Working effectively is not about chaining hours and exhausting yourself at work, it’s quite the opposite as you’ll find out in this article.
The other day I was listening to an episode of the Tim Ferriss Show. In this episode LeBron James and his coach were interviewed.
If you don’t know who LeBron James is, he’s a basketball genius. Considered the best winger in history, he is one of the few players to have scored more than 30,000 points during his career and has accumulated several titles: top scorer, best passer, best interceptor.
After listening to the interview for a little over an hour and studying more in depth his workouts, I noticed 2 things that LeBron was doing to prepare for a game.
The first thing is that he trains intensely (as you might expect for an athlete of his level).
When he’s on the field, he only thinks about basketball and gives it his all. He is completely focused on his movements and shots and repeats them hundreds of times.
The second thing (a little more surprising) is that it attaches great importance to breaks and sleep. You would think that to be at your level, you have to train as much as possible until you can run out. This is what films like Rocky like to show us. But LeBron proves otherwise. He trains intensely and works hard, but he also tries to get the most sleep. Between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. ideally. To get a restful sleep is the best way to recharge the batteries, avoid injuries and be fit on the field.
What we notice I have high-level athletes like LeBron, and indeed most of the high-performing people in general, is that they work by sprint. That is, they give their all for a given time and then take real breaks during which they relax and recover. They cut their working time and break time very clearly. They don’t do the work halfway, nor do they half-rest. They actually apply what is called clean focus and clean cut.
Working effectively with clean focus
When you’re looking to focus on something whether it’s a workout, a task or a project, a whole bunch of distractions usually come to challenge you.
Maybe it’s a particular thought that distracts you. You’re looking to focus on your shots and put baskets but you can’t help but think about an argument you just had with a friend.
Maybe it’s someone who’s asking you. Looking to finish a job for today is your colleagues keep interrupting you to ask you for a service.
Or maybe it’s notifications, emails, messages and calls that keep distracting you while you’re trying to accomplish a task.
The problem is that if you get distracted every 5 minutes by these “pollutions” you will never be able to do your job effectively. It will take you even longer to achieve what you want.
Imagine if Le Bron checked his emails every 5 minutes while he was training or if Schwarzenegger took a selfie after each rehearsal. They would certainly not be at the level they are at today.
When they are on the field or indoors, they are 100% focus, and their mind is only focused on practice. They don’t get distracted.
Clean focus is that. It is ignoring all the pollution that distracts us when we try to concentrate.
All these calls, all these emails, all these notifications, all these solicitations, all these thoughts… must be set aside for the time to do our work or for our training.
The advantage of keeping a clean focus is that we are able to perform much better than we usually are because all our resources are invested in one direction. You do a better job, you make fewer mistakes and you’re faster.
The flip side of the clean focus is that it’s very intensive. It takes a lot of energy. In these moments of intense focus our mind and body are pushed to their limit which is why it is necessary to apply also what is called a clean cut.
Working efficiently with the clean cut
The clean cut is about taking real breaks.
A real break is not eating lunch in front of your computer while processing your emails or talking about work with a colleague while smoking a cigarette, it’s doing something radically opposed to the activity you’re focusing on.
If you are a sportsman it will be a matter of sitting down, lying down, massaging, meditating, reading a book, listening to a podcast, eating… in short to do something that does not involve physical activity.
If you do an intellectual activity on the other hand, it will be a matter of taking a nap, playing sports, stretching, eating something, hydrating, playing a video game, watching Netflix… It’s doing something that allows your mind to relax or let off steam.
The goal of the clean cut is to create a real break between the thing you are focusing on and the pause you give yourself.