How much time do you need?
Deadlines are good. So are sprints. I’m sprinting right now. I have a time limit today and it’s not artificial. I have plans tonight.
I can type about 40 words per minute without making too many mistakes. In 25 minutes, that’s 1,000 words. Right now I’m shooting for 400 words. Should be easy, right?
Usually I spend a good couple of hours with an idea. I outline it, ponder it, walk on it. Sometimes it’s a painful process of editing, rewriting and scrutiny.
But not today. Today is about speed, fluidity and getting the job done. I’m trying to prove a point to myself.
“Time is an illusion.” ― Albert Einstein
Finishing a task takes as long as you give it
I’ve discovered that things take as long as you give them. How long does it take me to design a website? Usually a couple of months. That’s not because it actually takes a couple of months. There’s juggling and wiggle room built in. And I usually have more than one project running.
I quote a couple of months and that’s how long it takes. I make the project work in the time frame I’ve created.
I can work faster. If a client has a real deadline, it gets done faster. Sure, there’s an extra rush fee, but it’s possible to make it happen. It’s curious that timelines I create for myself are so plastic. They shouldn’t be so impressionable. So what to do about it?
The Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique uses a kitchen timer to block out time. The idea is to set a timer for 25 minutes and kick ass on an activity with no distractions. Doing this teaches you exactly how long it takes to get things done. It protects you against distractions. It’s a pretty useful time management technique.
I’ve used it on occasion. I like a 20 minute block because I can do anything for 20 minutes. I don’t use a kitchen timer because apps exist. So I use a timer on my phone. Today I’m playing by the rules and using 25 minutes.
The Pomodoro Technique works because it’s focused in a short time window. It works within the confines of our attention span. It also compounds over time. Do it a lot and you’ll see a productivity benefit. Just try not to burn yourself out. It’s not easy to stick to and requires some repetition to build up stamina.
Jack Canfield’s Rule of Five
So what’s a good use of the Pomodoro Technique? For me, long-term goals. Big, difficult, important goals. Goals that are likely to lose priority because they’re not urgent.
I like to mix the Pomodoro Technique with another strategy I learned from Jack Canfield. It’s called the Rule of Five. It’s a simple idea. You chip away at large goals with small, actionable steps. Five actions a day until you reach your goal.
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Five actions spread out in 20 or 25 minute chunks throughout the day.
31,250 minutes is enough
Does 31,250 minutes sound like enough time to reach your goal this year?
- 25 minute sprints
- 5 times a day
- 5 times a week
- 50 weeks in a year (take a couple weeks off, you earned it)
We’re talking completely focused, uninterrupted time. No breaks, pure productivity. In my opinion, it’s more than enough time. At 40 words per minute, you could write 10 novels. For me, that would be about 250 web page designs or 200 blog posts.
And for the record, writing out this idea took about 25 minutes (not including edits). It’s not perfect but it’s well over 400 words. Well over 500… 600 plus.
How much time do you need? Less than you think.