You now have the tips to plan well and gain efficiency from a sociological point of view. You know how to leverage your colleagues, the group effect, or your organization. Now I suggest you focus on yourself. The second step in time management is to know yourself well, to better understand how you work. Here are some laws, derived from biology, that will “give you back” your time.
Our brain is not always rational. We are particularly sensitive to deadlines and interruptions. Our attention span varies from day to day..
Swobada Fliess Toltscher Law – using chronobiological timeframes
The duration of any planned task will tend to be closer to the nearest chronobiological deadline.
Chronobiological deadlines are simply dates that mark our imagination: day, week, month, quarter, year, season. How many of us plan to have something finished by the end of the day, Friday, or before we leave for vacation? By letting our nature choose these deadlines, we add a lot of pressure. There is nothing to stop us from finishing on Wednesday…
An official deadline, planned and announced, organized long enough in advance, can become a chronobiological deadline for the project actors.
Whether it is for yourself or your project, you can create this kind of deadline… Ideally, it should have an official character, such as a presentation or a validation, with an audience or people external to the project and an irreversible character: the invitations are sent, the date cannot change.
Illich’s Law – improving performance by cutting time
Beyond a certain threshold, personal to each individual, the brain becomes counterproductive.
You may have noticed, but when we spend too much time on a task, we get slower and slower. In addition, the more time passes, the more mistakes we make. This is why the brain needs breaks…
The Pomodoro technique is one of the best to help you respect the rhythm of your brain. In this technique, you work for 45 minutes, then take a short 5 minute break. Every 3 or 4 cycles, you take a longer break. Beyond the brain’s resting time, by limiting yourself to 45 minutes, you can create small chronobiological deadlines, and limit the time spent on a task (according to Parkinson’s law).
45 minutes is an average time. Your optimal concentration time could be a little longer or shorter. To find out, schedule a one-hour work period and note how long it takes you to pick up. Repeat the measurement over a few days at different times of the day and on different tasks. This will give you your personal Pomodoro.
Carlson’s corollary law – improving performance through homogeneous work sequences
Each interruption, no matter how short, increases tenfold the effort required to complete the main activity
Ding! Whether it’s an email, a text message, a colleague, you’ve been interrupted. Even if your eyes only left the document you were working on for a fraction of a second, your brain stopped processing the task. That is, it focused on the interruption, to decide whether or not to follow through. Micro-interruptions slow down the work because of their frequency and the fatigue they generate on the brain. Thus, the energy, spent deciding whether the interruption was worthwhile, is not available to do the work at hand. And we have a limited amount of choices in our day.
As for the longer interruptions… They demobilize the brain. You have to refocus, which takes time (5 to 10 minutes depending on the person).
Our brains like to wander, and cannot stay focused for too long. Give yourself short but uninterrupted periods of work: phone and email off, with a time limit. It is sure that you will finalize the work!