Back in 2006, the second year of this blog, I wrote about a simple time boxing concept called the Power of 48 Minutes. It’s a technique that I had learned from a presenter at a speaker’s conference. Simply put, you turn off all distractions, set a timer for 48 minutes and work on one and only one thing until the timer goes off. Then you take a 12-minute break. You can repeat this as many times as needed.
Since 2006, I have used the time-box system hundreds of times. The technique has significantly enhanced the way that I work and has led to the creation of a simple, yet efficient, personal time management system.
Over the years, I’ve tweaked the plan and made some simple changes. I currently use a 50-minute time block, with a 10-minute break, as I find that this is easily divided into five and ten-minute increments, which better matches the numbers on the clock.
Early on I used an egg timer, but the constant ticking drove me nuts. I now use a digital timer which is completely quiet. I’ve developed some worksheets which allow you to easily divide fifty minutes into five and ten-minute segments for greater flexibility.
I am currently using the Mastery Journal from podcaster, John Lee Dumas, to improve my focus and productivity in a 100-day challenge. The journal is set up with four, time-block sessions per day, which ties in perfectly with the 50/10 system.
Over the years, I found situations where fifty minutes was not enough to complete a task, and that stopping in the middle was disruptive. For those cases, I just use multiples of fifty. One hundred minutes with a twenty-minute break works well (100/20), and I’ve found I can even go out to one hundred and fifty minutes with a thirty-minute break (150/30) for really long projects.
This time box procedure has helped me complete many projects over the years. I’ve used it to write six books, and I continue to use it on my current fiction book project. It has helped me greatly with this blog and my Daily Drivecast Podcast. I’ve even used it for housecleaning and yard maintenance.
The time box procedure works because humans are not designed to be multitaskers. With cell phones, email, and the constant barrage of social media, this simple time-box technique can double or even triple your productivity, depending on how distracted you are. I challenge you to try it and see if it makes as profound a difference in your life as it has in mine.
The Original Article from 2006: The Power of 48 Minutes
Is there magic in the number 48? Does this number hold any significance in your future success? Speaker Don Crowther suggests that there is. In his presentation at the NSA Summer Symposium, Don told the audience that 48 minutes is the magic number. Here’s how it works… Set a timer for 48 minutes. Close out all distractions and work continuously for 48 minutes. When the timer goes off, get up and stretch, get coffee, use the restroom, etc, in the following 12 minutes. Repeat as necessary.
Don reports that this technique repeated four times a day allowed him to write a 150-page book in just two weeks. The ability to focus on one task for 48 minutes straight was the key. I have been testing Don’s idea, and I have to say it works well for me. This eliminates the distractions that have a way of derailing even the best-laid plans. Taking a short 12-minute break once an hour is refreshing but not enough to get you off track. You can learn to stay focused quickly with this method.
How to Stay Focused
So the question comes up If this solution works well how can I use it in planning out my daily schedule and applying it to future goals. Can I successfully write a blog post in 48 minutes? Can I write a book chapter in that time? As I’ve tried the process, it has been a challenge to sit in one place that long. But when I do my productivity soars. I find it best just to keep writing, not worry about mistakes, and get everything on paper. Once I have the points on paper, I can go back and make my edits and corrections.
My usual morning schedule has about 2 hours of productive time available. I’ve tested the idea of blogging for an hour and then working on a book for the second hour. So far this has worked well with standard length blog posts and has yielded a book outline.
There does seem to be magic in the number 48!
This technique does require a little planning, and it helps to have a coffee cup warmer on your desk. The best timer I’ve found so far is a countdown timer with large numbers and a loud alarm. The easy to view numbers give instant feedback on how much time you have left.
Using this simple technique may help me streamline my daily blog postings and help me be much more consistent. The book outline is taking shape and given me hope of actually completing the project.
Update: The Power of 48 Minutes helped me write my first book (first draft) in a little over three months utilizing this method for two hours per day. Currently, it allows me to focus on my new book and easily get my 1,000 words in per day. It’s quite easy to learn how to stay focused.
If you find yourself getting distracted by your projects, give this simple technique a try. It has helped me focus and get things done!
Discover more about the Power of 48 Minutes here.