For the past couple of months, I've been rearranging my work processes to make them less stressful. One of the things that helps me get less tired is splitting my work time into smaller periods.
Most of my concentration and attention problems arise when I do something for hours without rest.
Attention is a valuable resource that needs to be restored. I used to think of attention as a bucket of rainwater that gradually fills up. You can scoop water from it, but at some point the water runs out, and no matter how much you try, you can't get any more water from it. You have to wait until the bucket is full.Splitting the day into slots helps the bucket to be filled all the time
Everyone's bucket fills at a different rate, which can be affected by completely different things. My bucket fills faster if I'm walking down the street, for example.
I divide my working day into blocks of 3-4 hours. There can be 2, 3, or more blocks, depending on the workload. If there are more than 2 blocks, I reduce the duration of the last blocks by an hour and a half. Between these blocks, I take long breaks: I eat, change the place I work from, just take a walk. Usually 30-60 minutes is enough.
Each block I divide into periods of an hour. Periods are convenient to measure tasks and check against the plan. One block has 2-4 periods, depending on the size of the block.
Each period I divide into segments of 20-30 minutes. A segment includes work and a break. For example, I divide a 30 minute segment into 20-25 minutes of work and 5-10 minutes of rest. It's similar to Pomodorro, except I don't put a timer on.
Sometimes I forget about breaks, and several segments merge into one without rest, then I rest longer at the end of the period.
Sometimes it's difficult to sync up with other people. It's not always possible to just go somewhere at the end of a block. So far, I'm increasing the duration of the block if that happens. I'm still thinking of a normal solution though.
Sometimes I have to intentionally stop working. It happens that I focus and like crazy. The block ends, and I'm like, “Hmm, should I keep going? I'm having a good one today.” At this time, I stop myself, because:
- I'm tired anyway, even though I might not notice it;
- I need to refresh my head, because the solution might be too complicated or confusing, and a fresh head would find a better solution.
Another limitation to the collection, it can both help and frustrate. For example, it's frustrating if a task is complicated and I can't solve it in the time I' given myself to it.
Always a fresh perspective on the task. Thinking doesn't slip into familiar patterns due to fatigue; more hidden connections between the components of the system I'm writing become visible.
The bucket of concentration fills up faster. I'm less distracted by Twitter while working, feeling less tired after the day's work.
It is convenient to divide the day and measure the time spent on tasks. And if I remember which task took how long, I can predict deadlines more accurately.
It doesn't feel like there's too much to do. I know that the block will be over in four hours, and I'll go for a walk. Yes, there might be another block later, but it's still not as scary as taking 12 hours of work in a row.