After just my first few golf lessons 25 years ago, I realized how much time I was going to have to commit to my golf practice. As a new mother, I decided to drop it, promising myself that I would return to it one day.
Decades passed as I raised my two children and built my consulting practice. I kept pushing the goal post of returning to golf to yet another year. However, the siren song of the lush greens was always there.
In early January 2021, I finally reached the goal post. I got a membership for a driving range, engaged a coach, and bought myself a brand-new golf set.
For 12 weeks, I got up early four times a week so I could be at the driving range at 6 a.m. to get two hours of dedicated practice before my workday began.
When I am at the greens, everything else falls away. In that moment there is no thought in my mind except my golf set up, the technique for my putting, chipping, swinging, and the resounding ‘thwack’ as the club hits the ball. I am not thinking on how far the ball will go or how perfect the putt is; my attention is getting my technique right.
To my delight, these intense practice sessions taught me three ways to increase my productivity.
Create deliberate time for intense focus
‘Let your mind become a lens, thanks to the converging rays of attention; let your soul be all intent on whatever it is that is established in your mind as a dominant, wholly absorbing idea. − Antonin-Gilbert Sertillanges
To produce at a deep level, we need to focus for extended periods on a single task with no distractions. As I have consciously set time aside for my golf practice, I have deliberately incorporated the practice of rhythmic philosophy of focused work. I have learned to set aside 90 minutes between 8-11 a.m., which is my peak productivity time according to my circadian rhythm, to focus on work that requires uninterrupted deep thinking.
Clustering similar tasks
Great creative minds think like artists but work like accountants. – David Brooks
As a leadership development consultant, my typical day is highly fragmented. If I am not in full-day workshops, I am in coaching sessions, on client calls, researching and answering emails. It is difficult for me to give undivided attention to one task. I often suffer from attention residue concept, which leads to working in a state of perpetual semi-distraction. Research says most knowledge workers are interrupted every 6-12 minutes, and it takes anything from three seconds to three minutes to regain concentration after the interruption.
On the driving range, I create chunks of time for first practicing my swing, then move to chipping and then putting or vice versa. I do not rotate my attention between all three simultaneously, allowing me to focus on one task with undivided attention. This has led to better results.
I now try to cluster meetings and phone calls in one chunk of a day rather than spread them out throughout the day; cluster my research work on one day of the week; coaching assignments in the first part of the day as opposed to spread through the day; and answer emails at certain set points during the day. I find myself much more focused and producing at a superior level because the switching costs between the different tasks is minimized.
The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration. — It is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.” − Tim Kreider
My works requires me to demonstrate insight and high problem-solving skills for being productive. Research dictates that we tend to find more breakthrough ideas when we move ourselves physically away to do something different such as spending time in nature or any other relaxing activities.
With golf, the lush green grass of the range, the magnificent trees surrounding it, and the distant sounds of the birds chirping in the background set a beautiful backdrop as I leisurely walk to the putting greens after practicing my swing. These periods of forced idleness reenergize me, helping me focus better for the next round of practice.
I now create rituals for shutting off from work in the evening to build more idle time. I take time to be with nature, listen to music, spend time with my kids without checking my phone for emails. I no longer do catch-up work after dinner. The result? I find myself more recharged when I approach my work the next day.