In the sports world people are always encouraged to train gradually. If you’re used to running 10km and you decide to train for a half marathon there is no point trying to run 18kms straight off the bat. Even if you feel ok at the time, the next day your joints, muscles and ligaments will not be happy!
It’s the same in the workplace, your natural pace (go to www.inside80performance.com to calculate your natural pace) broadly determines your appropriate focus time.
If you focus for longer than this, while you may be ok at the time, you may find that you will have used more mental energy, and taken longer than you really should have to complete the task.
Let’s take an example.
Someone with a natural pace on the faster side who scored say in the 60s may find that an appropriate length of time for them to focus is 45 minutes. Now let’s say you have a task which will take you 90 minutes. Chances are you will do the first 45 minutes in 45 minutes – very productive. If you stay with the task without taking a break, chances are the remaining 45 minutes will take you more like 60 minutes as follows:
Now try doing the first 45 minutes and then switching to another lighter task for 15 minutes and then go back to the remaining 45 minutes that is more likely to take you 45 minutes instead of 60 minutes this time.
Both still take 105 minutes but you have achieved another lighter task as well. Even if it takes you 1 or 2 minutes to find your place again in the first task you are still way ahead.
If you find an extra 15 minutes every 90 minutes that’s easily an extra hour in your day of productivity. It will also feel easier to you – that means you have conserved your energy.
So it’s important to be aware of your focus time and try to mix in some shorter tasks so that you can work more closely to your natural pace. This will see your productivity increase and your effort decrease.