How to Stay Focused: The Power of 48 Minutes

Is there magic in the number 48? Does this number hold any significance in your future success? Speaker Don Crowther suggests that there is. In his presentation at the NSA Summer Symposium, Don told the audience that 48 minutes is the magic number. Here’s how it works… Set a timer for 48 minutes. Close out all distractions and work continuously for 48 minutes. When the timer goes off, get up and stretch, get coffee, use the restroom etc, in the following 12 minutes. Repeat as necessary.


Don reports that this technique repeated four times a day allowed him to write a 200 page book in just two weeks. The ability to focus on one task for 48 minutes straight was the key. I have been testing Don’s idea and I have to say it works well for me. This eliminates the distractions that have a way of derailing even the best laid plans. Taking a short 12 minute break once an hour is refreshing but not enough to get you off track. You can learn to stay focused easily with this method.

How to Stay Focused

So the question comes up, If this solution works well how can I use it in planning out my daily schedule and applying it to future goals. Can I successfully write a blog post in 48 minutes? Can I write a book chapter in that time? As I’ve tried the process, it has been a challenge to sit in one place that long. But when I do my productivity soars. I find it best to just keep writing, not worry about mistakes, and get everything on paper. Once I have the points on paper I can go back and make my edits and corrections.

My usual morning schedule has about 2 hours of productive time available. I’ve tested the idea of blogging for an hour and then working on a book for the second hour. So far this has worked well with standard length blog posts and has yielded a book outline.

There does seem to be magic in the number 48!

This technique does require a little planning and it helps to have a coffee cup warmer on your desk. The best timer I’ve found so far is a countdown timer with large numbers and a loud alarm. The easy to view numbers give instant feedback on how much time you have left.

Using this simple technique may help me streamline my daily blog postings and help me be much more consistent. The book outline is taking shape and given me hope of actually completing the project.

Update: This technique helped me write my first book (first draft) in a little over three months utilizing this method for two hours per day. Currently it allows me to really focus on my new book and easily get my 1,000 words in per day. It’s actually quite easy to learn how to stay focused.

If you find yourself getting distracted on your projects give this simple technique a try. It has really helped me focus and get things done!

Discover the 48 Minute Empower Hour (Helpful Video)


  1. says

    I have tried this technique, It works pretty well, I don’t think it matters much how much time the breaks should be or when you should be taking them, test several numbers and find out what fits best for your business (or whatever are you doing) and age, after you settle down on something, you will instantly notice the very positive results and increase in productivity, its so simple and very effective.

  2. says

    Actually , i think this number has a numerical power when concerned with astrology .

    Apart , from that , there is an important scientific fact that MIND can concentrate , at a stretch , for a maximum of 40 minutes . I came across this at our local news paper . So i think that is the fact behind this magic number .

  3. says

    Thanks for the replies everyone. Ah Rolandog the number 42… there may be something there. Ace… the number 48 might really mean Jimmy Johnson in NASCAR?? Samer, thanks for your positive update. Peter… I’ve been testing a few Windows timers and trying to decide on the best one. I’ll post later. Yes Poldo, I am a little crazy. Bootcat, I am currently leaning towards 50 minutes as my working number as it is a much easier number to work with and divide up into smaller segments.


  4. Prescott Indigo says

    Good article. Toggling between intense focus on a well-defined task and break activities which are easy to start/stop is the key to a sustainable productive cycle for the knowledge worker. I’ve also learned that I can beat a moderate sudoku or lose a game of Pac-Man in 12 minutes. :)

  5. Forget 48min of work! says

    I’ve been having great success doing the opposite: 12 min of work, and 48 min of relaxation.

    It’s highly effective: by the end of the day you’ve done just enough work to have accomplished a small goal or two, and you’ve had a great time “in between” :-)

  6. says

    Saw this link posted on Liz’s site–what a great idea! I make up a “to do” list every day and then try to work down it but have so many things to do that it’s sometimes hard to stay focused. Having a time limit of 48 minutes (and break to look forward to) helps. As my desk at home is in a corner of the kitchen, I can use the timer on the oven (about time I used that oven for something!) Thanks for sharing.

  7. shobitha says

    why the 48?? when you set a time will you not be increasing your stress levels to complete a task?but worth a try

  8. Greg says

    I take a slightly different approach. I have several different project types that I work on. Some are more fun than others. I set a timer for 45 min work / 15 min break for stuff I am not fond of, and 90 min work / 20 min break for fun stuff. I find I can concentrate on the fun stuff longer but still need to limit myself to avoid overdoing it to the point where it become unsavory.

  9. says

    Determining the “ideal” time chunk is a really interesting question. There probably isn’t a single “one size fits all” answer. A few perspectives: Drucker suggest 90 minutes, and there’s 96 minutes (80-20-ing an 8 hour day).

  10. says

    A possibility to enhance the effect of this method might be to promise yourself a r e w a r d at the end of the time period, like: having a coffe, allowing oneself to surf the internet etc.
    This has not only a positive psychological effect, but might also keep you from doing these things while working and so distracting yourself.

  11. Sanjay says

    Power of 48 Minutes.
    I wonder if it related to Pareto’s 80:20 principle?
    Here goes the relation
    48/60 80%
    12/60 20%
    The 12 mins of break {20% of time-taken-off} gives the remaining 48 mins of work a great productivity

  12. Barani says

    Wondering whether this 48 minutes might be the reason in Indian schools to have 50 minutes as one session (2 minutes to set ready & disperse)….

  13. says

    Wow! Little did I know that the technique I used when writing my dissertation actually had a name! The power of 48 minutes is exactly what I did. I would type the dissertation for 45 minutes and then crosstitch for the 15 minutes remaining (as well as get up and stretch). Doing this consistently enabled me to work 12-14 hours straight on the dissertation, and I also finished a few small crosstitch projects too! I think I'll go back to this concept!
    To your success,
    Dr. Laura

  14. says

    Significance of number ’48’ is evident when transformation is concerned.

    Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, sat under a bodhi tree for 48 days attempting to understand the nature of reality and Universe. Buddhism was the result.

    According to the Mishnah,Torah wisdom is acquired via 48 ways.

    In Jainism:
    – The ayu of the new existence is always bound during the life immediately preceding it, especially in the 3rd, 9th, or 27th part or within the last 48 minutes of life.
    – S?m?yik is a meditation for 48 minutes. This is considered to be the highest form of religious discipline.
    – In Navkarsi, Food and water is consumed a minimum forty-eight (48) minutes after sunrise.
    – Jain Gyanis advice to avoid touch of a physical dead body at least 48 minutes after the departure of Soul.

    Meditation of 48 minutes is a stepping stone towards transformation of self.

    In Hinduism:
    1 Muhurt = 48 minutes

    The shortest duration of time that the karma can remain in the soul (Jaghanya sthiti):
    – Twelve muhurt – for feeling karma
    – Eight muhurt – for body and status determining karma
    – 1 muhurat – for knowledge obscuring, perception obscuring, deluding, obstructive, and life span determining karma.

  15. says

    Hey just wanted to give you a quick heads up. The words in your post seem to be running off the screen in Opera. I’m not sure if this is a format issue or something to do with internet browser compatibility but I thought I’d post to let you know. The design and style look great though! Hope you get the issue fixed soon. Thanks

  16. says

    I have read something similar to this before and now schedule my day in “workblocks” alternating between uninterrupted work and 15 minute breaks in between. This is excellent productivity advice!

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