How short should you work on something at one go?
We’ve looked at how long you should work on something without doing something else and you should be organising your working day into chunks of work which are no longer than your A-to-F time, right? But now it’s time to look at the other end of the productivity curve and look at how long it takes you to start up and get going.
Take a moment to remind yourself what the productivity graph looks like – go back to the previous lesson if you need a reminder. I don't think you'll need to watch the vide again though! 🙂
Next, take a few minutes to go back a little and get this table that you half-filled in last time
The obvious next step is to fill in the next blank column, and think about how long it takes you to get going on a task…
Back to the stuff I hate
Remember how much I hated proof-reading? The result is that I find it hard to get going.
I faff about if I’m not careful, and suddenly find all kinds of other things to do. Tidying my office suddenly becomes absolutely fascinating and there’s nooooo waaaayyyyy I could possibly do any proof-reading in an untidy office. Absolutely not! That’s despite being able to do pretty much everything else in my life without feeling an un-resistable urge to be tidier!
… and of course there's no way I could posssssssssillbbbblllyyyyy proof-read without checking AIR group on FaceBook first, just in case anyone has had a great productivity idea or needs some productivity help – and they've posted in the last 42 seconds since I last checked.
Told you I hated proof-reading!
When I look at that table for my own working preferences, it's telling me a few things. Let's stick with proof-reading as the example: you can work things out for yourself from there!
- I need to block proof-reading into my diary in sessions no shorter than ten minutes (we worked out the maximum time last session)
- I need to look long and hard at my self-discipline and see where I can improve my tendency to procrastinate (don’t worry, we cover that in a bit!)
- I need to very seriously consider whether proof-reading is something I should be doing at all.
What does all this mean? These are the shortest periods you should put something into your diary for.
What that means is that your diary will be filled with blocks of time – a block for each task – that are of different lengths, depending on what it is that you've put into your diary.
Research blocks in my diary should be a minimum of 20 minutes long, because it takes that long to really get going. They should be a maximum of about 90 minutes or so, as after that, even a researcher like me needs a break.
See how messy my diary looks? But it's productive!
We'll talk about all the white space later, but for now, just notice how variable the different lengths of the blocks are!
Oh yes… one more thing…
I need to go back and re-look at the last lesson – the one about not procrastinating!