Day 333: Preaching to the preacher

I have no idea who Nathan Kreitman is. I might like him if I knew him; at least, I like the way he thinks.

He said (I don’t know where, but probably at Blue Ocean Brain):

The typical person’s brain can only remain focused for about 90 minutes, and then it needs at least 15 minutes of rest. This phenomenon is based on our natural ultradian rhythms. By taking breaks roughly every 90 minutes, you allow your mind and body to renew — and be ready to fire off another 90-minute period of high activity.

First, I didn’t know what ultradian meant, so I looked it up. That’s the recurring cycles within a 24-hour period. (Think circadian, the 24-hour cycle…same, but different.) So what he’s saying is that we have cycles throughout our day that we can abuse or take advantage of, and if we work for about 90 minutes and take a 15-minute break, we are much more productive.

Everything about that goes against my Baby Boomer work ethic. OK, I’m in the last year of the Boomers, so I do tend to have some of that sarcastic Gen X personality, too, but I was raised with a strong work ethic, and I can be dogged sometimes.

So I’m really bad at stopping once I get started. Getting started is much harder for me. It seems, sometimes, that it takes me about 90 minutes to get into something, so I need to sit and work for a couple hours more once I get on a roll. I’d like to do the 15-minute break every 90 minutes, but it feels wasteful to me.

Maybe that’s why kids change classes every hour or hour-and-a-half. Maybe that’s what recess was about in elementary school. Somehow, we got away from that break, and I feel like I’m not giving it my all if I’m not working non-stop. Many days, I don’t even stop to relax at lunch time. I go get my lunch and eat my way through work. I think I’m not alone in that.

Don’t get me wrong…I’m highly productive, but I wonder if I could produce even higher quality work if I just took a walk, or played a game, or took a short power nap after each 90-minute period. Lots of countries are providing cots for nap time at work, so it’s not so far-fetched! Let’s give it a try!

DAY 333 HOMEWORK: I know I’m preaching to myself on this one, and this is a huge weakness for me. So the homework tonight is for me. Tomorrow, I’m going to set my stopwatch on my phone for 90 minutes and I’ll take a 15-minute break when it goes off. I’ll report back tomorrow night on how the experiment went. Want to join me? It’d be interesting to talk about.



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