As the world is moving faster and we must speed up our work (and life) performance to keep up with it, productivity regained the spotlight. This topic was once discussed among factory owners during the Industrial Revolution; now, it’s up to each individual to test and implement the most optimal productivity strategy that will bring more results in less time.
But thoughts on productivity and efficiency are as old as time itself. Distinguished researchers, scientists, and writers are especially known for spontaneously coming up with their own approaches to productivity. British novelist Anthony Trollope was no exception and published over 47 novels, besides his non-fiction and plays, following a 15-minute writing routine.
Taking a look into the past, let’s learn from Anthony Trollope’s 15-minute routine and understand how this technique can be applied to most various contemporary work regimens.
Learn more: Being In A Flow State: Deep Focus While Working
Anthony Trollope’s 15-minute routine
Born in the XIX century, just before the start of the Victorian era, Anthony Trollope lived during a critical period for British history and literature. Authors like Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, and Charles Dickens were publishing their most famous work, while the Waterloo battle had just happened and Darwin’s Origin of Species was taking a toll on everyone’s beliefs.
It wasn’t an easy time to become a new author, let alone to be a civil servant, but Trollope was both. Not only did he manage to keep up with two very distinct careers simultaneously, but he excelled in both, experiencing recognition for his written work during his lifetime and after. The first book of his Chronicles of Barsetshire sold over 1,000 copies, an outstanding achievement for that period.
But how did that man, through his twenties all the way to his forties, keep up with two jobs and excel in both? It was all thanks to his 15-minute writing routine.
1. Finding time for the task
Trollope’s primary job was as a post office inspector. If he wanted to write, he would have to find time for it in between his main responsibilities. I’d say he foreshadowed one of the most famous life-coach lines ever: “if it’s important to you, you’ll find the time for it”.
So, he dedicated three hours to writing every morning, from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m., before work. According to his autobiography, he paid extra for a servant to wake him up at that time with a cup of coffee ready to go.
2. Tracking the time spent on the task
Besides sparing a specific time for his writing (a.k.a. time blocking), Anthony Trollope was determined to use those three precious hours wisely. With no time to waste, he wanted to ensure he was seizing every minute to write, so he used a pocket watch to track the time.
After reading his previous manuscript for half an hour, he would then write 250 every 15 minutes without distractions. Such an effort led to approximately ten written pages per day and about three finished books per year.
3. Focusing on one task at a time
Trollope’s routine makes all “new” productivity hacks and tips seem obvious: he abolished any type of multitasking and would devote those three hours solely to writing.
Without any fancy gear or methods, he would deeply focus on that one meaningful task and achieve the most results in ⅛ of his day.
Applying the 15-minute routine to any task
Although Trollope’s routine was initially developed to make his writing hobby viable, such technique is applicable to most, if not all, hobbies and tasks one decide to commit to.
Here’s how you can leverage his routine to improve yours:
Use the time blocking method
Leaving things for change or “when you have the time” is the key to failure. The best way to make sure you’ll execute a task is to set the time for it in your schedule with the time blocking method.
Luckily, my team is constantly improving Akiflow to make it the best tool for time blocking. If you need that extra incentive to start using this technique, give our tool a try! Time management has never been so easy.
Find a way to hold yourself accountable
Anthony Trollope made sure he would always be on time for his writing sessions by paying his servant to wake him up. Things have gotten much simpler and cheaper since, we just have to set up an alarm to have the same result.
But if you need more than waking up earlier to guarantee you’ll execute your chosen task, you must find incentives to help you hold yourself accountable.
You can ask a friend to check on your progress from time to time or even bet some money to make failing too painful to be an option. Whatever it takes, find ways to be disciplined with your goals.
Keep track of your progress
“When I have commenced a new book, I have always prepared a diary, divided into weeks, and carried on for the period which I have allowed myself for the completion of the work.” – Autobiography, Anthony Trollope.
Consistency is key, but following up is a must. Keeping track of your task’s progress is essential to motivate and give you a better sense of your performance.
Trollope published 40 books by deep-focusing during three hours of writing sessions divided into short 15-minutes blocks. If he did that while keeping up with a full-time job in the 1800s, how much can you get done in 15 minutes?
His and many others’ examples of outstanding productivity in old times are reminders that we can get a lot done if we set our minds to it and use the right tools and strategies to help us along the way. I am a time-blocking enthusiast myself, and much of my work routine is inspired by Trollope’s and divided into several short sessions.
Productivity doesn’t have to be complicated; it’s instinctive!