90 minute rule for writers translated into 90 minute writing sprints to push your boundaries and see what happens. 

“Human beings aren’t designed to expend energy continuously. Rather, we’re meant to pulse between spending and recovering energy.”

Tony Schwartz

I recently read an interview with former editor in chief of the USA Today network Joanne Lipman about her new book entitled: Next! The Power of Reinvention in Life and Work.

In the interview, the author talked about the “90 minute rule,” created by psychologist K. Anders Ericsson. The rule is (via Lipman’s personal interpretation) if you’re stuck in a problem, like writer’s block, you devote all your attention to that problem and nothing else for 90 minutes. You set a timer, lose yourself in the problem with no distractions, and power through for 90 minutes. Then, when the timer goes off at the end of 90 minutes, you stop. No excuses, no matter where you are in the problem, you stop. She calls it a hard stop. You immediately switch gears and go do something else.

The reasoning behind this could be to give your brain what it wants, similar to habits – deep focus. Doing some research, I learned that Ericsson studied elite performers, like athletes, actors, and chess players, to find out how they performed best. He discovered that 90 minute cycles achieved the best results.

Quoting the psychologist: “To maximize gains from long-term practice, individuals must avoid exhaustion and must limit practice to an amount from which they can completely recover on a daily or weekly basis.”

How can you look at the 90 minute rule, these 90 minute work cycles, as writing sprints? How much can you accomplish when, like an elite performer, you challenge yourself to keep going no matter what? No matter how blocked you might be feeling, or no matter how much your lizard brain is screaming at you to “check” social media? What would happen if you acted like an elite athlete and kept going no matter what?

A 90 minute sprint could be the key to breaking through writer’s block, writing yourself to a whole new and unexpected place, or maybe, if nothing else, practicing the art of doing nothing but thinking about your book. What could 90 minutes of energetic commitment to your book accomplish?

Related Articles:

Creating Author Writing Habits Now

Brainstorm Like a Ghostwriter

Resistance Comes From Our Minds Not Our Circumstances


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