Quit Working So Hard

Have you ever made the mistake of sitting at your desk for hours at a time?

I know I have. In fact, if I stop watching myself it becomes a routine where I’ll sit there from morning all the way through lunch without stopping. You might be saying “So what?” at this point. So what if you work 3 hours straight? Isn’t that a good thing?

I guess it would be a good thing if you worked at maximum efficiency all the way through that period, but that’s not how it works for me. What ends up happening in these long sessions is I start slacking. I’ll go back and check email. I’ll browse websites longer than I should. I end up wasting time.

The worst effect is you’re wear yourself out. Again, I don’t know about you, but I find I can’t focus intensively for that long at once without my mind wondering. I get tired and distracted. Results suffer.

I’ve had times where I’m working quite well, need to look something up on a website, and then spend the next 30 minutes surfing the web. It happened to me on Friday! What a waste of time.

What’s the solution?

The first step is to recognize this problem. I do much better when I’m concentrating on it. Set up short “project” sessions. You need to complete A within the next 30 minutes. Then take a 5 minute break.

It is said that Eugene Schwartz used an egg timer which he set for 33 minutes and 33 seconds. During that period he’d sit down and write. He wasn’t allowed to do anything else in this period. Between each writing period he’d get up for a bit.

That time is a little strange for me so I’ve never worked like that. I find 30 minute and 60 minute blocks make a lot more sense for my project times. I’ve played with them both ways. On 30 minutes, I work 25 minutes and then take a 5 minute break. With 60 minute blocks I went 50 minutes on and then 10 minutes for a break.

With the tests I’ve done in the past it has always seemed the 60 minute blocks work best for me. That’s 50 minutes of concentrated work and 10 minutes of “play time” in between. That way when I do my daily and weekly schedule I can write what I plan to do for each hour (fits my desk calendar well).

For the 10 minute break period, I love to stop for playtime with my puppies. Little Indiana the golden is close to 6 months while my German Shepherd Champion is close to 4 months. Both of them LOVE the short training and play sessions. If I didn’t have dogs, I don’t know what I’d do. Maybe take a boring lonely walk or something instead of walking them around yard.

Whenever I concentrate on doing this, all my projects flow so much better. Whenever I slack, my concentration and projects suffer. Not only that, but I begin dreading work and don’t know why.

Try it. Setup some type of work schedule (either 25 minutes on and 5 minutes off or 50 minutes on and 10 minutes off). Then make an hour by hour schedule for your goals tomorrow making sure to leave at least one period up for things that might come up (or to potentially get ahead on the next day’s projects).

Here’s the rules. You sit down and you work on THAT project during the period. Nothing else is allowed. If it’s writing, then you write. If it’s creating a video, do that video. If it’s email and blog comments, do that. Once your time is up, get up and do something NON-work related. Go for a walk. Have a snack. Stretch. Call your husband/wife while walking around the house. Just get away from your desk. If you have trouble keeping track of the time, use a stopwatch or a computer timer. There are a whole bunch of free timers available on Download.com.

You can even set some type of “prize” for positive reinforcement when you accomplish your daily goals. Perhaps it’s something you buy yourself like a massage or a new shirt. Or perhaps it’s extra video game time. I don’t care what, but find something little that motivates you to reward yourself for a good day’s work.

Let me know how it works out for you. I know whenever I forget about this, my output suffers.

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