The 20–10 Productivity Hack for Writers and Everyone Really
I spent a lot of time one weekend writing. I was working on my first eBook and had a lot of words to get out. That said, I had a lot of other things to do, too, and I also just couldn’t get my head into the game.
Enter: The Kitchen Timer
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I used the timer on my oven, you may want to pick up a cute kitchen timer, or you can use a timer on your phone, if it is easy to set it to varying time increments.
Sorry, I got distracted looking at fun kitchen timers. You’re welcome.
The 20-10 Productivity Hack
20: Set Your Timer for 20 Minutes
Pick which task will be the longer one, requiring focus for more of the day, or more time to complete. Then, work on it for twenty minutes. Work on nothing else. You are not allowed distractions. Put all of your effort into getting this task going.
For me, that was writing. It took a while to get my head in the game, but by the end of the first twenty minutes, I had some flow going.
Once the timer goes off, stop what you are working on, and switch the timer:
10: Set Your Timer for 10 Minutes
For ten minutes, work on a smaller job, like a chore. Ideally, pick something that doesn’t take all of your mental efforts, like unloading the dishwasher. This way, your brain is still allocating some horsepower to the larger task at hand.
The beauty of ten minutes is that it is long enough to get some things done, but short enough that you can stand to do a task for that length of time. For me, the perfect task is putting away laundry. I hate doing that, but I know if I can get it all done within the ten minute window, it will be OVER. Normally, I get distracted and find other things to do and it only ends up partially done.
When the timer goes off again, switch it back to 20 minutes. Return to the big task and focus intently for another twenty minute block.
Repeat, ad infinum.
Spending 1.5 hours using this productivity hack, you will have spent half an hour on chores and one hour on your main project. Your time will be more focused than if you had sat down to spend a full hour on your main project, so overall you will get more done in the same amount of time.
Why It Works
The nagging feeling that you need to do some other task, say clean your dorm room during exams, is completely abated, because you can do that nagging task, without letting it balloon into a giant waste of time. Additionally, you give your brain time to ponder things, when you are switching back and forth between tasks.
Every once in a while, you will be so into the task at hand, that you decide the beeping can be ignored and you’re just going to plow on through.
After two hours of doing this, if not more, there is a definitive list of things you have completed. This is in part due to the tendency to pick tasks that can actually be accomplished in one to three 10 minute blocks. Regardless, it leaves you with a sense of accomplishment and most of the time, a visual indication that you have got things done.
What to do for 10 Minutes
Assuming your house is remotely similar to mine, I had absolutely no trouble at all coming up with things to do for my 10 minute chore brakes. In fact, I had a monstrous list. I really hate folding and putting laundry away… but I could push through for 10 minutes.
Here is just a selection of things on my list of 10 minute chores to tackle:
- Clean out the light fixtures
- Hand wash big dishes
- Clean the stove top
- Clean the toilets
- Clean a shower
- Clean the bathroom counter and mirror
- Vacuum the living room
- Take out the recycling
- Swap laundry loads, fold laundry, put it away
- Dice vegetables
- Empty and load the dishwasher
- Write a congratulations letter
- Make a week meal plan
- Eat a meal
- Call to make an appointment
Is the 20-10 Productivity Hack Revolutionary? No.
But it works.