Focused attentive work in most cases, like writing this blog post for instance, typically does not take more than fifteen minutes. I have found that I work best in chunks of time of about fifteen to twenty minutes. Put a short checklist with that and I’m golden.
Why twenty minutes? Most people divide their tasks into thirty minutes. I remember school classes when I was a child used to be divided into thirty minutes. Then why twenty? One reason: it creates a sense of urgency. Watching the minutes tick by focuses my attention which otherwise would be frittered away checking Facebook all the while telling myself I was doing research.
The difference between a half hour and twenty minutes, even twenty-five minutes, is more than mere semantics. (Twenty minutes is also typically the time it takes for my children to eat breakfast. Another good reason for focused work.)
The other reason I like twenty minutes over thirty or an hour is because I see the light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes thirty minutes seems like too long a time, so I tend to waste ten. Fifteen or twenty gives me the ideal amount of time to get one task accomplished.
What do you do if there’s more than one task? Simple. Take a five minute break, then tackle the next fifteen to twenty minute task. Pretty soon, you’ve accomplished an hour’s worth of work!