Productivity in 33.33 minutes

There’s so much to do every day: email to be checked, blogs to be read, IMs to be sent and answered, news to be read, tweets to be read, and tweets to be posted.  But you also have some very specific tasks that need to be accomplished.  Unless you’re a social media maven, you probably don’t get paid to tweet.  You get paid to work, to meet deadlines, and to accomplish those specific tasks, tasks that include writing: code, documentation, copy, presentations, and proposals — things that are not as much fun as Twitter or even Ed Brill’s blog.  How do you get your popcorn brain to focus on a single task?  How do you put all those other non-productive distractions away?

Do it in 33 minutes and 33 seconds.  You can focus on 1 thing for 33 minutes and 33 seconds, right?  It is hard to believe but even I can.

Get yourself a timer or a stopwatch.  Any old timer will do.  I use Aptimac Timer on my Mac.

Set your butt in a chair.  Open Word, Keynote or whatever program you will use to write whatever it is you have to write.  If you’re a coffee or tea drinker, get a mug of your favorite hot beverage.

Set the timer to 33 minutes and 33 seconds.  Hit the start button.

For the next 33 minutes and 33 seconds you can do one of the following things:

  1. Drink your beverage
  2. Stare into space (wall, window, blank sheet in MS Word)
  3. Do absolutely nothing
  4. Or…  you could actually write.

For those 33 minutes you can’t leave, you can’t check email or do anything else other than the 4 things above.  Doing nothing and staring into space eventually gets awfully boring and, slowly at first, then with more gusto as ideas take shape, you start to write — to do the actual task you set off to do.

When the 33.33 minutes are up, stop.  Stop in the middle of a sentence, if it happens.  Give yourself a break of 10 minutes, during which you can do anything else, even tweet.

When the 10 minutes are up, it is back to the 33.33 routine.

It works.  That’s how I got myself to write this very post.  (Hey, what can I say?  I’m a slow writer.)

And, of course, like most of my productivity tips, the idea is not mine.  The credit for the system goes to the legendary copywriter Eugene Schwartz.