Photo by Immo Wegmann on Unsplash
First day back at work after a week off. I also spent a couple of days the week before out of the office, so understandably my task list has grown legs and is trying to stamp all over me.
I started to get on top of it this morning. One of my kids, full of catarrh, spent half the night calling out, needing drinks and cuddles and tissues and loo stops. So at 5.30am after they’d replaced me in bed and I had nowhere to escape to, I started filtering my emails, coming up with my plan of action for the day.
Check in on plans
Email these people
Back on the hamster wheel
I’ve gotten into a good habit of writing the last 3 weeks, but that’s often in the evening, and after last night I know I won’t make it past the kids’ bed time today with any ability to think.
So I have to squeeze in today’s post between meetings.
Actually I’m fortunate. I have time. I can be flexible. But my mind is mush – keeps drifting, getting distracted by email, phone calls, ‘oh look there’s the CostCo membership card I thought I’d lost – what a great article about Kirkland I read on holiday – I should visit’, etc, etc.
So it’s time to employ one of my favourite methods for focusing…the pomodoro technique
Developed by Francesco Cirillo, the Pomodoro Technique helps you to break your work down into achievable segments. It’s named after those old tomato-shaped timers
How this works is:
- Clear your distractions,
- set a timer for 25 minutes,
- work and then stop for a 5 minute break.
- And repeat
You can apply this to almost any kind of work. Individual work that is. You can’t walk out on conducting an operation, or mid-way through a client meeting or whilst teaching a class of kids (although many of my high school teachers did) because the timer runs out.
Did you notice these timing markers? I’m tracking how long it takes me to get through this article, counting down from 25m.
But I can’t concentrate for that long!
I get it, I really do. I used to be like this when studying at school. The process of reading a text book about some uninspiring subject, then attempting to condense it into notes to then answer questions about the same dull subject matter just killed me. So much so, that I went to university to keep studying (chose another dull course which I had to change) and then took accounting exams for some more pain (a career I switched out of not longer after qualifying).
So what I do when I need to crack the distraction cycle is stand up and get through 20-30 star jumps, 10 squats and 10 push ups. Then I’m fired up and ready to go again (NB – this isn’t so easy to do in the office). That will take 30-60 seconds of your 25 minutes
I’ve found it to be so effective that I’ve taught my son the same thing. When he was learning to read, his eyes would glaze over as he read out loud to me. So I’d give him 2 minutes to run around the room. Get the blood pumping and the adrenaline surging. Then back for action. Worked (almost) every time.
If you’re reading this blog, the chances are high that you’ve heard about and tried the pomodoro technique before. If not, give it a try and let me know how you get on.
I’m not too sure if writing sprints are similar, since it’s about setting the timer and going to town on the draft, but I’ve benefitted from them too. I don’t do strictly pomodoro per se, but I can see how it can help you focus, especially when you’re short on time. Anyway, thanks for this post!
Great point! Next time, I’ll try to hammer out the first draft in 25 and review at a more leisurely pace. Thanks for engaging Stuart – great to see you here.
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