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!