The Single Best Time Management Tip Ever

The Single Best Time Management Tip Ever

Most of us spend our lives at war with time–and time usually wins.  We’ve all read books and some of us have taken several courses on the subject as well, and, for the most part the books and courses seem to rehash the same common sense. But still, the feeling of being overwhelmed and underproductive is constant.

The big breakthrough came after I had read an article written by a teacher whose student had severe dyslexia and had asked for help.  Not knowing what to do, the teacher turned to an expert on learning disorders, and was advised to let the student take the exam in the teachers office, giving him short breaks every 20 minutes.  The student did very well, and surprised and intrigued by this the teacher went on to develop a technique known as the Multiple Put down Technique.  

Having read his article, I’ve used this technique myself on any project I’ve worked on and it works amazingly!

How does it work?

The most important thing to remember about this technique is that the gold is in the details, so follow the instructions exactly.  No matter what project or task you decide to work on, make sure to work the  task in 20-minute increments, with absolute focus, and then put it down, over and over, until you’re done, in order to do this properly make sure to:

  • Alert your brain that a task is coming that will require its recall, creativity, and brilliance (yes, your brain is brilliant).  Then let some time pass–maybe, a day.
  • When you’re ready to start, set a timer for 20 minutes, such as the stopwatch feature on a smart phone.  Set your mobile phone to airplane mode, turn off your email, and silence all other distractions.  Then hit start on the timer.
  • During the 20 minutes, you must focus on that task without interruption. And unless the building burns down, do nothing but work on that task until the timer goes off.  You may hit the wall, but keep going.  The vast majority of people find they can work on that task “in the zone” until the timer goes off.
  • After 20 minutes, you have a choice: keep working or take a break.  If you keep working, reset the timer to 20 minutes and go through the process again without interruption until the next 20 minutes are up.  If you decide to take a break, it can be short (such as refilling your coffee cup), medium (returning a phone call) or long (going into a meeting, or working out).



That’s it.  You pick it up and put down over and over, hence the name “Multiple Put Down.”  Reports show from the thousands of people who have learned the technique is that you are much more efficient–often finishing a task in 30-50% of the time it would take if you worked on it in one sitting. 


Even better, the quality of the work is far superior than if you followed your mother’s advice of “start early and just get it done.”  There are other benefits, too: less stress, reduced frustration, and a general feeling of being brilliant!


There are several advantages to the Multiple Put Down technique.  The first is that your brain is brilliant at running processes in the background, but is awful at multitasking.  While you’re driving to work, in the shower or answering email, your brain will be working in the background on the task, so that when you’re ready, it’ll drain through your fingers, into your computer or notepad, for about 20 minutes.  The break allows your brain to restock the supply of brilliance.  Each time you go through the process is a “productivity unit.”

Here are some tasks that are perfectly suited for Multiple Put Down: writing a report, preparing a pitch for a client or boss, figuring out how to solve a tough problem. 

Here’s my challenge to you: right now, take a task that’s nagging at you and use Multiple Put Down on it.  I hope you’ll share how it goes by posting a comment below.


Baiju Solanki


I did this when I was lecturing

Great technique, I remember when I used to lectuer, I would tell the students to read something for 20-30 mins, then forget about it, then read it again and the recall would be much better.

This is the same principal, multiple-put dows, get your brain re-engaged and focused for better reults!


Simon Raybould



Hi Samantha - ever read the work in this field?  Sounds a bit like a re-invention of the wheel here! :)

It's a handy technique, both for the reasons you've mentioned and others such as the Hawthorne Effect but - importantly - it's handy to recognise that 20 minutes might not be exactly the right time interval: that varies by the person and the nature of the task.

Personally, I find 20 minutes is ideal for writing a presentation but too short for when I'm at the research stage before that - it takes too long to get back up to speed after a break for 20 minutes to be appropriate. It's a matter of researching what's ideal for the individual/task combination.




Dr JOY Madden



Hi Samantha,

I enjoyed your article, particularly where you said “While you’re driving to work, in the shower or answering email, your brain will be working in the background on the task, so that when you’re ready, it’ll drain through your fingers, into your computer or notepad, for about 20 minutes.”

That explains why so many people have ‘eureka’ moments in the bathroom.  Also, Business Owners and others who are also musicians have been found to work much more effectively if they have a short break to play scales or practice a small section of music in between working on complex analytical jobs.



Andrew Horder


Interesting approach

I've been recommending the time-blocking approach lately, and I find 90mins is the right period for me.  I wonder, though, if I'm actually just un-knowingly doing 3 or 4 sequential 20 or 30 minute "multiple put-downs".

As with most things, it probably needs to be tinkered with, to find each individual's ideal period - some might do better with 15-minute mini-blocks, others with 25, maybe even 30.  Definitely worth trying, I'll give it a go.

I love the idea of the brain (mind?) storing up brilliance in the background, ready for download (structured brain-dump?) at the appropriate moment, and needing time to restock on clever stuff after the download.  Claire Gaudry's Brain Brilliance programme works in a similar way, alerting the brain that a creative task is about to be required of it, though her energising + coherence process is done just before actually doing the creation.  Now I'm wondering how it might work if we combined your priming a while in advance with her getting into coherence ... hmmm, interesting.


Matt Collings


It works!

Hi Samantha,

Great post. I didn't realise this way of working had a name or had been studied. By pure luck I found myself working in this way in a previous position and found it worked really well. 

So well in fact I've continued to work in this way for the last couple of years.

Thanks for posting.

Best wishes,