Sure, we all want to be efficient in getting our work done all the time. And there are plenty of ways you can work toward being more productive in your day-to-day work.
But then there are those times that you absolutely need to get a lot of work done—and fast. Maybe you have a looming deadline or are trying to get ahead before you leave for vacation. Or maybe you’ve just been feeling a bit behind lately and want to get to a place where you feel more solid.
Whatever the reason, it’s time for beast mode. What is beast mode, you ask? It’s when you’re in the zone, nose to the grindstone, with no question about whether you’ll go check Facebook for just a second (the answer is no). It’s when nobody dares to come up and bother you because they can sense your hyper focus and determination.
Most often, beast mode happens randomly—you just get to the end of a period of intense work and realize how much you got done. But how can you force yourself into this state of heightened work when you really need it?
Luckily for you, I’ve found some ways to get my brain into beast mode when I’m in a crunch. Try some of the tips below next time you really want to crank out some work.
Have Your Beast Mode Playlist (or Genre) Ready
I’ve always found music to be one of the fastest and most effective ways to force myself into the zone. The key here is not just to pick music you enjoy working to, but to have a playlist or genre that you only listen to when you need to really power through some work. That way, when your brain hears said music, it knows what to get ready for.
This habit started for me in college, when I would listen to epic instrumental movie soundtracks, but only when I was working late nights in the library or during finals. I soon started to find that, even without going to the library to work, I could get myself into a focused and hard-working state of mind by plugging into that music. Now, I’ve started putting on house or dubstep playlists anytime I write. It’s not music I listen to usually, but as I type these words to you right now, it’s triggering my brain to focus and my fingers to keep moving.
It takes a while for your brain to associate the music with the hard work you’re getting ready to do, but it’s a habit that’s definitely worth forming. It’s classical conditioning at it’s finest, and you’ll definitely start noticing a difference.
Create a Forced Deadline
It seems like simple math—having more time means we can get more done, right? Turns out, not necessarily. In fact, studies have shown that having a limited amount of time actually does increase the speed of your work.
Think about it: When you have all afternoon to finish a task, you may work on it plenty, but you’ll also probably get up for a snack or coffee break, check email or social media here and there, and do other things that are wasting your time (and breaking your focus from the task at hand).
But if you only have an hour to get it done? You’ll dive in and power through it. And while this increased speed may be at the expense of some quality, sometimes you just have to turn off your perfectionist tendencies and get the work done.
If you’re working on a tight deadline, great—you’re probably at an advantage when it comes to getting in the zone. But if you’re not, think of ways to set one for yourself. Shoot your manager an email telling him or her you’ll have this report ready within the next two hours, and then follow through. Pick a task to do in the last hour of the day, and don’t let yourself go home until it’s done. Setting a timer can have a similar effect, especially if you can see (or hear!) it counting down. Get a big old-fashioned LED or wind-up one to put on your desk, and you’ll have a constant reminder that your “deadline” is approaching.
Get a Beast Buddy
I know, putting yourself around people when you really need to crank out some work sounds counterintuitive, but if you choose your work buddies carefully, you might actually find it helps you get your work done better. I’ve always found that surrounding myself with other people who are intensely working makes it easier for me to stay focused. Why do you think so many students still study in libraries even in today’s digital world? Because they’re surrounded by so many other students studying.
This phenomenon is called social facilitation, and it taps into our competitive edge. I always think of it as how having a running buddy is good for pushing yourself when you’re working out. You need someone nearby to help you keep pace, expect you to keep going, and celebrate with when you’ve made it to the end. While social facilitation doesn’t always help—for example, it can hinder performance when you’re working on a task you don’t feel comfortable with—it should be good for powering through some work.
So, find a colleague who also has a lot on his plate, and ask if he wants to hunker down in a conference room one afternoon together and power through some of it. You’ll want to stay focused to help your buddy focus—and when you do need a five-minute break to refresh, you’ll have the perfect person to chat with.
It’s important to note that these aren't strategies to use all the time for productivity. There’s certainly a time for quiet, a time for working more loosely without a deadline, and a time for solo work. But when the time has come for getting some work done fast? They can really help you out.