SPOILER ALERT: I’ve got something interesting to show you half way down the page.
Eben Pagan’s Work-Rest Rhythm
One of the most useful techniques I got from Eben Pagan’s “Wake Up Productive” course was to work with a work-rest RHYTHM.
If you know you have a well-defined work period, and that you’ll get a break soon, it seems easier to get into that place of deep focus needed to do your work.
Eben recommends working for 50-90 minutes, then taking a 10 minute break. Then work for 50-90 minutes, and then take a longer (perhaps 40 minute) break for lunch and/or exercise, or whatever.
Then you can repeat it another time or two. And that’s your workday.
I’ve been following this schedule (more or less faithfully) for 2-3 years now, and it definitely makes me more productive. And I feel less guilty when I pause for breaks as well.
Going Up the Time Fractal
Now, check this out. This daily work-rest rhythm is connected to the other rhythms of your life. And together they form a time-based FRACTAL structure.
(Fractals are everywhere, right?)
The daily rhythm is composed of alternating chunks of time dedicated to work or rest.
And the daily rhythm itself fits into bigger work-rest rhythms.
Perhaps your weekly rhythm is: work-work-work-work-work-work-rest.
And that weekly rhythm can be part of a quarterly rhythm: work for 12 weeks, then take a week off.
That’s working up the fractal.
Going Down The Time Fractal
But, you can break down your work hours further as well.
For instance, Merlin Mann suggests that when you’re particularly unenthusiastic about your work, it can help to do the 5(10+2) rhythm within an hour block.
That means you do 5 sets of 12 minutes (10 minutes of work, plus 2 minutes of daydreaming).
I find this very useful when I’m writing a first draft of something. It helps bust through the writer’s block.
Wanna See Something Cool? (at least I think so!)
Now, let me show you something I just finished:
That’s the new Fractal Planner rhythm timer.
You’ll see that it’s pre-loaded with some very popular work rhythms.
It’s got a short, medium, and long version of Eben’s work rhythm (with 50, 70, and 90 minute work blocks), so you can use the one that works best for you.
It’s got the 5(10+2) rhythm.
And it’s got the Pomodoro rhythm, which you might be familiar with.
You just choose a rhythm, click start, and the timer alternates between a work phase, and a rest phase.
When it switches modes, it gives you a little nudge (telling you to “get back to work!” or to “relax”). And, of course, you can turn that off if you want.
And soon you’ll be able to use custom rhythms as well.
NOTE: If you want to use the audio nudges with the Fractal Planner rhythm timer, you might need to make sure you have the right plug-in for your browser for playing a .wav file.
If you’re using the Fractal Planner, you’ll now see a “timer” button in the top menu. Give it a try!
If you’re not using the Fractal Planner, I still highly recommend you work with rhythm.
You can use a cheap kitchen timer. I got mine at Walmart for about $4.
This is one of the biggest productivity hacks out there. If you’re not working with rhythm, I highly recommend you start tomorrow (if not today).
P.S. If you know of any other popular work-rest rhythms, let me know. I’ll consider adding them to the rhythm timer.