I read lots of productivity stuff. Honestly, a lot of it’s common sense and starts to repeat itself. What stands out to me is the “rules” people make for themselves to be more productive.
I’ve tried many productivity tips over the years. Even when some sounded good, I never find myself able to stick with them. Obviously, not every tip or trick will work for everybody. But, at one time I did find something that does actually work for me.
While it wasn’t actually a rule, it involved yourself pacing yourself at work. I call it the “25/15 Rule.” Essentially, you work 25 minutes (or so) on a single task. It might be writing or some other project requiring 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. Then, 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 only 25 minutes on task?
From what I’ve read, it seems that attention spans really begin to wane after 30 minutes of doing a single task. Some people say an hour or even two hours. For me, it seems like 25 minutes is that magic sweet spot where my brain goes: “OK, no more of this!”
I”ll admit most of my posts take about about 25 minutes or so to write and proofread. I might go back, 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 and 30 minutes at a time.
Being able to step back and do something else allows you to clear your mind. Fifteen minutes seems to be a good break, not too long to lose momentum and enough to be able to then refocus. For those of us who work at home, we can use this time for household tasks.
What about those of us who work at home with kids in the house?
Can you really focus on a task for 25 minutes at a time without interruption when you have kids? Most of the time, probably not. But. what you can do is set a timer.
To keep track of time, I once used the built-in one Alarms and Clock app that comes with Windows 10. This is what I’ve used for client work. Today, I use the built in option on my mobile phone.
The funny thing is, I was already limiting myself to 30 minutes at a time with client work. So, why wasn’t I doing the same thing 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, thanks to ADHD. 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. It’s simply a guideline.
The “25-15 Rule” is All About Balance
When people give you a “rule” for productivity, keep in mind that it’s just a guideline. Not every strategy will work for everybody. Some people, like I’ve often been, are workaholics who just can’t stop working.
But, here’s the thing about the 25-15 strategy: it’s about focusing yourself in controlable bursts. If you can do 2 hours of focused work at a time, that’s great! But, the general idea is to then take a break that’s about half of the time you spent on work.
For me, I have to actually include social media in my “intense” sessions because I can get way too into it, especially Twitter!
I’ve begun to get more involved in Instagram, too. Facebook, Pinterest, Linkedin, and others I consider “light duty.” Otherwise I can get too easily sucked in.
Work/Life Balance is Everything
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 through experience. While the exact breakdowns of time are different for everyone, you do need to have a regular break to refocus.
I know people that can work 12 hours a day straight, but then take a whole day of to recharge. Some people never stop except to sleep! The key is to 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 took many “breaks” when I worked a regular job. But see, these “breaks” aren’t necessarily just chatting around the water cooler, either. They can still include 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. Just be sure to stay on track and not wander off into a Netflix binge (I’m guilty of this here). 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.
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. For me, the “25/15” rule is one I adopted that’s been working for me.
How do you find you are at your most productive? What productivity tips do you have to share?