The Amazing 50-Minute Focus Technique

3 minute read

How do you get a lot more done in a lot less time?

You already know the answer. You’ve done it before. And you can do it again and again.

I know I’m being enigmatic. But stay with me…

Say you’re at a client meeting discussing a potential project. They’re going over the creative brief with you. You’re asking questions. You’re taking notes. You’re being careful to ensure you understand everything and are making a good impression. Typical client meeting stuff.

Now, in the middle of that meeting, you’re not suddenly going to open your laptop and check your mail, or make a quick phone call to a friend and chat about plans for the weekend, or pull out your grocery list and add a few items.

That would be ludicrous. The client would think you’re a wacky writer. (You might be, but you don’t want the client to think that!)

No, you would give that client meeting your full attention. You’d be focused. For those 50 minutes or so, you would let few things, if any, distract you.

You’d be “on.”

Now, think about the last time you did some work on a client project. Were you “on” for 50 minutes, totally focused and absorbed in the work? Or, did you find yourself occasionally answering the phone, checking email, grabbing a coffee, throwing some laundry in the dryer, or playing a quick game of spider solitaire on the computer?

Be honest!

Well, you could easily double your productivity by doing what you already know how to do: remain totally focused on one thing and one thing only — the project — for just 50 minutes.

This technique, developed by my friend and marketing guru Dean Jackson, is called the 50-Minute Focus.

You simply select a project you want (or need) to work on, get a timer and set it for 50 minutes, then work on that project intently for that period of time. You don’t check email. You don’t take a break. You don’t let your mind wander to the BBQ plans you have for the weekend. You’re totally immersed.

When the timer goes off, the “meeting” is over. You then completely unplug from the project for 20 minutes.

You can use those 20 minutes to take a break or get some minor tasks done (not related to your project), such as returning a phone call or sending an email.

Then, assuming you still plan to keep working, do another 50-Minute Focus.

You’ll be amazed by how much you’re able to get done in that short period of time.

Overjoyed woman against a pink background

A freelancing mom I interviewed recently, Jan, told me she divides her workday into three 50-Minute Focus sessions. “I schedule one in the morning, while my daughter is taking her nap. Then another just after lunch. And finally, when my husband gets home, I do another Focus session.”

Jan is very productive and gets a lot of work done. And, as an unexpected bonus, the 50-Minute Focus technique has helped her strike an ideal work-life balance between being an active mom and being a freelance professional.

That’s the great thing about the 50-Minute Focus. You can fit it in anywhere. Got some time before dinner? Pull out your laptop and do a 50-Minute Focus! Have a pressing deadline that’s difficult to meet? Do an extra 50-Minute Focus in the evening. Just put the baby down for a nap? You’ve got 50 minutes. Do a Focus! See what I mean?

In fact, with just a few exceptions, most of my days are a series of 50-Minute Focuses and 20-minute breaks. During the breaks, I chip away at my to-do list, or grab a coffee, or step outside for some fresh air.

Every 50-Minute Focus I do gives me a quantum leap toward a project finish line. I also like the built-in incentive — that 20-minute break!

Try it! I suspect you’ll be surprised, like I was, by how much you get done.