Probably the most useful and powerful productivity advice ever is to introduce no interruptions days into your calendar. No-interruptions days are strategically planned days in your working week with no meetings, no email, no socializing or any other distractions. It’s you working on the most important task in a series of flows, with laser focus.
When you have a no-interruptions day, you set an auto responder on your email, you turn off your phones, put a “Do not disturb” on your office doors and install all other types of preventive measures to make sure you aren’t distracted in any way, all in order to be able to just create value in a godlike state (flow) and do the really important tasks. If you do that at least once a week, your productivity will skyrocket.
But you can take no-interruption days even further. You can use the same concept not only to work on your current most important task without distractions, but also (1) to achieve other important tasks and goals in your life faster. Or, as another option, you can use a similar concept for (2) grouping activities you plan to do in your next sprint in order to avoid multitasking and consequently losing your focus.
The concept is called having themed days in your calendar. Themed days are strategically planned days in your calendar that are completely dedicated to achieving a certain goal in your life.
Themed days without interruptions
The first way of using themed days is to join them with the concept of no-interruptions days. You have a themed day for a certain goal you want to achieve, with no emails, no phones, no meetings, no socializing and no other distractions. The only exceptions are maybe small breaks to refresh yourself, eat food and drink water. You can plan themed days for many different things:
- Learning new skills
- Planning and analyzing
- Brainstorming ideas
- Reading and researching
- Fixing your relationship(s)
- Advancing a project
- Building a personal brand
- Coding etc.
Let’s do very simple math, just to show the power of themed days. For example, you want to learn Photoshop. Every day after work, when you’re already exhausted, you take one hour to learn the skill. In one month, you will dedicate approximately 20 hours to learning.
What if you make two themed days in a row, let’s say Friday and Saturday, and you devote 10 focused hours to learning Photoshop on both days. You would achieve in two days what you would otherwise achieve in one month.
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There’s one more catch. I bet if you decide to learn for one hour a day after work, there are days when you’re too tired, when something else comes up, and so on. One month quickly becomes two months. Two days compared to two months really is a big difference. And self-discipline is so much easier with themed days.
Why torture yourself for a day, when you can achieve something smooth and easy, only with a slightly different approach.
Themed days for grouping activities
You can also use the themed days concept if you’re working on multiple projects at the same time, to avoid multitasking and to stay more productive. The idea is that you devote a certain day in a week or a couple of days only to a specific project, brutally focused.
In this way, Elon Musk devotes two days to Tesla, two days to SpaceX and one day to his solar company and other activities.
Or you can for example devote two days in your company to sales and acquiring new customers, two days to product development, and one day to finance, administration and internal affairs or whatever. If you use the concept of themed days like that, it enables you to push certain complex tasks a lot further than you could do it with multitasking.
Here is how Jack Dorsey does it:
On Monday, at both companies, I focus on management and running the company. Tuesday is focused on product. Wednesday is focused on marketing and communications and growth. Thursday is focused on developers and partnerships. Friday is focused on the company and the culture and recruiting. Saturday I take off, I hike. Sunday is reflection, feedback, strategy, and getting ready for the week.
With themed days, you get rhythm, focus and structure in your life, especially by grouping tasks and avoiding multitasking, which hinders your productivity. And there are many ways you can use themed days to your advantage. Play with the concept, experiment, and find out what works best for you.
To sum up, there are at least three ways of using themed days:
- Have a no-interruptions day devoted to a certain important personal goal you’ve been putting off.
- Use themed days to manage multiple companies, projects or complex tasks, where you devote your entire day to only one of them.
- Use themed days to group specific activities and devote the whole day only to that activity, for example internal meetings, sales, brainstorming new ideas, strategy, marketing etc. Make sure you do really big progress that day on the selected business function.
It’s obvious where the biggest problem of themed days lies and why not many people use it. It’s hard to empty your calendar. But here, the saying that the hard road becomes easy and the easy road becomes hard also applies. If you put in the effort to empty your calendar, no matter how many people you have to say no to or reschedule, how many other tasks have to wait, you’ll feel a special kind of happiness and excitement when you see a whole day dedicated to one thing in your calendar. You’ll instantly know how much you can achieve that day. And you will, if you stick to the plan.
If you really want to level up your game at something, you can put themed days on steroids and introduce themed weeks into your life.
Let’s do the math again. 50 focused hours of learning in a single week, compared to 3 – 5 months of learning for an hour each day. If you plan three themed weeks in a year (3 out of 52 weeks), you can probably learn more in those three weeks than you can learn in a whole year by learning for one hour per working day. You can put your skills to use sooner and it takes less self-discipline and so on. It’s like going on holiday for one week and you come back as an upgraded version.
You can also use the same concept to devote the whole week to a single project to really make a huge advancement or to a certain business function or whatever; or today, with all the rapid prototyping tools that are available, you can take a week to build an MVP/prototype and test your idea on the market.
The only obstacle is you having enough motivation to really level up your game and to hack your schedule so you have five completely empty days in your calendar.
I will have two themed weeks in the next quarter. One to finish my diploma thesis and the other one to learn Photoshop to an intermediate level.
Try and test the concept of themed days and themed weeks in your life. It’s a great way to achieve important goals in your life that require a lot of focused mental effort and discipline, especially if you usually put off the goal because there is never enough time to put your advancement in life in the first place.
Here’s your homework:
- Open your calendar.
- Schedule a whole day activity as a no-interruptions day.
- If you can’t empty your calendar in the next two weeks on working days, do it on a Saturday.
- Look at your life vision and 100 days plan. If you don’t have them, don’t worry, just pick some mentally complex and demanding thing you always wanted to learn or do.
- Prepare a plan of what you will learn and do in those 10 hours of focused work on your themed day. It can only be a few bullet points, for example the courses you’ll watch, the things you’ll create etc.
- Get excited and do it. I guarantee that afterwards, you will feel super happy.
- Also use the concept of themed days to group your business activities. At least you can group all meetings on certain days. To max the benefits, group all other activities on a specific day and communicate that with your team.
Many greatest masterpieces of art know to man, from books to paintings, were created in solitude and isolation or, in other words, complete dedication to creation. It’s kind of the extreme version of the no-interruptions themed days. Maybe it’s time to make room in your calendar to create in solitude and present your masterpiece to the world.