​How to boost your productivity by 500% (6 Focus Habits)


“It is only by concentrating intensely that you can master a difficult discipline or solve a demanding problem”, according to a 2016 article in The Economist.

What to do

Habitualize deep focus and flow to increase your productivity by 500%.

Why it works

McKinsey research by Scott Keller and Susie Cranston (pictured above) found that we’re 500% more productive in the deeply focused flow state. In a similar vein, “professional activity performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that pushes your cognitive capabilities to their limit”, as Cal Newport writes in his bestselling book “Deep Work”: “These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.”

Here’s the catch: “The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy”, Newport writes: “As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill and then make it the core of their working life will thrive.” That’s one reason the Economist has called deep work “the killer app of the knowledge economy”. Here are six science-based habits to help you develop and use that killer app.

How to do it

  1. Ace your sleep. First things first: there’s no deep focus and flow without plenty of high-quality sleep. Most notably, this means getting 90 minutes of deep sleep per night. Begin with our 10-10-10 rule: Get 10 minutes of sunlight into your eyes before 10 am. Then avoid bright, blue light after 10 pm. Learn more about how to set yourself up for plenty of deep sleep here.
  2. Time flow right. Follow our 30-3-11 Rule and pick one of three times to focus deeply: ~30 minutes after waking, ~3 hours after waking, or ~11 hours after waking. These times are when you’re best able to focus (due to your “circadian rhythm”). Learn more about why and how to optimize for deep focus here.
  3. Get morning cold exposure. A cold shower in the morning boosts your energy for hours, greatly improving your focus. To avoid cold shock, put safety first: start your shower nice and warm, then turn it to cold for 30-60 seconds at the end. Learn more about morning cold showers here.
  4. Drink loads of water. Insufficient hydration causes fatigue and even anxiety. That’s why drinking plenty of water is vital for deep focus and flow. Women should go for 2 liters and men for 3 liters a day, says the Mayo Clinic. For better sleep at night, drink most of your water in the first 10 hours of the day. Learn more about all things hydration here.
  5. Have caffeine right. Caffeine boosts mental performance and helps us persevere with tedious tasks. However, both quantity and timing matter: first, up to 400 mg are safe for healthy adults (that’s two regular cups of coffee). Second, having caffeine too late in the day will crush your deep sleep. Thus, avoid it in the last 8 hours before bed. Learn more about optimizing caffeine here.
  6. Non-sleep deep rest (NSDR). The afternoon slump is a phase of low energy and focus that usually occurs between 1 pm and 3 pm. Want to beat that slump and prepare for deep focus later in the day? Try 10-30 minutes of non-sleep deep rest (NSDR). Too busy? Think again. Even Google’s CEO does this on most days. Learn more about three brutally-effective and science-based forms of deep rest here.

You just learned six habits to boost your productivity by 500% with deep focus. Next week, I’ll feature the best habits to increase your motivation by 250%. Stay tuned!