Self-Care Challenge (Day 169): Working in “Bursts”

girl working outside in the grass

On day 169 of my 366-day self-care challenge, I explored working in bursts.

At the end of each day, I love to look back on what I’ve accomplished.

Celebrating even the smallest of successes pushes me to continue working toward my goals. It gives me a boost of motivation.

But recently I’ve noticed that there are days when I accomplish more than others, and I wanted to understand why that is.

It seems that when I concentrate my efforts on a single task, taking only a few breaks throughout the day, I accomplish much less than when I shift gears periodically, working on a number of things.

I’ve learned that working on several of my goals every day produces results that are exponentially better. Frequent shifting gears–which my husband refers to as “bursts” – seems to maximize my productivity.

As my self-care practice for the day, I worked in these so-called bursts, taking several breaks to recharge my batteries and refocus my efforts on a new task.

In some ways, it’s similar to the Pomodoro writing technique, where writers work in 25-minute increments. It’s a time-based approach that increases productivity and creativity.

For example, I might do laundry for 15 minutes, then take a 30-minute walk, then write for 30 minutes, then call and make a doctor’s appointment…you get the jist.

Working in bursts is not synonymous with multi-tasking, though. The latter approach, while quite popular, and even glorified in many corporate environments, is neither effective or efficient. In fact, some research has shown that multi-tasking may even have a negative impact on performance.

While it’s not always possible to use the burst approach — looming deadlines and organizational priorities often dictate how we spend our time — this style is most effective when you have at least some control over your daily routines. And being able to set boundaries certainly helps too.

Scheduling work periods in chunks creates the needed space to complete tasks without unplanned interruptions. Taking regular breaks can help restore balance, especially for introverts who relish quiet time.

I’ve learned that I accomplish much more when I work this way, and that also means I get to celebrate more successes at the end of each day.

What’s your working style?

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