Time Chunking: Backed by Science

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Newfoundland_dog_SmokyImagine walking up to two side-by-side booths at a festival and there are lines at both.

You’re trying to decide which one to go to. From outside appearances, everything looks the same. The actual service is being delivered behind curtains.

You pick one.

After almost a half-hour of waiting, it’s your turn. You go in and realize that the space between is open so you can see both vendors.

“Your” vendor is sitting, poised and ready to serve you.

The other vendor is working with a customer while holding a Newfoundland (makes my German Shepherds look like Yorkies) so she can’t eat the leftover lunch stacked beside the chair and swiveling his head back and forth telling his daughters to stay within sight.

You secretly rejoice that you picked the right line. Even though you, and your vendor, are distracted a bit by the scene beside you.

First, this is a true story of an experience I had over the weekend.

Second, this is what email and social media have become to many business owners: either outright distractions which make it hard to do the things which bring your business revenue or constant interruptions pulling you away from your focus.

Researcher and author of The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, Daniel Levitin collaborated with Vinod Menon (Stanford professor of neuroscience) and they discovered that a part of the brain called the insula is responsible for switching our brain from high-focus to unfocused, depending on the task we’re working on.

When the insula is balanced, we can be either extremely focused (increased productivity) or can be completely caught up in daydreams (boosting our creativity).

The problem is when our insula is imbalanced by distractions such as social media, email checking, frequent interruptions or a lack of energy due to not sleeping well.

The solution?

What I’ve done and promoted for years: Time Chunking.

Here’s how Levitin describes it in a recent New York Times article:

“If you want to be more productive and creative, and to have more energy, the science dictates that you should partition your day into project periods. Your social networking should be done during a designated time, not as constant interruptions to your day.

Email, too, should be done at designated times. An email that you know is sitting there, unread, may sap attentional resources as your brain keeps thinking about it, distracting you from what you’re doing. What might be in it? Who’s it from? Is it good news or bad news? It’s better to leave your email program off than to hear that constant ping and know that you’re ignoring messages.”

You can check out Levitin’s full article here.