If you read certain productivity advice, we should be banging out work like machines throughout our workday.
In reality, we ebb and flow through our day. We have times of the day when we can concentrate better, and times when we feel tired and unfocused.
But even during our best time, it can take time to get a task started. Today, I want to reflect a bit more on the time it task to getting a task started.
Just like when we have an in-person meeting, we need a bit of time to lead up to the actual conversation of the meeting. There’s the act of walking to the room, and, depending on your workplace culture, more or less time to catch up with everybody and just get settled.
Similarly, I usually need some time to get a task started – time to sharpen my pencil, put all my materials in front of my, select the music, and brew my coffee. There’s always a bit of on-ramping when it comes to working on a considerable task.
The time it takes to get started is one thing. Then, there is the time it takes to get sucked into the task completely.
Knowing that it takes time for me to really get into something has informed my time management over the past years. I was cutting up my days in shorter and shorter timeblocks, trying to juggle everything. I now know that I can 30 minutes of “contacts tasks” (my general container for replying emails of people I want to stay in touch with but have no direct collaboration with, as well as the time I take for scheduling meetings and calls) but 30 minutes of “research” is usually not going to get me anywhere.
So, I now try to fit the minimum length of my timeblocks in my weekly template to the type of task (and its associated cognitive load). I’m still playing with this idea, but I thought it’s an insight worth sharing. (And because I like musing and sharing halfbaked ideas here).
Do you have some on-ramping activities to set the tone for your tasks?