15 minutes, what can you do in 15 minutes? You can achieve more than you think if you give yourself the chance. Sounds simple doesn’t it? But it can be surprisingly difficult to focus exclusively on one task without getting distracted by the endless, competing calls upon your attention – email, social media, 24/7 news…
The impact of this distraction is twofold. Firstly, the task itself takes longer. Secondly, it takes time and neurons to refocus once distracted from a task.
University of Minnesota business professor Sophie Leroy describes the “attention residue” that happens every time the brain has to shift its attention from one task to another. Part of your brain is left processing the first task as you switch to something different. Then more brain power is needed to fully refocus on what it was you were doing in the first place.
The result of this can be that the time you allotted to complete that report, or to plan that session, has slipped through your fingers like fine sand without you even realising it.
The solution for me came in the form of an unusual birthday present which, ironically involved grains of sand … a rather aesthetically pleasing egg timer that counts 15 minutes at a time. The idea is that you make a conscious choice how you want to use the 15 minutes in a way that is deliberate and mindful. The presence of this sleek glass egg timer has been quietly revelational. It sits by my laptop and, at moments when I can feel the familiar impulse to shift focus to some other activity, prompts me to pause and take stock. What has struck me is exactly how much can be achieved in 15 minutes if you are truly focused on the task at hand.
Maybe it’s time to stop kidding ourselves that we’re proficient multi-taskers and keep focused on what we really want to achieve… 15 minutes at a time.
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