The 50-10 Method
I have figured out the final boss of life - being productive for sustained periods of time. Read on to learn how you can completely change your life in the next 50 minutes.
We’ve all heard of the Pomodoro Technique by now. It is not a new idea - focus on a task for 25 minutes, take a break for 5, and then repeat.
I’ve used it, if you’re reading this blog, you probably have too. It got me through university, helped me build some of my very first websites, and I use it for my morning writing still to this day.
However, I have come to (by much trial and error) the conclusion that the 50/10 time blocking is superior in every way.
I know I’ve written about The Magic Hour a couple years back, but I have changed my tune by TEN WHOLE MINUTES.
25 minutes is not enough time to really get into flow.
25 focused minutes is great and is far more sustained period than most people focus for on any given day, so I’m not shitting on the classic Pomodoro. For me though, there were many times in which I felt I was really making a dent in the universe and ding, ding there goes my timer, interrrupting my flow state I worked so hard to get into.
There are more times than not that I wanted to continue with what I was doing, but it was time to get up for the break.
After that 5 minutes, I have to reset and start again. Whereas 50 minute blocks allow me to get into flow, maintain it, and get far deeper than the classic method. I actually believe the 25 minute method to be a conspiracy - it gives you a taste of productivity, but not the whole slice. Call me a tinfoil hatter.
I think the 25 minute timer was a way to get you in the door.
The 50 minute slot is the actual experience.
50 minutes allows Deeper Focus
I said it above, but in myself, 50 minutes will get me further than two 25 minute blocks just because there is no resetting and breaking of state. We should do a scientific experiment to see what is more productive in most people, but from the amount of youtube “study with me” videos that are now 50/10 - I would assume I am not the only one that feels this way.
The reason is that most people take about 20 minutes or so to really achieve a state of deep connection with their work. And then you’re going to take a break 5 minutes after you develop that connection? 50 minutes gives me half an hour of deeper focus than any 25 minute pomodoro-er will ever get.
Tip: Try watching one of these thousands of videos when you’re doing your work session, it’s somewhat of a psychological hack to work alongside someone else (you see someone else working, therefore you do, too.) Call it the intelligence of crowds.
50 minutes is actually obtainable
90 minutes of deep focus is aspirational. I watched a Lex Friedman video about his day, and he works in 4 hour blocks. I would love to be able to do this, but I also have clients, employees, contractors and other people and things to reply to. If I’m away from the phone or from replying to my team for 50 minutes, that is reasonable, but 90 minutes becomes a bit much.
50 minutes is a happy medium, and it seems to be as productive for me as 90 minutes would be - why? Because in a 90 minute block, I will inevitably pick up my phone or get carried away with something, or get torn away, or, or, or.
50 minutes of deep work, followed by 10 minutes of break is probably the answer (for me).
If you have the ability to work in 90 minute sessions or even longer, go for it, I kinda like it in the early morning (5-8am), but during regular work hours, there’s really no potential for it for me.
Before you say “just reply to your people after 90 minutes”, the issue is that I am the bottleneck for my team a lot of the time, therefore the more that I manage, the more that gets done. If you are in a position of managing people and assets, you understand this phenomenon.
A 10 minute break is more Utilitarian
With my 10 minutes between sessions, I generally do pushups, pullups, stretch, and use the time to a much fuller extent than I would if I had 5 minutes. This means that the break is productive in and of itself. What can you do with 5 minutes? Go to the bathroom and respond to a text or two?
With 10 minutes, you now get to get in a workout, prep for the next block, and feel better. I am a huge advocate for this break duration. Lately, I’ve thrown a couple hundred pounds on a barbell and have done deadlifts between sessions to make my back feel better. Feels good, brah.
Now, after 6 or so sessions of work-workout, I needn’t go to the gym, I just got an hour of workout in my 6 hour work day. I train more like 12 minutes on very good days.
60 minutes with a 10 minute break messes up schedules
The reason I love the 50/10 is that I can stay on the hour, every hour. I can quickly and without effort tell you when I will be done for the day. With 60 minutes, there’s math involved because now my session is 70 mintues instead of a round number. I’m sure this matters zero in the grand scheme of things, but for me, it’s nice to think about ending at 10 instead of 10:10.
This is stupid and pointless, but for some reason, it’s a psychological thing for me.
How do I do it?
Simple. Set a timer for 50 minutes, and dive into whatever you want to be working/studying on. When the timer sounds, add 10 minutes, and go do whatever you want as a way to decompress. I personally recommend working out and getting a sweat going - you negate much of the detrimental effects sitting does to you.
Then, when the 10 minutes are up, reset the timer to 50 mintues and repeat. Do this for as many blocks as you want in a day. I would love to get up to ten or twelve blocks, as some people on the internet have done. I will get there one day!
With this method, I have regained much of my focus, and I am happier when I clock out at the end of each day - knowing that I actually did deep and focused work that moved the needle.
How do you like the 50/10 method? Do you do something else as a way to stay focused when you’re working? Post in the comments below.