A Perfect Number
Through all my reading and writing about personal productivity, the number 25 seems to appear quite a lot. It surpises me how often I can learn a new tip or track, and somehow the number 25 will sneak its way into the picture. In short, the number 25 is not only a perfect square, but also the perfect excuse to write about productivity and life habits...
It's a commonly held view that twenty-five minutes is the optimal length of time to focus on a task. In fact, according to the Pomodoro technique which I have mentioned in a couple of my videos on YouTube, a very productive way to divide your work schedule is into 25-minute sessions, with 5-minute breaks inbetween (i.e. pomodoros). Then after four hours of work, you take a longer 20 minute break.
I'd highly recommend you check out this awesome article I read on the topic too: How To Pomodoro Your Way To Long-Lasting Productivity. A 25-minute block can be enough to ensure you keep consistent with a difficult project or be simple enough to just get you started. Additionally, 25 minutes us also the perfect amount of time to review stuff you've already learnt and want to quickly recap.
If a task on your to do list is longer than 25 minutes, you probably need to re-define the task or break it down. Most likely your chosen task is too general (e.g. "write essay on X") and needs to more specific. In other words, the 'task' you created probably more closely resembles a 'project' with several smaller tasks that need to be completed.
Creating long 'tasks' also results in very poor feedback loops. For example, if your daily schedule consists of 3 or 4 project-sized 'tasks', you're going to feel pretty hopeless about yourself when you only manage to accomplish 1 of them. However, if you break down each of these projects into multiple smaller tasks, you're going to feel motivated to keep moving forward if you accomplish a bunch of them throughout the day (even if you do exactly the same amount of work!).
One of the biggest advantages of allocating a maximum of 25 minutes to each task is that, with a single glance at our daily to do list, we can estimate the maximum time it will take to complete it all. In reality, the maximum number of tasks on your list on any given day should be 25. Therefore, the worst case scenario would be to have 25 tasks of 25 minutes each, which is a total of 625 minutes of work i.e. 10.5 hours.
However, you must bear in mind that different tasks will take different lengths of time to finish, ranging from a couple of minutes to the full allotted time. I usually like to categorise my tasks into those taking 2, 10, or 25 minutes, which allows me to integrate greater flexibility into my day and balance my workload more efficiently.
How long does it take to develop a new habit? There is no single correct answer. In fact, this article on habits says it can take anywhere between 18 and 254 days to form a habit, which is hardly reassuring!
I am convinced that repeating a daily task for just 1 month (or 25 days) is enough time to rewire our brain and make a positive impact in our lives.
And since we are talking about habits, just one 25 minute session daily should be enough to make positive improvements in whatever aspect of our life we seek to upgrade. For example, 25 minutes of exercise daily can revolutionise your life if you've been neglecting it for the previous few years. Or jusy 25 pages of reading daily will lead to you reading many more books over the course of the year. Committing more time to these actions often leads people to a fear of being worked too hard too soon, and sure enough we abandon them. It's better then to stick to 25 minutes, knowing you've made a small step towards where you want to be, rather than doing nothing at all!