A simple yet effective way to increase your productivity is to divide your work into 90-minute blocks and take relaxing breaks between them.
In each 90-minute block you focus intensely on a given task, so no social media, chatting, emailing, news reading, etc. You just work, work, work, and then work some more on the task at hand.
Some people has experienced that they can get as much done in a focused 90-minute block as they normally get done in a whole day!
Research shows that 90 minutes is the upper limit for how long we can stay focused. After that our minds start wandering and become less productive.
This is why you need a break after you have worked intensely for 90 minutes. It needs to be a real break away from the computer, so your brain can recover and become ready to performance at its maximum level again.
So how does such a 90-minute schedule looks in practice?
For a blogger it can look like this:
- 08:00-09:30 Block 1: Bulldoze through first draft.
- 09:30-10:00 Break: Go for a run.
- 10:00-11:30 Block 2: Rewrite and make ready for publication.
- 11:30-12:00 Break: Enjoy lunch.
- 12:00-13:30 Block 3: Publish and promote.
While 3×90 minutes doesn’t sound like a lot, you must remember that this is highly effective work without any procrastination. Bestselling author Tony Schwartz wrote in Harvard Business Review that he used to write for 12 hours each day and finish a book in about a year. He then switches to write in three 90-minute blocks per day and was able to finish a book in less than 6 months!
But if you really want to push it, personal development expert Steve Pavlina puts down the challenge of doing 5×90-minute blocks per day to get a whole week’s work done in a single day!
For me it works best if I have a goal for each 90-minute block. It’s not needed with a specific and measurable goal, but just a rough idea of what I would like to achieve within the 90 minutes.
I also discovered that I need a physical kitchen clock with a countdown feature to make this work for me. At first I used the timer on my iPad, but after some time the screen goes dark, and I must be able to see the clock counting down all the time for maximum motivation.
My secret weapon, a kitchen timer!
Another essential element for success is to take breaks seriously(!) So don’t sit down and “do” Facebook for half an hour. Take a real break and give your mind a chance to relax and renew itself.
Here’s a quick list of ideas for break activities:
- Take a run, stretch or some other exercise.
- Go for a walk.
- Meditate, pray or visualize.
- Enjoy a healthy snack.
- Take a nap.
- Talk with a friend.
If you work in a management position (or another job with many interruptions) it can be difficult to organize your work into uninterrupted 90-minute blocks. But you should still carve out one 90-minute block per day to get the important, but not (yet!) urgent, stuff done. Everybody can do that!