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Saturday, December 17, 2011

30 Minutes

Jonathan's experiments highlight the importance of what we can accomplish in a very finite amount of time. Recently I've been trying to make a list of things I can do or would like to be able to do with some facility (i.e., ease) in 30 minutes. Things like:

  • Run five kilometers,
  • Swim one kilometer (I'm now almost able to do this),
  • Write a prose paragraph for academic purposes,
  • Copy-edit five paragraphs of someone else's academic writing.
Another way to think of this, however, is simply the ability to do something, some one thing, for 30 minutes without losing concentration or reaching the point of exhaustion. So, without thinking about distance, I'm certainly in good enough shape to run or swim for 30 minutes. I'm also experienced enough not to wear out my strength during the first 10 minutes.

The good thing about setting your pomodoro timer and going at some task for 30 minutes* is that gives you a stretch of time during which to focus your efforts. One thing you learn by this means is, precisely, to focus. You also learn how to do whatever it is you're focusing on better. If you go out for a run and always run out of breath after 10 minutes, start going for a 30 minute walk instead.

Many so-called cases of "writer's block" can be cured simply by actually writing for 30 minutes. So you have to have the ability to do that, at will. As I said in my eulogy of Christopher Hitchens's prose, the ability to do something at will implies an underlying strength. And you build up that strength in the same way that you demonstrate it—thirty minutes at a time.

*I'm not using this in the formal way Francesco Cirillo originally proposed but just riffing off Jonathan's use of the computer application. My "30 minutes" does not include the five-minute break, but it certainly could include such breaks when longer sequences (like writing four paragraphs in two hours) are considered.


Jonathan said...

Glad to have you posting here again.

Thomas said...

It's good to be back. My posts at RSL have become a bit dense. My plan is to keep writing those two longer posts a week over there and write something shorter, lighter, here.