Try the 30/30 Minute Work Cycle

Try the 30/30 Minute Work Cycle

One of the world’s greatest computer criminal masterminds is serving two concurrent 20-year sentences following a series of cyberheists unparalleled in their sheer volume of human victimization. Albert Gonzalez used his hacker powers for evil, and it’s actually a really sad story because, as the PSAs of the ’70s pointed out, a mind is a terrible thing to waste.

On Deadline

iStockphoto/Matt Jeacock

Of course, it didn’t have to be like that. In one sense of the word, hacks are awesome, even necessary.

Can you even conceive how long it would take to do even the most mundane tasks if our brain didn’t take shortcuts for us? What if every time we decided to eat cereal we had to test if a spoon, fork or knife was the best utensil for the job? Like heuristics, hacks are life’s little shortcuts that save us time and effort, and, presumably, make our lives better as a result.

Since I became a freelance writer, my major challenge has been managing my time. Last night I came across a solution befitting a procrastinator like me. It’s called the 30/30 Minute Work Cycle.

It goes like this: work for 30 minutes with zero distractions. No email, no cell phones, no Twitter. Then, when the 30 minutes of work time is up, go and do something relaxing or fun for 30 minutes. Repeat the cycle until your work is finished.

Right now, as I write, my timer is rolling back from 24 minutes and a handful of seconds.

I realize this is an insane experiment, writing about my time management trials in real-time, my patient editor, Arienne, unaware of what nonsense could be rolling across her desk a few hours from now. But I’m willing to try it to keep from an anxiety-ridden mental state where important tasks perpetually get pushed further and further down an imaginary timeline in my mind. If the 30/30 Work Cycle works, what a great shortcut it will be. Hypothesize, test, analyze, repeat. You know what I’m talking about, SEMs.

Other shortcuts

I rely on other shortcuts, too. There’s Google Reader to help me find inspiration (such as the Albert Gonzalez story). There’s Facebook to touch base with friends. And, of course, there’s Raven Tools, which delivers vital stats, competitive analysis, progress reports and tracking just when SEOs need them. These are all hacks in the service of good.

What are your favorites?

Arienne Holland

Arienne has spent 20 years in communications, ranging from graphic design to journalism to PR to marketing and formerly Raven's Director of Marketing and Education.

Arienne has spent 20 years in communications, ranging from graphic design to journalism to PR to marketing and formerly Raven's Director of Marketing and Education.

  • Julie Joyce

    Whether consciously or not, I do work on and off all day. It’s made me ten times more productive, but as the owner of my own agency I do have the luxury of combining work and life. Generally speaking though, switching it up a bit seems to be a good thing as long as you aren’t overly ADD. All of these articles talking about how bad multitasking is do not take into account the fact that some people are just honestly very good at jumping from one thing to another with little continuity.

  • Jessica Lee

    Let me get this straight: No Twitter, no surfing the Internet, no e-mail … for a whole half hour?! All right, makes perfect sense. I think with all the distractions we have these days, it’s creating an ADD phenomenon. I like this 30/30 rule if your schedule permits it. I definitely think it would help keep you balanced throughout the day. And if your schedule doesn’t permit it, I’ve always thought the 80-20 rule was effective: focus 80 percent of your time on the things that are a priority and 20 percent of your time on the things that you want to get done but always seem to end up on the back burner.

  • Marty Martin

    I find this little feed reader app perfect for summarizing the most important stuff for me to read >

    It’s great.

  • Jon Henshaw

    Marty, I’m a big fan of — that’s what I use when I take a break from working. I’ll also check out Fever, but I’ve been very happy using Reeder for iPhone and iPad for my mobile blog/news aggregator.

  • Dana Lookadoo

    Ah, a post after my own heart! I’m a strong proponent in turning it all off. And for email, it downloads every 60 minutes. My motto for productivity is. “batch process!”

    If you track your time, many of us will realize how much wasted time and disjointed though process results from jumping back and forth.

    Thanks, Virginia, for the additional tips, and the feed reader tips by Marty and Jon are golden, too.

  • Arienne Holland

    I have two monitors at work: a 30″ one and my 17″ laptop screen. They’re synced, but I keep the laptop off to the left (I’m right-handed, so it’s not a natural position), and leave all my chat/Twitter apps open over there. Occasionally I even dim the screen. Works for me, most of the time.

  • Scott Clark

    This reminds me of something I saw this summer called the “Breakaway Session” by Derek Frank. (I have no affiliation.)

    I’m struggling with productivity right now, seeking systems that work ,etc, so your post was timely.

  • Virginia

    Woot! Productivity wins! 😀