Do you crawl away from your desk when work is finished feeling tired and stiff? (Me too!) Even if I have had a productive day, a stiff shoulder doesn't feel like much of a reward. I could do some soothing yoga but I'd rather just lie down. (That happens to me too!)
One of the biggest obstacles to productivity is procrastination. How do we get through all of our work tasks and our play tasks? Our play activities are often rejuvenating and give us back the energy spent on challenging activities or work tasks. However, these challenging activities are usually the ones we spend most of our time on. How do we beat procrastination once and for all?
Be mindful, like the tomato.
The Pomodoro Technique ("pomodoro" is italian for "tomato") is a method of mindful productivity that rewires your brain.
Heres how it works:
Break down your project or day into small tasks. This can be work tasks, or both work and life tasks. For example, weeding in the garden, reading that book on Magritte, or preparing food for your family. I often add tasks that don't seem to fit anywhere and end up being overlooked and forgotten, such as staying in touch with a friend or organising some recent photographs.
Remove all distractions.
Choose one task and set a timer for 25 minutes = 1 pomodoro
Hold your focus completely on that task. Accept no distractions! Keep a notepad nearby and write down any distracting thoughts you have.
When the timer rings, take a short 5 minute break. Give yourself a reward. Get completely away from your workspace and clear your head. A mindless task such as folding laundry can even be a rejuvenating reward after a hard thinking session.
This part is essential to your productivity. Short breaks fight cognitive boredom, actually increasing your focus and helping you to avoid decision-fatigue. Big tasks are less overwhelming when broken down into small, defined periods of effort.
After your rejuvenating break, do the next pomodoro. If you did not get your task finished, start a new pomodoro session and keep working on it. If a task took longer than expected - more pomodoros - note this for next time.
After 4 pomodoros, take a longer break of 20-30 minutes.
Regular breaks increase motivation by reducing the time between rewards. By stopping before you lose focus, you rewire your brain to resist boredom. When you feel the urge to distract yourself by mindlessly checking social media, pay even more attention to the task you are working on.
This is excellent mindfulness training.
When I started to use the Pomodoro Technique, the first thing I learned was how badly I plan my time. I would always underestimate the amount of time it took to do a task. This increased my stress levels and seemed to eat up all of my hours. Now I know that writing a blog post takes about 3 pomodoros. I can plan my time much more effectively and weave activities that replenish my energy into my schedule.