Stand Up and Walk Away
A short read to help you conquer the world 25 minutes at a time.
A technique that can help you knock out your to do list.
By Wes Kennison
In my experience, the difference between having an idealistically planned day (that then doesn’t go like you’d hoped it would) and a realistically planned day is accepting a simple maxim, the 8 hour work day is a myth and in creative work you’ve really only got 2.5 - 3 hours MAX where you can be “blank page productive”.*
Once we’ve accepted that we all have a limited window wherein creativity can flow, it’s a matter of landing on the right routine for YOU to position that precious time appropriately so as to get the most out of it. There is a lot more to be said about creating conditions where you, the individual, can thrive in ideation. I’ll steer clear of that here in favor of doing it justice in later posts, but I’ll mention that even once the conditions are right you still have to manage the constraints your day throws at you.
Enter “Stand Up and Walk Away”.
Step 1: Write down what you want to accomplish on a piece of paper. Don’t type it, write it out, take a moment to connect with it.
Step 2: Look at your available time, let’s say it’s 2 hours.
Step 3: Divide your time by 30 minute intervals
2 hours/30 min = 4 intervals
Step 4: For each interval, write down the stopping point you will need to get to in order to have accomplished what you wrote down when the time runs out.
Step 5: For each of those items, write the specific steps you’ll need to take in each interval.
*HUGE caveat here, solving technical problems involving animation or code and writing/designing on a blank page are VERY different contexts. While I’ve heard of people in technical problem solving roles being able to time block like this, I’ve personally never been able to mix troubleshooting heavy work and time blocking lol. If you’re in an engineering context, some testing and prototyping inside of a Pomodorro styled constraint is perhaps a suitable way to incorporate this approach.
Step 6: Get yourself ready, set up a timer on your phone to 25 minutes, push start and work your plan.
Step 7: When the timer rings, stand up and walk away for 5 minutes. Walk around, look at the sky, notice what’s alive in your bodily sensations, get a coffee, and generally do your best to not continue to keep your brain activated in problem solving mode.
Step 8: When your 5 minutes is up, start the timer again, take a quick second to edit what you wrote down in the beginning for the next sprint (like really, it’s not going to go like you thought it would, embrace this and build it into your trajectory) and then crank on your next 25.
Repeat these steps until you are out of time. At the end of this sprint, it’s a good idea to wait on sending the thing you’ve been working on to it’s intended destination, if at all possible.
I like to treat these sprints as a time to overproduce, with the intention of culling back and sharpening up what I came up with in a later session.
Even just one 30 minute block to sharpen can be enough. Coming back to it the next day allows my subconscious to put in some work for me and put me in a better place to “punch up” what I’ve made without overthinking or overworking what I came up with.