This is the website of Abulsme Noibatno Itramne (also known as Sam Minter). Comments here or emails to me at abulsme@abulsme.com are encouraged... or follow me on Twitter as @abulsme.

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March 2007
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Save Me!!

In 26 minutes Brandy will have been gone exactly 4 days out of the 8 days, 18 hours and 3 minutes she is scheduled to be gone. Not quite half way yet. Will I survive?

The 40 Minute Plan

For a couple months now I’ve been doing a “40 Minute Thing” as a way to manage my time at home working on the various projects at home I want to work on. Basically it is a simple thing. I work in 40 minute segments. Once I start a segment, I try to work on that one thing and only that one thing for 40 minutes straight without letting myself get distracted by anything else. At the end of the 40 minutes, I take a quick break, then if there is enough time, I start another 40 minute segment. Repeat until out of time. If for whatever reason I get unavoidably interrupted in the middle of a segment, I pause the timer and then restart it once I get back on task.

More specifically, I have an order in which I do what I do. Each evening, the first 40 minute task is email. The second is doing financial stuff… paying bills, entering receipts into Quicken, etc. The third has lately been genealogy stuff, but I have recently switched this to being a random selection from a set of about six other tasks ranging from cleaning to reading to playing chess. If I finish all three of these then I repeat and start at the top again.

In reality, on most weekdays I only ever get in the first segment. Some weekdays I get two segments in. It is a very rare weekday when I get in three. But on Saturdays and Sundays I can often get in two or more cycles of three items.

I find giving myself this structure at home ends up in me being a lot more productive than leaving the time unstructured. It has helped me a lot in getting things done. I have felt much more productive since I started this, and I have a good daily gauge of how much I’ve been able to do… just could how many 40 minute blocks I managed to get done.

I haven’t yet given myself quite the same sort of structure at work. I think it might be useful though, so I am thinking about it. Just have to get an appropriate timer in there. (At home I use an OS X Dashboard Widget.) Problem is, at work the day is so punctuated by meetings and random interruptions that it is harder to do the same methodology. But certainly on days when there are long uninterrupted stretches it would help.

Without that sort of structure two things tend to happen with me… they are somewhat opposite, but they both happen depending on what else is going on.

#1) I get focused on one thing and spend too much time on it to the exclusion of other things that also need attention.

#2) My top priority task is one that for whatever reason I am mentally procrastinating, and so I bounce back and forth between that task and other random tasks of lesser priority, and the primary task gets less attention than it should.

The 40 minute method… or any length of time where you force yourself to focus on one and only one thing for a length of time… plus the rotation through types of tasks that need to be done… solve both those problems quite nicely.

So I’ll probably try it at some point. So far though it has been easier to execute at home. And I am very happy with it.