90-minutes of focused activity, followed by a 10-minute interval of conscious rejuvenation, maximize productivity.
Yes, that’s the 90/10 rule.
Who came up with that, you ask? Professor K. Anders Ericson and his colleagues at Florida State University have studied elite performers, including musicians, athletes, actors and chess players. In each of these fields, Dr. Ericsson found that the best performers typically practice in uninterrupted sessions that last no more than 90 minutes. They begin in the morning, take a break between sessions, and rarely work for more than four and a half hours in any given day.
Tony Schwartz, CEO of The Energy Project, writes in a recent New York Times OpEd piece (Relax! You’ll Be More Productive; 2/9/2013) about how he applies this insight to his work life:
For my first three books, I sat at my desk for up to 10 hours a day. Each of the books took me at least a year to write. For my two most recent books, I wrote in three uninterrupted 90-minute sessions – beginning first thing in the morning, when my energy was highest – and took a break after each one … Writing just four and half hours a day, I completed both books in less than six months and spent my afternoons on less demanding work.
Powerful, isn’t it?
But how do we apply the 90/10 rule to a work routine that’s parceled into 30- and 60-minute chunks – especially when the parceling is not always controlled by us?
1. Transitions: Running from one 1-hour meeting to the next 1-hour meeting is mental insanity. Our mind has no time to process and reflect on what happened in one meeting; it is not mentally ready for the next one. Shorten your meetings by 5 or 10 minutes. Create transition time. Make transitions part of your work culture!
2. 5-Minute Check-Outs: Schedule 5-minute-intervals throughout the day when you stop and check out. You decide what “checking out” looks like for you. Hint: Checking emails is checking in, not checking out!
A check-out might be: Sitting in the office and closing your eyes; listening to music that calms or inspires you; doing a series of vigorous body stretches; writing in a personal journal; laying down on a sofa or the floor; being still. You decide!
3. Bundle your E-communications: I know, I know, this may sound utopian – but experiment with NOT checking emails every 5 or 10 minutes. Bundle your e-communications, except during emergencies. Check emails once every 60 or 90 minutes. Notice how your e-focus is suddenly sharpened when that is your sole activity for 10 or 15 minutes. Notice how your energy for other activities is sharper, as well, when it is not interrupted by e-activity.
This week, ponder how you can adapt and modify the 90/10 rule to your work flow. Notice how any time-flow adjustments instantly energize you!!!