The 33:33/5 Creativity Hack

Shamelessly stolen from http://davidburch.com/40/3333-5-timer-productivity-hack/

December 15, 2010 By David Burch.

33:33 Timer Screenshot

Timer Hacks

Productivity experts like to use timers for a a good reason: it works.

There is The Pomodore Technique, the 10-Minute Dash, and The Procrastination Hack. But the earliest timer hack I’ve heard of was by a copywriter named Eugene Schwartz, who used a simple digital timer to consistently crush his competition.

Ritual is the Zen Way of Getting Things Done

Each day, Eugene Schwartz would start work the same way. He would sit in the same place and go through the same routine to signal to his brain that it was time to begin. According to Schwartz, “Ritual is the Zen way of getting things done.”

Set a Digital Timer for 33:33

To give the Schwartz ritual a try, pick something to work on, and set a timer for 33:33 (thirty-three minutes and thirty-three seconds). Why? Because it is enough time to get a good amount of work done and, more importantly, it is easy to set when you are in the flow.

For the next thirty-three minutes and thirty-three seconds, you can do anything as long as it is related to the work at hand. You are not allowed to do anything else.

Take a 5 Minute Break

The timer must be loud enough to rouse you out of intense focus. When the timer sounds, it is just like a timed college entrance exam: pencils down, no more work. If you are in the groove, that is too bad, you must stop.

For the next five minutes, you can do anything else you like. But it must have no connection with the work at hand.

Make a pot of coffee. Stretch. Do a quick 5-minute fat-burning workout. Shave. Do anything but work.

Let the Magic Happen

During the 33:33 work period, your mind is focused and logical, and you are operating with blinders on. Studies have shown that on average you can hold only seven images in your mind at once. You are unable to use the full power of your brain to make connections.

During the 5 minute break, your focus is elsewhere, allowing your unfocused mind—your subconscious—to work on the problem.

Your subconscious has complete access to the entire network of ideas available to you, but you have to unfocus or unplug to allow it to work on creating connections.

Think back to when you have received epiphanies. Most people get their aha moments while shaving, while showering, while driving: when your mind was not focused on the problem.

Flesh out the Details

While you are inspired, set your timer for 33:33, and start writing. Record your inspiration, flesh it out, and use your logical mind to work out the details. Then take a 5 minute break to allow your subconscious to create new connections.

But don’t overwork yourself. Schwartz believed in working harder, not longer.

The Genius of Mozart

Eugene Schwartz used an example of how Mozart composed to illustrate how this ritual works.

Mozart would compose at a billiard table. He would take a ball and bounce it off a side rail so that it would bounce off the back rail and other side and come back to him.

The trajectory of the ball would be slightly different each time, which kept his conscious mind occupied tracking the ball in order to catch it. While the ball made the trip, Mozart’s subconscious connected with the perfect note. He wrote down the note, caught the ball, and started the ball on another trip. And he never rewrote.

Here are some of favorite resources that illustrate this method of working. What is your favorite productivity hack, article, information product, or tool? Let me know in the comments section.

Productivity Articles and Courses

David will get a referral fee when you click on the affiliate link to buy Robert Plank’s Time Management on Crack. If that upsets you in any way, it is easy to find using a search engine.




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