An accidental miniature focus experiment (and resulting hypothesis)

At yesterday’s coaching session, I committed to working through a workbook of sorts for one hour.

The good news: I ended up working a little over 2 hours on it today.

The bad news: It took me 6 total hours, from 9:30am to 3:30pm, to complete those 2 hours.

WTF happened??

Around 9:30am, I set a timer for 1 hour and paused it whenever I was interrupted. It went off at 12:15pm. What the heck else was I doing during that time??

  • Had hand flailing, bilingual conversation with cousin about her cold symptoms
  • Bought cold medicine at CVS
  • Cleaned out my inbox (Why today?? Oh, maybe because my final exam was in one of those emails…)
  • Light chatting and Facebooking
  • Lunch

When the timer went off at 12:15, I decided I wanted to finish up the chapter so that I could stay in the same headspace. So out of curiosity, I started the stopwatch, around 12:15, once again pausing it whenever I did something else.

When I finally finished the chapter at 3:30, I glanced at my stopwatch. It said I’d been working for 1 hour. Distractions this time:

  • Evangelical Christians (perhaps I shouldn’t work next to the front windows)
  • Workshop planning with others
  • Moar eating. Moar.
  • …and heavy Facebooking


A hypothesis for future experimentation

So my proportion of time spent on the intended task is about 1/3rd. How is that working for me? Hm. I love being flexible. But would I be more effective or enjoy more flow if I focused for longer? The current literature says yes. My own experience is more nuanced.

Oy, I’ve just typed and deleted a myriad of factors, but what it boils down to is this:

According to The Power of Full Engagement, almost everyone works better in sprints, of about 90 minutes, than in a day-long marathon.

One of my favorite books!


However, any metric like that is guaranteed to have a normal curve, and I’m quite sure I’m on the shorter end of this one. I can feel my brain getting slower after half an hour… And I don’t remember ever experiencing it re-energize while continuing the same activity.

So my next experiment will be to take note of the time and switch to something else the instant I feel my mind slowing down. I’m so curious to see what the average time is!


3 thoughts on “An accidental miniature focus experiment (and resulting hypothesis)

  1. Daaang, I don’t know how you can stand working like that! lol I think my experiences of flow would be much fewer and further between if I worked like that. Personally, I generally but not always work in hour-long sprints, but I put the hardest stuff at the beginning of the sprints because my brain gets slower midway.

    I’d be interested to hear how your experiment turns out!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Data point 1: I worked for 35 min, felt my brain slow down, took the laundry out of the dryer, worked for another 35 min, and felt my brain slow down. Hey, pretty consistent. Although I did wake up at 4 (for a flight), so who knows.


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