 40%. Task-switching leaves what Dr. Sophie Leroy calls “attention residue,”[3] which means we’re still thinking about a previous activity while we start the next one[4].

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Here’s where block scheduling can shine. What is block scheduling, exactly?

We usually become familiar with the concept of block scheduling in high school. You likely received a schedule with a certain number of classes per day, all blocked according to class time, each school year. This is basic block scheduling.

Also called time blocking, block scheduling is the practice of allocating large chunks of time to related tasks. For example, you might designate Mondays for meetings and Tuesdays for strategy. Teachers often use block scheduling when creating lesson plans. There are many different approaches, which we’ll get to shortly.

First, here’s why it matters. Business is essentially problem-solving. Creating strategies, writing code, developing products, and all the myriad activities that entrepreneurs tackle demand focus and minimal distractions. They’re also inherently human tasks that won’t easily be replaced by AI, which means your business depends on your ability to go deep.

Cal Newport, author of Deep Work: Rules for Success in a Distracted World, said in a 2017 interview:

“Focus is now the lifeblood of this economy.”

Entrepreneurs use their minds to launch ideas and create value, so the ability to concentrate is “almost like a superpower”[5].

Block scheduling can also help you to produce higher quality work in less time. Parkinson’s Law holds that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion,”[6], which is why setting time limits can deflate a ballooning task.

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How to Use Time Blocking to Boost Productivity

We all have different rhythms and responsibilities. Personalization is the key to successful time blocking, and it will require some trial and error. Here’s how to get started.

What is time blocking?

    1. Assess Your Calendar

    Evaluating your current schedule can be surprisingly difficult because few of us can accurately estimate how much time a task requires. If it feels easier, track how you actually spend your time for a full week. Note each activity—even 10 minutes of email and 15 minutes of social media scrolling between meetings.

    Once you know how you’ve been spending your time, it’ll be easier to know what to keep and what to throw out when you begin to make your new schedule.

    2. Look for Patterns

    After you’ve documented a full week, group tasks into categories. For example, you can include the following categories:

    • Administrative
    • Meetings
    • Creative work
    • Email
    • Personal time.

    You can also label tasks based on how you feel while doing them, or how they influence your energy levels on a scale from 1-10. Do whatever makes sense for you.

    3. Arrange Your Time Blocks

    Experiment with different block scheduling patterns. For example, one morning may look like this:

    • 8-9am: Respond to emails
    • 9-10am: Write up marketing proposal
    • 10-11am: Brainstorm and plan for Client A’s project
    • 11am-12pm: Meet with Client A to discuss ideas

    However, you may find that you’re more creative immediately after waking up. In that case, you’d want to move “brainstorming and planning” to an earlier slot. If responding to emails is best for when you’re feeling a little lethargic after lunch, put it there.

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    Read your emotions and abilities throughout the day to tap into what is going to work best for you.

    Ultimately, the goal is to avoid switching mental gears throughout the day, week, and maybe even the month. I realize this isn’t easy, especially for entrepreneurs, but it can be incredibly valuable.

    Spending a full day on projects you dislike, such as administrative work or meetings, might feel daunting, but blocking them into a single day can make the rest of your week infinitely more productive and more enjoyable. You’re free to tackle all the entrepreneurial challenges that get your blood flowing.

    4. Create Day Themes

    If you’re someone who has to focus on many things during a single day or week, you may find it more beneficial to create themes for each day instead of blocking up your day into individual tasks. For example, you can set Mondays as Brainstorming/Planning days, Tuesdays as Administrative days, etc.

    If you take this route, I suggest always scheduling in at least one Family day. It will ensure you make time for the important people in your life and give your brain time to rest.

    Benefits of Block Scheduling

    Once you’ve answered “What is block scheduling?” and know how to use it correctly, you’ll find that you receive many benefits. Here are just a few.

    Battle Procrastination

    If you have your schedule set and know you only have an hour to get a particular task done, it will be significantly easier to avoid procrastinating.

    For more on how to stop procrastinating, check out this article.

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    Create Realistic Time Estimates

    Once you’ve been working with time blocking for a while, you’ll learn which activities take the most/least time. You may have to adjust your schedule during the first month or so to get it right, but be patient. You’ll continue to learn to realistically estimate how much time a particular task will take.

    Develop More Focus and Attention

    When your schedule doesn’t leave much room for scrolling through social media or chatting with coworkers, you’ll find your brain is more devoted to paying attention to the task at hand. You’ll respond to the limits you set for yourself and will focus to get things done.

    Final Thoughts

    Most founders crave freedom. Yet, school schedules, jobs, and social norms condition us to work with a traditional schedule and reactive mindset. Before we know it, we’ve re-created a working schedule that traces back to the 19th century, even in our own companies. Block scheduling is not only a tool to maximize productivity; it’s a way to reclaim your time[7].

    In my 14 years at JotForm, I’ve realized that business growth means doing more of what makes the biggest impact. I don’t always succeed, but I try to focus my time and energy where it matters, and I know that busyness is not synonymous with productivity.

    If you feel the same way, give time blocking a try. Share your experiments in scheduling with colleagues and family members so they understand the changes and can support you.

    Finally, don’t worry about getting it right immediately. You may need to get under the hood of your calendar and tinker around a bit. Find what works for you, then protect your new schedule at all costs.

    More Tips on Time Management

    Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

    Reference

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