We’ve previously advocated the importance of focus. But have you ever noticed how some hours you’re absolutely cranking out work, whereas during other parts of the day you have to summon all your will just to focus for five measly minutes?
Bestselling author and 99U speaker Tony Schwartz suggests making use of our ultradian rhythms, natural cycles in our days. He works in 90-minute intervals, and then takes 20-minute breaks. Schwartz explains why in a Harvard Business Review article:
I typically get more work done during those 90 minutes, and feel more satisfied with my output, than I do for any comparable period of time the rest of the day. It can be tough on some days to fully focus for 90 minutes, but I always have a clear stopping time, which makes it easier.
I launched this practice because I long ago discovered that my energy, my will, and my capacity for intense focus diminish as the day wears on. Anything really challenging that I put off tends not to get done, and it’s the most difficult work that tends to generate the greatest enduring value.
Schwartz’s advice boils down to a simple principle: go with the natural rhythm of your body by doing focused work in spurts. He also reminds us of a second piece of wisdom, which is to get the important stuff done as early into the day as possible.