The Duration of Human Focus
Focused human attention usually lasts between 20 and 40min. The type of activity, the intensity, and flow state all factor in and can create wide breaths of difference, but most of the time our optimal works in done in this time period and then our brain needs a break.
The amount of time you focus on a task is something you have to develop and find for yourself, and usually, has to factor in deadlines as well. What I want to cover today is the type of break you take in between those periods of productivity.
In the age of the internet, television commercials feel like something of the past. They are trying to make a comeback, but they aren't what they were. During live television, they have regularly scheduled commercial breaks, but if you're really enjoying the show they don't feel like a break, a chance to recover and get ready for the next adrenaline rush. They are frustrating as they often come just when things are getting good. These breaks pay for the show you're watching, but they actually hurt its entertainment value.
Many of the breaks people take during a work project often look very similar. They are breaks from the project but they don't allow people to recover their focus and creativity. These generally come down to checking email, Facebook, and Twitter.
Bigger, but fewer Breaks
Most of the time there isn't much gained by this quick check, but the time they take up in a day slowly starts to add up. A few minutes each hour can start to look like 10min when complied, and over 90min by the end of the day. The thing is that 10min chuck is also a good break time to do something that will relax you and help you recover your focus and attention span.
Break with Intension
To make it work you need to chunk it. I know sometimes when I check Facebook or email I feel like I'm cheating on work, and I'm anxious, knowing I should just get back to work, so it's not relaxing. But if I've scheduled the break then I don't worry. I also tend not to spend it on Facebook, but prefer a book or something from my Youtube cue of funny videos. Something not work related, something to relax my mind so I'm ready to focus again. Simply put 'Break with Intension'. Know what you're going to spend your break on, and pick something you really enjoy, or you will simply wonder back to email and social media, and likely nothing has changed since you checked it last time.