March 4, 2014

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I have the attention span of a snapchat. It’s become a slight problem and it’s a core reason why I took up knitting. If a meeting goes beyond than 30-45 minutes, there’s no guarantee I’ll mentally “be where my feet are” as the meeting concludes. I bet you can relate.

With my knitting supplies in my purse, I went to my first movie (at a theater) in a few years.  I had anxiety about sitting still for that long, especially knowing that turning my phone on (even if it’s on silent) is not smiled upon. It all worked out, my friend got a scarf out of the deal and I checked the family outing box (and truly enjoyed it).

So, I’ve come up with a recent experiment to limit tasks to 30-minute increments. It’s simple: Focus for 30 minutes on one thing and then do something different. It’s amazing what we can accomplish in 1,800 seconds when we focus, see an end in sight and limit our distractions.

Here’s how I’ve been sprinkling 30-min power sessions into my day, feel free to give them a whirl:

  • Business meetings – very few situations need more than 30-minutes. People just can’t pay attention for much longer. Tips:
    • The person who called the meeting should start the meeting with: “The purpose of this meeting is to ________. “  And they should also be the timekeeper, giving the 5 minutes left warning.
    • If someone asks you if you have a “hard stop”, the answer is yes. Hard stop is code for “Is what you were going to do next more important than this meeting that’s taking longer than it should?”  Nearly everything should be a hard stop unless you’re snowboarding, in my opinion. (I said *nearly. Please don’t get fired over this one.)
    • If you’re a participant and the meeting goes off topic for more than 2 minutes in length, everyone else in the meeting gives you permission to say, “We’re getting a bit off topic here, should this conversation take place in a separate meeting?”
  • Big projects. Tackle them in 30-minute increments. Those heavy, daunting, focus-demanding writing projects, proposals and presentations fall into this bucket. If anything takes much longer than (2-3) 30 minute increments to prepare that it’s probably too long for someone to consume. This will help you avoid Procrastination. We often don’t start on certain projects because we have this myth in our minds that they’re going to take a long time to complete and we don’t have that kind of time to even consider getting started. But! We can find 30 mins.
  • Workouts – Same goes here. I used to slave on the elliptical for an hour plus (captain boring) until I started monitoring my heart rate and learned how to train in intervals. Now I accomplish in 30 mins in what I previously did in 60+ because I’m working smarter not harder. (Duh) And, when I get done with an intense interval and I can still check email on my iPhone after intense intervals while in resting zones.
  • Gamify your day – I am very results-driven, not to mention prize-orientated. For example, if you sit down and work on a big project for 30 mins, reward yourself with (insert prize here). Options could be: go for a walk, check snapchat, have a glass of wine tonight, go on a safari, etc. — whatever pushes your buttons! 

Don’t discount what you can get done in a short amount of time.

Amount of time it took me to write, edit and post this? 24 mins.

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