by Phoenix A. Desertsong, The Perpetual Prose Machine
I read a lot of productivity stuff. And, yeah, understandably a lot of it echoes each other. A lot of it is common sense. But really what stands out to me is the “rules” that people make for themselves in order to be more productive. I’ve tried many of them over the years and never find myself able to stick with them. That’s because, obviously, not every tip or trick will work for everybody.
But I did find something that does actually work for me, and while it wasn’t actually a rule, it was a way to balance yourself when it comes to work. I call it the “25/15 Rule” and in the short time I’ve been using it, it’s been working! Essentially, you work 25 minutes (or so) on a single task. It might be writing or some other project, something that requires your full attention. Then, you take a 10-15 minute break doing something “light” such as checking email or social media. After that, you return to another 25 minute session. After doing 4 or 5 of these 25 minute bursts, you can call it quits for the day and take care of yourself.
So why 25 minutes? From all the things I’ve seen online, it seems that attention spans really begin to wane after 30 minutes of doing a single task. I know some people say an hour or ninety minutes or even two hours. But for me, it seems like 25 minutes is that magic sweet spot where my brain goes, OK, no more of this!
I”ll admit right now that most of my writing pieces are written in about 25 minutes or so. I might go back and edit it and add more later if I’m not happy with it. But the essence of most of my writing is written in between 20-30 minutes at a time. This is good, because it allows me to step back, do something else and come back to it with a clearer head. 15 minutes seems to be a good break, especially when you have kids and chores to maintain.
About that… Can you really focus on a task for 25 minutes at a time without interruption when you have kids? Most of the time, nope. But what you can do is set a timer. I use the built-in one Alarms and Clock app that comes with Windows 10. This is what I use for client work. And the funny thing is, I was already limiting myself to 30 minutes at a time with client work. So why wasn’t I doing it for my personal projects?
The great thing I’m finding is that by going back and forth between intense work sessions and breaks is that I’m getting probably twice as much done in 25 minutes than I would get done in 45 minutes to an hour. This is because I have this tendency to hyper-focus. And that’s fine as long as it doesn’t interfere with the rest of your life. Obviously, if you have kids or other urgent duties to attend to, it’s OK to pause the timer and come back. If the other task took you 10-15 minutes or more, you can just start the time over. You don’t have to be perfect about it.
Yes, I call it a “rule” but it’s really more of a guideline. And it won’t work for everybody. If you can do 2 hours at a time, great! But the general idea is to then take a break that is about half of the time you spent on work. And for me, I have to actually include social media in my “Intense” sessions because I can get way too into it, especially Twitter! Facebook I can deal with as “light duty” but for some reason, I get way into Twitter.
Whatever you do to find work/life balance you should do it. Working eight to ten straight hours on something isn’t the best way to go about getting things done, I’ve learned. While the exact breakdowns of time are different for everyone, you do need to have a break.
I know people that can work 12 hours a day straight, but then take a whole day of to recharge. And that’s fine too! And then, some people never top! And that’s OK, as long as you’re getting done what you feel comfortable with AND also not neglecting yourself or your loved ones.
Yes, you can actually apply this sort of guideline to an office job, too. I used to take a lot of “breaks” when I worked a regular job. But see, these “breaks” aren’t necessarily just chatting around the water cooler, either. They can still be productive tasks, like tidying up your work area, cleaning out your inbox, or something to that effect. When you work at home, it is much easier to just get up, walk around, or do something mindless for a bit. But whether it’s in a business office or not, the same concept can still apply.
At the end of the day, you need to make sure that when you sit down to work that you’re in the best mindset and at the best energy level you can be. It doesn’t mean that you have to be super-charged or anything, but you just have to keep your mind on task. And when I’ve worked too hard, I lose focus and drift and don’t actually accomplish anything. It’s all about finding that sweet spot.
And with the “25/15” rule I’ve adopted, I think I’m starting to find it.
How do you find you are at your most productive? What productivity tips do you have to share?
~ Phoenix <3
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Often known by her nickname "Ami," Ms. Phoenix Amelia Desertsong has written for many online publications, often under pen names.