10-20-5-20-5. No, it’s not a combination for an exotic safe. It’s not the latest attempt to release that secret HD DVD code that got Digg in trouble. What it is, friends and countrymen, is a time budget. I’ll give you an idea of how it will work for me, and perhaps you’ll see how it might work for you.
Simply, it’s an hour broken into minutes. 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 5, 20, 5. Get it? But what I propose is this: chunking my time into small boxes like that will give me a better handle on work that needs doing. I propose that with all people who have a somewhat flexible, results-driven schedule, this might help you achieve goals, especially should you be a little bit of a procrastinator.
- 10 Minutes:Email and Calls– The first 10 minutes of the hour are set aside to reply to email and return phone calls. If you stretch this a little, you might also use the time to surf your RSS feeds.
- 20 Minutes: Project Work– Each 20 minute slot is dedicated to whatever it is you’re working on for your projects. Are you building a new database? Are you writing a book? Are you preparing tomatoes for a late spring planting? Work your most important work in this 20 minute slot.
- 5 Minutes: Get Up– This can be a bathroom break, a snack break, or just a walk around the building. The main purpose of this 5 minutes is to break the cycle, to shake your head free of your thoughts, and to keep your body moving and vibrant throughout your day, thus giving you energy to complete a longer day’s tasks.
- 20 Minutes: Project Work– This is the same as the other 20. But look! I’ve just built 40! minutes of productivity into each hour, and yet, it’ll feel nice and chunky, so you can multitask. Oh, good point: try hard to stay on a single task for each 20 minute block.
- 5 Minutes: Get Up– This is another 5 minute break. These are important. Don’t skip them. Keep your eyes happy by walking away from the monitor. Keep your hands happy by leaving the keyboard behind. Refresh your thought process by pausing to reflect while getting a handful of blueberries and a few almonds for a snack.
- Repeat!– Repeat. For as many hours as you have available in a day, make this the process. If you have meetings or other appointments, hack that block of time to manage what you can, but wherever you have a full hour of work, use the time budget.
Bonus: Add a “Blitz List”– Sometimes, when we get into our 20 minute project block, we don’t really know what to do next. Practitioners of Getting Things Done (GTD) will understand the concept of “next actions.” These are task components broken down into their smallest pieces, such that it’s easy to know what to do next at all times. If you’re not yet ready for that level or organization, at least have a huge list of the things that need doing, and hopefully in the order of what matters most to your work. And try to execute as much of those as possible while on your 20 minute blocks.
Would this work for you, in your work situation? What could you do to modify it to your needs?
Photo credit, slack 12