By Leo Babauta

As we continue our May Dive Into Important Tasks challenge, let’s take a look at the interval technique we’re introducing in Week 2.

In Week 1, I asked you to pick one important task and focus on it for just 10 minutes.

In Week 2, the instruction is to do 2 sessions of 10 minutes your meaningful task first thing when you start working each day. Break up the two sessions with a 5-minute break. We’re training our ability to stay focused on what’s important, but in doable sessions.

This is similar to interval training in exercise — doing short sprint sessions, or rounds of bodyweight squats with a break in between. With focus training in intervals, you’re training yourself in small doses, but trying to be very focused during each of those doses.

So let’s look at some important points in this interval training:

  1. The intervals train our ability to stay, but in manageable doses. If you have trouble staying focused, this kind of training will help you get better at it. It’s nothing too difficulty (just 10 minutes at a time), but doing it multiple times will increase your ability.
  2. That said, you can go longer than 10 minutes if you like. If you’re in the first (of two) focus sessions, and you are in the zone, you don’t have to stop. The purpose of the interval is to break up the training so you feel you can do it. But if you don’t need to stop, don’t worry about it.
  3. Just try not to go too long. If you end up going longer than 10 minutes, that’s fine — just don’t overdo it. You don’t want to go so long that you are going to dread the next focus session tomorrow. A good idea is to always “leave some gas in the tank,” or leave yourself feeling enthusiastic with extra energy.
  4. You can work on the same task, or two separate tasks. If you do the first session with one important task, and want to switch to a second important task in the second session, that’s completely fine. Go for it! As long as they’re both important, meaningful tasks. If you want to just continue with the same one, that’s fine too.
  5. Don’t overdo your break. Try to limit your break to something short, like 5 minutes. Set a timer if needed. You want to get up stretch, walk around a bit, have a drink of water. Celebrate your victory. Then resolve yourself to start again, with full focus.
  6. Don’t get stuck in the indecision trap. You have a handful of important tasks that you could choose for your focus sessions — but how do you choose? If you get stuck in indecision, you might not ever get started. Instead, just pick one at random, or better yet, use your gut feeling. What feels right to you?

Don’t let yourself put off these focus sessions either, even if it feels slightly more daunting. Just start! Make the starting as easy as possible.

Keep at it all week, and you should get better and better at this habit.