The 45/15 Rule – How I keep myself on task
Sometimes, it’s so, so easy to get distracted.
In fact, it’s a bit of a mantra of mine when I forget to do something (this something most often involves some sort of household chore, ahem).
Nick will mention something to me, and I’ll smile sheepishly and say ‘I got distracted‘. I can almost see him mouthing the words along with me.
My mum used to call me an absent-minded professor when I was a kid. You see, I don’t get distracted from the important things… well, okay, sometimes I do – but I’m always running off to make some new idea happen, and that often means that I forget to attend to boring (but necessary) requirements of everyday life.
These days, I also find myself getting distracted from my work by more fun activities – such as twitter, tweaking my blog, checking to see if I’ve made any sales… and at times, I can get stuck in an endless technology loop.
(If you’ve seen the first episode of Portlandia, I’m like the guy who needs his girlfriend to talk him down. If you haven’t seen it, I’ll embed the YouTube video at the bottom of the post for you!)
So – in order to avoid this happening when I really need to get stuff done, I revert to a tried-and-true method that I learnt and used to great effect back in my uni days – the 45/15 time split.
This rule is simply a way for you to divide up your time so that you can be efficient without getting bored and burnt-out.
Basically, in each hour, you do 45 minutes of work, and have 15 minutes of play.
The 15 minutes of play every hour give your mind a chance to relax, let go, and unfocus on the task at hand for a short time. This means that you avoid the concentration nose-dive that normally occurs when you focus on one task for a long period of time.
Of course – if you’re in a flow state, this won’t be necessary, because you lose track of time – but most of the work we do isn’t in flow, it’s the regular grind of making orders, answering e-mail, writing blog posts etc.
I use the free focus booster app to help me keep track of the time split.
During this time, you need to:
- Make sure you’re in a proper ‘work’ location – preferably not in bed on your laptop (yes, I’m looking at myself here).
- Make sure you’re comfortable – you’ve got everything you need for the next 45 minutes. You have water/tea/snack, you’ve gone to the bathroom (yes, mum… I can hear you all chanting), you’ve got all the materials you need to get your work done.
- TURN OFF twitter, your phone, and even the internet if you don’t need it for what you’re doing. This makes it harder – and more of a conscious choice – if you get the urge to sneak back to technology.
- Make sure you’re not going to be distracted by your parents/spouse/kids/neighbours/cat. Let them know it’s ‘work’ time now.
During this time, you need to:
- Get up and have a stretch.
- Turn your distracting toy of choice back on, and do whatever you want to. Play a game, chat to friends on twitter or facebook, read a blog or two.
- Alternatively, go outside for a few minutes and enjoy the outside world.
- Read another chapter of your novel.
- RELAX and have fun!
- You should NOT being doing something work-related during this time. That includes checking e-mails. Dealing with e-mail should be one of your 45 minute periods for the day.
P.S. If you don’t have a clock right in front of you, set a timer – that way you won’t get distracted constantly looking at the clock to see if work or play time is up!
I use this method when I really need to ‘knuckle down’ and it is really successful for me!
So – how do you keep yourself on track without burning out? Share your fave tip in the comments.
Image by karrah.kobus