I was off the week of Thanksgiving and my wife was working half days so I had some extra time on my hands each morning. Because I love reading I dug into The Leading Brain: Powerful Science-Based Strategies for Achieving Peak Performance by Friederike Fabritius and Hans W. Hagemann. As I read I came across something I knew to be true but had forgotten to use.
When I was in college I had a special way to study for exams. I would start at 8 AM and study for 50 minutes followed by a 10-minute break. I’d do that till noon, eat lunch then start back up at one o’clock going until 5 PM. I took another hour break for dinner then I was back at it from 6 PM till 9 PM. That allowed for 11 hours of study but it never seemed overwhelming because of all the short breaks and the longer lunch and dinner breaks. The proof was in the pudding – I always did very well on my exams.
I chose this study method because I’d heard somewhere that the brain can’t concentrate for more than 45-50 minutes at a time. Reading The Leading Brain reminded me of this truth and my prior study habit so I decided to give this approach a try again but with a small twist.
If you’re like me too often you think if you can’t dedicate an hour or more to something then perhaps it’s not worth starting. Then what happens is those precious minutes get wasted on social media, watching television or some other mind-numbing activity. As much as I enjoy rest I didn’t want my week to idly go by and not accomplish some of the things I’d been looking forward to doing.
Rather than go 50 and 10, I decided to just go 23 and 7. I started with some reading. I closed my social media and consciously told myself I’d do nothing but read for 23 minutes. I set the alarm on my iPhone to buzz every 23 minutes followed by another buzz after 7 minutes.
It worked wonders! I read a lot and felt like I was retaining more because there were no starts and stops. Every time we allow ourselves to get interrupted and give our attention to the interruption we waste time and energy getting back to where we were. This isn’t so difficult with reading but it becomes very problematic with more complex tasks.
With that success, I decided to try it with my writing because, although I enjoy writing, I fall into the “I don’t have enough time” trap too often. I set my timer and started banging away on my MacBook keyboard. When the buzzer went off I walked away from my laptop and engaged in some other activity entirely. Just as it did with my reading, it worked wonders for my writing!
Any of us can bear down and concentrate for some short period of time. For you maybe it’s 10 and 5 or 20 and 10. Whatever you think will work best, give it a shot. Turn off or tune out anything that may distract you. Set a timer for some focused time followed by relaxing time. I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how quickly the time passes and how much you get accomplished. Two cycles of 23 and 7 were all it took to write this article, proof read it and get it posted!
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLE. His Lynda.com course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed more than 100,000 times! Have you seen it yet? Watch it to learn how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.