The ancient Japanese technique to help you improve your productivity

Japanese woman living in the present moment

The idea of trying to focus on one thing at a time can seem impossible for some people; and in fact, it is impossible for some people.

With more and more people suffering from attention deficit disorders, busy demands on their lives at work, more responsibilities than ever on the home front, and bills constantly piling up, it’s a wonder anyone can get anything done to completion.

Many people shell out thousands of dollars to work with career coaches and life coaches to help them manage their workloads and responsibilities.

But there is an alternative method that is becoming more mainstream. It’s called ichigyo-zammai, a Japanese term that basically means full concentration on a single act.

This concept comes from Japanese Zen Master Sunryu Suzuki in his book ‘Beginner’s Mind’.

Just imagine what it must be like to start a finish one task. It seems like a foreign concept to most people who jump from washing dishes, to making lunch for the children, to checking their email, to taking the chicken out to defrost for supper, to folding laundry and never getting back to finish those dishes.

This is how many people live their lives, and it’s exhausting.

Life coaches will tell you that an effective way to increase your productivity is to do one thing at a time. Tim Ferriss, author of the widely famous book, “The Four Hour Work Week” also totes about the importance of focusing on one thing at a time to get the job done.

Here’s how you can start one project and stick to it so you can be more productive.

6 steps to practicing ‘ichigyo-zammai’

Japanese woman living in the present moment

1) Start your day with a to-do list that includes all of your regular chores and extras that you want to accomplish for the day.

2) Number them in order of importance. Imagine which ones will make you feel like you had a successful day overall if you complete them.

3) Determine how long it will take you to complete each task. Remember, human beings are notorious for overestimating what they can get done in a month and underestimating what they can get done in an hour.

Start paying attention to how much you can accomplish in shorter blocks of time and you’ll be surprised by how productive you can actually be in a single day.

4) Set a timer for yourself and put away all other distractions. Sit down and commit to working on the task you have assigned yourself until the timer goes off.

At first, this might be very difficult as your phone dings from across the room. Turn it off if you need to. Sure, that seems extreme in our “always on” society, but give yourself permission to get the things done that need to be done and you’ll have plenty of time later for scrolling through Facebook.

5) Maintain your focus by paying attention to your thoughts. When you notice yourself start to drift into a different thought other than the one you have for completing your task, bring it back to center and remind yourself that this feeling of discomfort will last only a few moments and soon you’ll be back in a natural rhythm of work.

6) As you write, clean, wash, cook, walk — whatever it is you are doing — be aware of your surroundings and how great it is to be alive in this moment.

Don’t think about the drudgery of having to meet a deadline, think about how great it is that you have the opportunity to work on this particular project. There is beauty in everything, even a TPS report.

Be more productive and peaceful

When you slow down and give things the attention they deserve, you may notice things that you otherwise wouldn’t. You might produce better quality work as a result as well. 

Instead of checking your phone for text messages during a conversation, give someone your full attention – I bet they won’t even know what to do with it. We are so used to being ignored by people these days.

Put all of yourself into whatever it is you are doing and you might find that you are more at peace, you’re more productive and you look forward to those moments when you can concentrate your focus on one thing at a time.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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