A couple weeks ago, the magic ratio for productivity came to light in new studies. 52 minutes of work followed by 17 minutes of break time are apparently the perfect balance that helps workers create more efficiently and with less burnout. Having tried the Pomodoro Technique before and failing, I decided to give this a shot with my own work schedule. Being a web designer and developer is an easy way to get sucked into the never-ending clicking and moving in Photoshop, or the fiddling and tweaking with lines of code.
The Pomodoro Technique seems to work for many people, but not me, and here’s why: 25 minutes of work is just not enough. By the time you are really in the thick of something, you have to stop? Plus, nothing can really be accomplished or replenished by 5 minutes of rest. That’s just enough to get to the bathroom and back. It made more sense to me to assimilate tasks into a longer work time than to think of tasks in increments of work time (pomodoros).
I decided to spend last week working exclusively with the 52:17 ratio to see how it would improve my productivity, as well as my overall well-being. Overwork can be harsh, backfiring on you in that 3rd, 6th or 10th hour when you could have gotten the real meat of a project done in a balanced 2 or 3 hours.
Here are my findings from one week of experimentation:
First of all, use an app that you can customize for these time intervals. I used ClearFocus and adjusted the times under Settings to work for 52 minutes and break 17 minutes.
Working for almost an hour is a good amount of time for most any type project. It’s enough to get your head in the game, problem solve, and get the hell out before your lizard brain takes over and warps your sense of clarity. I’ve had a few concurrent tasks this past week like building a client’s website, writing blog posts, and online course exercises that fit nicely into this model.
17 minutes of break time felt just right as well. What did I do on my breaks? I work from home, so there are always mindless chores that need to get done around the house. I approached doing the laundry or dishes with new meaning because it was my intentional break, not rushing through so I could get back to work. These simple tasks turned into more of a zen exercise for me, allowing my brain to do something mindless and slow down. I’m also an entrepreneur, solopreneur, whatever you want to call it, so this means there are a plethora of books I HAVE TO READ RIGHT NOW that has not happened for months. I had previously tried to carve out 30 minutes at the end of the day to tackle these, but never did. My 17 minute breaks were a great amount of time to start digging through these without it taking a chunk of time out of a day or my weekends when I may not want to think about work as much.
The advantages of using this method:
The intervals were enough to keep me moving, so I didn’t get stiff and hunched over in zombie mode by the end of the day. I would at least walk around but also did jumping jacks, pendulum swings or high knees during these breaks (if you’re into that sort of thing).
What about productivity? I did get more done and in an effective way. My project turned out great because I was reminded to stop coding at a certain point, even when I was in the middle of something. I would make a sticky note to remind me of the next steps when I got back and just walked away. This left my head feeling clear throughout the day and even the evening because I hadn’t been pushing past that natural point where our mind is telling us to stop.
My suggestions for what to do during your breaks:
- Catch up on reading
- Go for a walk
- Mindless tasks like household chores
- Anything else you’ve been trying to get to that doesn’t have to do with work. No internet if possible.
The challenges of this method:
Remembering to turn the timer on and off. This happened more than I would like to admit, but the funny thing is, my brain and body would remind me on their own when it was time to step away. I found the biological truth behind this was proven to me on a personal level.
Being in a public place, like a coffee shop and still trying to practice. Get up and peruse the books, flyers and magazines that are laying around. Strike up a conversation with a stranger and make a connection. This is the original role of coffee shops, remember? Chances are they are there trying to get something done too and you can politely excuse yourself when the break time is up.
In the end, I’m so glad I decided to try this method to bring more structure into my day. It feels perfectly natural and has a balancing effect on my work and headspace. I suggest you give it a try, even if for a day, to see if you notice the same improvements. Let me know if you’re going to try it in the comments!