In my ever-evolving quest for efficiency, I’ve learned a lot of things about myself. One of the things I’ve learned is that I, like my children, have a bad case of The Fidgets. Most parents do, to some degree, because when you’re following a little person around who’s got the attention span of a goldfish, your own has a tendency to shorten to adapt. Anyone who has small children knows the heartache of attempting to get into some project or another only to have a five-minute time limit on actual, honest-to-dog focus. I’ve spent years lamenting the loss of my attention span. But in the process, I’ve also reluctantly realized that just as my attention span has adapted, so too must my work habits.

Thankfully, I’m not the first person to reinvent the wheel. Several years ago, I (and thousands of other people) discovered a lovely woman who went by the name of FlyLady, who coaches people, through emails and her website, on how to clean your house. One of her principles is to take fifteen-minute breaks in between your tasks. Work for 45 minutes, take a break for 15. Otherwise it’s easy to look at a task or time chunk and become overwhelmed.

Taking that break doesn’t mean you’re leaving the task. But oftentimes, getting up to stretch your legs, focus on something else, or stop the screaming from the toy room is just what you need to get a fresh perspective on what you’re working on.

Setting a finite time to spend on a task also frees you to take up a task that might seem daunting if you need to do it all at once. “Declutter the basement” is a mountain to climb (especially in my basement), but “Declutter the basement for 45 minutes” is what–less than an hour out of my life. I think I can spare that to find Jimmy Hoffa’s missing body, eh? (Disclaimer: we didn’t actually find Hoffa, but we did find a colony of My Little Ponies that had gone feral. I still can’t talk about it without the shakes).

What about you? Do you find breaks help your workflow, or hurt it? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

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She’s absolutely sure he’s not the marrying kind…

He’s absolutely sure she’s right…

But he’s still going to prove her wrong.

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