Productivity Cycles and Creativity

productivityIn a recent post in Fast Company, writer Drake Baer talks about 90 minute productivity cycles and why we need to unplug to be our most effective. He references the “rest-activity cycle” that researchers have found to be the basis for an optimum night’s sleep, and now, they believe the same principle applies to work as well.

This was interesting to me because just last weekend I spent a good deal of time working in my gardens and found that I can work for about 90 minutes, then need a break not just physically, but mentally to plan my next phase of work. When I stretch it to 2 hours or more without a break, it is not nearly as productive, (or fun).  However, an even more interesting thing happened during the 90 minutes I was working. The answer to a problem I had been mulling all week suddenly appeared before me. Later that evening, I spent about 90 minutes writing it down and filling in the various pieces of the project.

You might recall that a previous blog of mine explained how solutions appear when our mind is focused on something completely different than the project at hand. So, I’m now putting the two concepts together and wondering if this isn’t the answer to not only productivity, but maximum creativity.

Just think about your current day. How many breaks do you take? Do you spend 90 minutes on a project and then take a 20 minute break? If your workplace is like most, you’re interrupted constantly and have a series of 30 and 60 minute meetings to discuss and decide on things. If the 90 minute rule for productivity applies, we’re shortcutting the process with these meetings. I’m not suggesting that we make all meetings 90 minutes I’m suggesting that some may not be necessary at all and that we really evaluate the purpose of the meeting in light of the combined goals of optimum productivity and creativity. If the meeting is an information share only, I would simply ask if there might be another way to deliver the information vs. in a meeting?

Just for this week, try it for yourself. For those big projects or chunks of work you have to do, schedule 90 minutes of uninterrupted time to work on or complete the project.  Schedule multiple if needed. Always take a 20 minute break between and measure how much you get accomplished as compared to the previous week.  See if any “ahas” showed up, solutions to completely unrelated problems, and how you feel at the end of the day. Productivity and creativity are not just “things that we do,” they are states of mind and I am positing that if we think or feel we are more productive or more creative, we will be.

If it works for you, share it with your team. There is nothing more exciting than to lead a team of highly productive, creative individuals that are having fun while doing it.