What do you do when you have a long to-do list? Probably try to check off as many tasks as possible, only allowing yourself a few breaks?
Well, studies have shown that this approach actually reduces our overall effectiveness.
Forcing yourself to focus for hours and hours actually makes you feel more tired and distracted, and keeps you working slower and longer.
That's also why a 9 to 5 job with only one long lunch break is the wrong approach!
The solution based on science: Work in Intervals!
The solution seems to be so easy, but yet incredibly effective: working in intervals with regular, scheduled breaks keeps you refreshed and revives creativity and inspiration.
Most of you are probably with our circadian rhythm, our sleep-wake cycles and the different phases of sleep.
Every night, we go through different stages of sleep (from light sleep, to deep sleep, and finally the REM stage where we dream). These stages repeat over and over again in a cycle, until we wake up.
But did you know that these phases don't only apply to our sleep, but also when we're AWAKE?
The Ultradian Rhythm is our brain-wave frequency cycle, an inner body clock during the times we are awake.
This rhythm follows a 90-120 minute cycle, which repeats over and over during the day.
So to use this knowledge to your advantage, plan your work in 90-minute sessions with following 20-minute breaks!
This is sometimes also nicknamed the 90/20 rule.
Studies have shown that people who divide their work in several 90-minute sessions with breaks in between do not only get more work done, but also feel more energized and motivated at the end of the day.
Tips to execute the 90/20 rule
- Prepare for your intense 90 minute session. Get a glass of water, make sure you aren't hungry or feeling any other discomfort, and sit down comfortably.
- Cancel out distractions! Set your phone to silent, close the door, and close all other windows/applications on your computer.
- If you do get distracted during the 90 minutes: count down how much longer you need to work until your break, and imagine how you will treat yourself after this session (for example by having a snack or going for a quick walk outside).
- If 90 minutes of concentration are too long for you, try 45 minutes, a 10 minute break, and then again 45 minutes and a break. Or try the Pomodoro method below.
The 'Pomodoro' Method
Doesn't Pomodoro mean "Tomato" in Italian?! Yes it does!
The so-called Pomodoro Method was created by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980's. It got its name because Cirillo was using a tomato-shaped kitchen time while developing this method!
First, you outline a to-do list of all the tasks you want to accomplish that day.
Then you divide the work in smaller sections of 25 minute work intervals. (These are the "pomodoros".)
After each successful pomodoro, you get a 5 minute break, and after 4 completed pomodoros you can have a 15-20 minute break.
Since 3-4 pomodoros also make up one ultradian cycle, this is kind of in sync with your natural body clock.
It's a great alternative for people who either can't or don't have the time to focus on 90 minute sessions. Also, these shorter sessions tend to keep people more motivated - because even if you get distracted during your pomodoro, looking at the clock and knowing that you will have a short break relatively soon will keep you going.
How do you make sure to stay productive during the day? Do you have any other tips or methods to share? Leave a comment below!