Our attention spans aren't built for entire days sat behind a desk. Better to break business-building down into little chunks - 90 minutes is perfect, says Martin Gladdish.
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I’ve always found time management to be an interesting concept. Not because there are so many theories, tricks, tips and methodologies around it, but because there appear to be very few people who are actually able to achieve it – in practice.
Like everything else in life the gap between how things ‘should’ work and the real-life ‘application’ of the lesson is quite often a very large one. In reality you need to manage yourself within a specified amount of time, or the time that you have available. And that subtle, but significant, difference is actually the key to mastering your productivity per hour.
Small manageable steps to a large well-managed success
To start with you need to understand a little about the science of the human propensity to distraction and short concentration capabilities. A little bit of study will tell you that these are limited.
And in the case of being able to focus on a piece of work, audibly or visually take in information, or apply optimum effort the evidence seems to throw up the 90 minutes mark on a fairly regular basis. Obviously there are outside influences which affect this: the person in question, their interest in the subject and the time of day – but as a general rule it is a sound one.
"It is a virtual impossibility for anyone to be operating at the top of their game for an entire day"
It would be a logical conclusion, therefore, that setting aside 90 minutes to focus solely on your most important task each day would be a highly efficient methodology.
Add to that purpose some other smart management thinking such as: setting a specific goal, making the target realistic and achievable and making yourself uninterruptable – and you will find yourself in a very good place.
It is an old adage ‘that the greatest journey starts with a single step’ but one that is still as true and relevant as it ever was. You see, it is a virtual impossibility for anyone to be operating at the top of their game for an entire day. But if that person can muster the very best of their effort, wisdom, passion and potential and then focus it within an optimum period of time… Wow – what a difference that would make.
Think of it as a positive spin on the thin end of the wedge
Generally the ‘thin end of the wedge’ saying suggests a small influence which could cause a big storm, and is often used in a negative sense by Prophets of Doom. Imagine, however, what a massive impact the thin end of a wedge could have when inserted into a tiny ray of light in the wall of work you face today.
You would only need to apply a little bit of pressure for the gap to widen and allow the light to pour through – building your confidence and strength to breakthrough completely.
Or perhaps that mere slither of light is the one thing that you think might just change everything in your job, your business or your life. The thought of overcoming everything at once is just too massive, but applying yourself to a small step might just be worth the risk. That is the power of a single 90 minute chunk of time.
Don’t just take my word for it either. As I’ve said, the science supports it, the logic is sound in theory, and here is the best bit, the evidence is all around us.
In a new book, Build Your Business in 90 Minutes a Day, released this month, we have complied a collection of real-life stories that show just how powerful a short, focused allocation of time can be – when used well.
It includes a dig around in the archives of Medieval British history to reveal how small chunks of time shaped a nation; some soul-searching in the skies and a pivotal hour and a half that saved the lives of three stranded spacemen; and a dream which led to one of the most iconic and influential songs ever written – all in 90 minute chunks of time.
Vienna 1462: These guys knew how to make good use of their time
Alongside these world-shaping events and similar dramatic tales there are the simple stories of everyday business owners, like you and I, who have discovered the value of one of time’s best kept secrets.
The book has been designed to inspire action and teach discipline, but most of all to help you find the time to make the most of your ambition. Of course I don’t actually mean ‘find’ the time because you already have it right in front of you – it is probably just filled with other things at the moment.
90 minutes to a massive return on time investment
But I promise you that by managing yourself better you will be able to create enough space to use a small proportion of your time each day to make massive steps towards success. The book was designed to inspire and help small business owners to get to their goals faster, but the feedback has been that its lessons are far more wide reaching.
People have said they are applying the principles in their personal life, their fitness ambitions, in regular work environments and to find the time to start new businesses.
I started off by talking about the concept of time management being an odd one and maybe even counter-intuitive. Perhaps that is because of the 16-18 hours a day that we are awake (assuming you have average sleep requirements) it surely cannot be possible to manage everything that happens.
You certainly can’t go back and change what has already happened as you go through each hour, and there is no guarantee that all the hours to come will deliver what is promised in a manageable format.
But you absolutely could (perhaps even if it is only on weekdays) manage yourself for just 90 minutes of any given day, apply some discipline for that short period of time, learn the rules to maximise it and maybe even change your whole life forever.