Why you should be working in intervals

We get it, okay. We know what it’s like wanting to do anything in the world except the one thing you should be doing. And let’s face it, knowing that you “have” to do a certain task is boring. Whether it is starting to write a paper for school, working on a project that has a deadline that’s too far away or scheduling a not so important appointment, we just want to deal with it later. But why does it happen?

Believe it or not, this is something that has tormented humanity since the beginning of time: it’s such an atemporal problem that even philosophers such as Socrates and Aristotle had a word for it --“akrasia”--. Akrasia meant a state in where you act against your best judgment, which would mean doing something when you know you should be doing something else.

The reason why this problem is so common it's because human beings have a limited ability to focus on one thing, and when we perceive that a goal is too difficult to achieve or it’s going to take a long time or that it’s something really far away in the timeline of our lives, we’d rather concentrate on something else.

Focusing on one tedious task can result in the opposite of we want to achieve - feeling unfocused; and that’s because of something called “the basic cycle of rest and activity”. Throughout the day, our bodies operate in a way that they’re able to tell us when we need a break with symptoms like hunger, somnolence, thirst and you know, feeling unfocused, all of this because we become more reactive to our surroundings and we become less likely to think straight.

But what if instead of focusing on doing one long task, we separated it into smaller parts so we could see them as small individual goals?

We know how when we’re working out we should have a balance between exercise and rest to get better results and there are even techniques that are all about that (HIIT). And that’s because the human body is built to work in intervals, not only physically but also mentally and emotionally.

Having goals that seem possible helps us gain cognitive control over them since we are getting results in a much faster and constant way, which makes separating a task into smaller parts more accessible and less annoying. So maybe, the key to productivity is to work in smaller tasks to achieve the main one.

A great way to keep track of your achievements, no matter what they are or what they contribute to, it’s to let your teammates know about them, and hey, good communication has never hurt anybody; it keeps everyone in sync about what’s going on and how you can help or get help with a task and thus being another tool to create an environment of efficiency at the workplace. One of our ways to do this is by using a Stand-bot app for Slack, ‘cause it gives us all the info we need on what the entire team is doing or has trouble with. Additionally, when you choose to separate a task in parts, having regular stand-ups lets everyone know how much you’ve accomplished or on what stage of a project you’re on.

In a previous entry, we talked about how much we love the Pomodoro technique ‘cause by setting your tasks by relevance, priority or just in a way that you can get to them at the proper time, helps you work better and feel better, which is why we’ve adopted this method of work. To help us with it, we created our own project based on it and you can check it out, it's called Tomatoro.


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Jocelyn Ledezma

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