Skip navigation

Tag Archives: breaks

I’ve been writing a post every day, just a quick note on my work habits and what thought patterns or external conditions are affecting them (you haven’t seen them because they’re marked “Private”).  It’s helping me to recognize what helps me focus (a good night’s sleep) and what throws me off the rails (having to make a tough decision).  I’m finding it helpful.

Here’s today’s nugget of wisdom.  A few minutes of down time really helps me to re-focus.

I often find myself staring at the screen, sleepily wondering what I should be working on.  I semi-consciously scroll through my inbox or gaze at my old to-do list, half the items crossed off, unable to make a decision.  Without a clear sense of priority, I too often just start goofing off instead of working.

Contrast that with today: on my way back from a morning meeting, I turned off the radio and just let my mind wander (that part of my mind which wasn’t engaged in driving!).  Pretty soon I was thinking about what else I wanted to accomplish today when i got back to the office.  I was remembering things that I want to get done, mentally prioritizing them, and even started to work on one of them in my head!  When I got home, I quickly scribbled out a prioritized to-do list and dove into work on it.

I should take some time every day to do nothing.  Not a web-comic break,  but really to do nothing.  A ten-minute walk, or a sit in the back yard to listen to the birds.  Followed by a bit of thought on what else I want to accomplish that day.

Today I’m a bit sleepy and my neck and shoulders are already tight.  I know that if I spend all day at the keyboard today, I’m going to end up with neck spasms and a headache.  But I still want to have a productive day, so here’s the plan.  I’m going to work in 20-minute bursts, and I’m going to take my breaks AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER.  No PC gaming, Facebook or long personal emails today.

Ideas for breaks: Go for a walk, practice bass, do a little housework, gardening, (I’ve already done my exercise for the day), go for another walk…

I’ll be darting in, hovering for 20 minutes of focused activity, and darting away again.  I’m going to call today’s plan: Working Hummingbird Style.

If I can be disciplined about this, I can still get as much work done as in a typical day.  Only my Facebook friends will notice a difference.  😉

-J

First of all, TRO is working really well for me.  It’s not that this system is magically better than everything else I’ve tried.  The difference is in what I’m doing now that I wasn’t doing before: consistent daily and weekly reviews of my tasks and priorities.

Second: Here are a few of the most important ideas about personal productivity that I’ve discovered lately, neatly summarized in one short article:
HBR – The Magic Of Doing One Thing At A Time

  • Focus is powerful.  We can accomplish more, and more creatively, when we focus on one thing without distraction for a decent period of time.
  • Breaks are important.  After a period of focused effort, take a break to renew yourself before plunging in again.  You’ll actually be more productive in the long run than if you didn’t take breaks at all.
  • Work on your most important project first thing in the morning.  “You’re relentlessly burning down your available reservoir of creative energy over the course of every day, so you have less available with every passing hour.”
  • Set aside time to think long-term and strategically, on a regular basis.

Good advice.

-J

Couple of good articles on the power of focus, the nature of motivation, and the importance of regular breaks:

Stop Being So Damn Productive

With mental tasks, productivity doesn’t increase linearly with time worked. Every hour spent working hard is a tax on the next hour you want to spend working hard. And so on until you can spend hours, even days, working without achieving.

Remember the quote “You speak a lot, but you don’t say much”? Same goes for working a lot.

http://lifehacker.com/5867102/stop-being-so-damn-productive

The Trick to Accomplishing More by Doing Less

Multitasking all day is not as productive as working in 90 minute stretches with 15-20 minute breaks (or even a nap) and a real lunch break.

http://lifehacker.com/5867995/the-secret-to-accomplishing-more-by-doing-less-take-breaks

How Rewards Can Make You Hate Something You Love

“Many people—including us—have argued that doing what you love and getting paid for it is the holy grail of life achievements, but in reality we tend to get discouraged when presented with the possibility that we’re only doing something for the money.”

http://lifehacker.com/5868585/how-rewards-can-make-you-hate-something-you-love

I would ascribe a different interpretation to the observed phenomenon: that, when getting paid to do something, you have to do it.  You have to do it to a schedule, and you have to do it to somebody else’s satisfaction.  When the task is no longer enjoyable, you have to keep doing it to completion.  Whereas, when you do something purely for enjoyment, you only do it for as long as it is enjoyable to you.

Applications to motivation and procrastination.

-Johnny 0.