Use Productivity ‘Sprints’ When Your Attention Span Is Low

Use Productivity ‘Sprints’ When Your Attention Span Is Low

When you have a lot of work to do, a short attention span can be disastrous to your productivity. But instead of fighting it, you can use it to your advantage by working in “sprints” rather than trying for a marathon session. Like the Pomodoro technique, the sprints method has you work in a series of shorter bursts, so you can get your tasks done without your attention or productivity lagging.

What is the sprints method?

When using the sprints method, you’ll be doing short bursts of work with breaks in between. That’s really all it is, but since taking breaks is fundamental to being truly productive, it’s effective.

Though, as noted, the sprints method has some elements in common with the popular Pomodoro method—which sees you work in tightly timed bursts interspersed with breaks that are also tightly timed—this one is a little more fluid. With the Pomodoro method, you work for 25 minutes, then take a five-minute break. After four cycles, you take a longer break. When you’re doing sprints, however, you determine beforehand how long you need to (or are able to) focus, and set your timer based on that.

The trick to using sprints rather than the more rigid Pomodoro method is goal-setting: You should set a longer-term goal, like completing a big work project by the end of the week, and sprint to get there, using however many sprints that takes you. Each sprint should get you to a smaller goal, like finishing a chunk of the project, and you should time it to encompass exactly the amount of time that smaller goal will likely take. By modifying the timing instead of relying on the 25-minute rule, you won’t be interrupted by your timer before you’re done with the mini task. You’ll stay in focus mode until the task is complete, while remaining fully aware that a break is coming.

If you’ve having a hard time figuring out how much time will be necessary for each task chunk, consider forgoing the timer altogether and instead committing to just working in a sprint until the task is complete. One of the most important elements of this approach is staying in deep focus for the amount of time it’ll take you to get the task done—so keep your phone away from you and shut out any other distractions. Then buckle down and concentrate, whether the task takes you 10 minutes or 30.

Things to keep in mind when using productivity sprints

Since your goal isn’t just to work for a predefined amount of time, but to get a specific task accomplished, you can (and should) work as hard as you can without focusing too much on how long it’s taking you or if you’re getting everything right. If you’re writing a paper, for instance, one sprint can be dedicated to getting the words you need down. After your break, the second sprint can be about editing for clarity.

Getting full tasks done during your sprints will give you a feeling of accomplishment that you might miss if you rely more on the timing than the output. Besides, getting interrupted by a timer in the middle of a major focus is a drag, while sprints allow you to be more task-focused.

Breaks should be half as long as sprints

Don’t skimp on the breaks—however long a mini task takes you, give yourself about half that time to recover before moving on to the next one. If it takes 30 minutes to get the words on the page, pause for 15 before editing. These are sprints, not a marathon, so prioritize the bursts and the recovery periods.

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