If you're anything like us, motivation is easily lost when faced with the most minor of inconveniences. Telling ourselves that even the smallest setback — missing the bus, spilling coffee on our shirts, forgetting an early meeting or leaving behind our packed lunches — at the start of the day, 'sets the tone' for a bad day. We feel a little sorry for ourselves, lamenting that we can only hope for a better tomorrow. But what about a better afternoon? Or hour? Well, TikTok's latest productivity hack allows us to trick our brains into pushing past the blocks.
Known as the ‘four quarters’ method, the technique involves splitting your day into four sections: morning (5am-9am), late morning (10am-1pm), afternoon (2pm-7pm) and evening (7pm onward).
It's essentially built on similar principles of a relay, looking at the day as a series of short sprints as opposed to a long-winded marathon. Meaning instead of running on endurance with the end nowhere in sight, you push through in periodic bursts, passing the baton over at the end of each quarter and even levelling up to get to the finish line.
The thought behind this is that by compartmentalising your time, you can not only get the most out of it productivity-wise, but also shift your entire mindset in order to not dwell on the pitfalls or let them have a domino effect on the rest of your day. Whether you didn’t meet your goals at work, ran into unexpected hurdles or just generally slipped up, when you break up your time, you can mentally step forward into a new quarter, leaving all the negative elements from the last one behind — just as we try to do when we begin a new day.
So, how does it work to keep us motivated? Well most of us feel the most energy and optimism to get things done at the beginning of the day or when initially starting a task. By tricking your brain into thinking that there are multiple beginnings throughout the day, we’re utilising the momentum that comes with a fresh start. And, not getting bogged down by delays, either.
So if you underperform or slack off a bit in one quarter, you can use the next three to get back on track. That way, instead of writing the entire day off as bad or unproductive, you can have multiple fresh starts that can (hopefully) re-energise you.
To ease into the method, we recommend concluding each quarter by stepping back from what you’re doing – and we don’t just mean scroll on your phone while sitting in the same place all day. Try to actually do something. Even if it’s just stepping outside for a minute, eating lunch on the balcony, having a shower or grabbing a coffee, it’s best to break up the segments with something tangible to help make the cognitive transition.
While everyone's days look different, there's something to be gained from this practice, especially for those of us working from home in our PJs. Don't beat yourself up if you struggle to get the hang of it, as it's literally changing your entire way of thinking about time — not quite the light little pivot TikTok lifestyle hacks usually provide us with. The method might not see you suddenly having it all together or shooting up the corporate ladder with time to spare, but the mental shift ultimately means we spend less time fixating on the low points of our days, and more time harnessing the hours to actually achieve what we want.