The 20 Minute Trick

Is it possible to spend too much time on a blog post and still have that time be unproductive?  Yes.

When it comes to blogging, I tend to get very distracted by all of the related tasks (social media, making images, reading and commenting on other people’s posts) that I really don’t spend as much time writing as I should.

To fix this issue I decided to start setting a timer to see if I could write uninterrupted for 20 minutes.  Guess what?  Using a timer has given me a big boost in productivity.

Working on a task for 20 minutes straight without interruptions is very manageable. | productivity tips | efficiency | getting things done |

Why 20 minutes?

I chose to set my timer for 20 minutes because working for 20 minutes straight on a single task is a very small, doable goal.

If I tried to work for an hour straight on a task, I would likely need to take a break to get a drink of water, use the bathroom, or would get distracted by social media.

Working on a task for 20 minutes straight without interruptions is very manageable.

How It Works

I decide on the task that I want to complete (writing a blog post, grading student work, organizing papers, etc.) and I set my timer as soon as I start.

If I’m writing, I close out of other windows on my computer and only focus on the task at hand.

Besides calls and texts, I turn off all other notifications on my phone, so I am not constantly hearing the ping of new emails and Twitter notifications.  If you usually receive notifications for apps on your phone, I recommend turning them off before you start your 20 minutes.

After I work for 20 minutes, I decide if I want to end the task or work for another 20 minutes.  If I’m just wrapping something up, I won’t set my timer again, but if I’m on a roll and want to keep working, I set it for another 20 minutes.

How I Have Improved My Productivity

Setting a timer and working uninterrupted in 20-minute blocks has improved my productivity at work and with the blog.

At school, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by my to-do list, and easy to get distracted chatting with coworkers.  Every day I make a to-do list on a sticky note on the corner of my desk, and when I have chunks of time during the day, I choose a task to focus on and set my timer.

Things that I normally would put off (like grading writing), get done when I’m working on them exclusively for 20 minutes.  I’m getting more done during the school day, so I’m able to leave earlier and don’t bring work home anymore on the weekends.

With the blog, I’ve been trying to post more often than once a week.  I would set out to post more, but then get so caught up in all the other blogging related tasks, that I would not be devoting enough time to writing.

By exiting out of social media, and just focusing on writing, I’m able to get so much more done in less time.  I decide on a topic, create a quick outline, and then just start typing.  I’m spending less time worrying about how it looks, and more time actually getting my thoughts down.  I can always go back later to edit with fresh eyes.

How You Can Try It

What works for one person, will not necessarily work for everyone, but I do think that most people can improve their productivity by focusing on a single task at a time.

Decide on a task that you need to complete.  Start small.  If you are trying to write a graduate paper, 20 minutes probably wouldn’t cut it.  If you need to break a larger task into smaller parts (such as compiling sources or writing an outline), do that.

Before you start your timer, try to eliminate other possible distractions.  I recommend closing out of other windows on your computer and turning off notifications on your phone.  If you need to find a different place to work, do that.

Once you are set up to begin working, set your timer.  If 20 minutes is too long or short of a time for you, experiment with different times.

Push yourself to keep going for 20 minutes (or whatever time you chose).  The more you do this, the shorter 20 minutes will feel to you.

Once your timer goes off, decide if you want to keep working for another 20 minutes or just wrap up whatever you worked on.

Some Applications

Try to work for 20 minutes without stopping on any of these tasks:

  • organizing paperwork
  • cleaning out your refrigerator
  • writing
  • reading
  • exercising
  • organizing your closet
  • cleaning your bathroom
  • organizing your books
  • responding to emails

How else could you use a timer to help improve productivity?

Working on a task for 20 minutes straight without interruptions is very manageable. | productivity tips | efficiency | getting things done |

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  • I have the most trouble with starting. Once I do that, I’m good with writing stints longer than 20 minutes. BUT, I think consistently doing 20 minutes would be better. 20 minutes is also a great chunk of time for exercising — choose a YouTube video and go to town!

    FYI, I don’t keep Twitter on my phone. It’s way too distracting.

  • I really need to try this, because it takes me wayyyyy too long to write a blog post. My problem is I will sit there for 20 minutes paralyzed with nothing to write. It’s incredibly frustrating. I know that sometimes you need to write, just to write, but sometimes it just doesn’t work. I’ve found that instead of getting stuck on one task to just move ahead to another task that I can actually tackle. It’s better than nothing. Love these productivity tips!

    • Thanks! Moving on is definitely better than sitting and doing nothing. I have a hard time picking a topic sometimes, but once I do, I can usually get started. My first posts were pretty short, so I’m challenging myself to write more in each post. Setting the timer and just going has helped me get more out.

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