My Paradoxical Brain | Clockwork Tomato

Over the course of the last few months, I've been working integrating time management techniques into my daily life.  I have a paradoxical brain suffer equally from possessing an easily distractible (I had to add this word to my  Blogger dictionary-- go figure!) brain as well as a brain capable of long periods of intense work and concentration.

With such gray matter goofiness, the only way to train my brain better to both not get distracted AND to not get immersed in a deep dive is to set some time structure that makes sense.  I have found some wonderful timer apps both for my computer and my phone, and I have been using them in a way that I would describe as haphazardly disciplined.  With several months under my belt in using these timers to force myself to do what I consider unpleasant tasks, I have noticed that I'm able to undertake tasks more easily as the timer creates a finite period for fulfilling the task.

A couple of days ago, I stumbled upon the Pomodoro Technique (Pomodoro means tomato in Italian) when looking for some productivity apps for my HTC One.  (How I love that phone).  I don't plan to write about the technique here, but you can read about it here.  The technique involves using a 25 min/5 min work/break ratio. There are apps that you can get for your pc ( or your smartphone.  I am using the Clockwork tomato app. (You gotta love that name!)

This method is suited to those such as myself who are stationary workers.  Because I'm desk-bound in my job and have many tasks that have to be done, this application is well-suited for my work.  With my paradoxical brain that is capable of many distractions as well as getting lost in work forgetting to give my poor body (or it) a rest, this technique is perfect for those who need a structured time environment, and some help easing into a  task as well as easing out of one.

I've been using this method for three days (over my other timer methods deployed), and it is a perfect fit for me. First, the app is integrated with the day.  I'm not stringing together unrelated timers and the like.  Because the Clockwork tomato app is highly customizable (let's say that you want a 50 minute work session and a 10 minute break), you can deploy a version of the method that works for your type of work.  Admittedly, the 25 minutes is not ideal for some of the things that I have to sit down and do.  Nevertheless, it is a perfect amount of time to start something to make some headway.

Because the app is ticking in the background (which one can mute, but I would suggest not doing so--it is a great reminder that time is passing), and one can visually see how much time is left, then it is a great way to direct focus and effort.  Truthfully, it is your own "beat the clock" game that you are playing with each start of a pomodoro session.

A small digression:  Many years ago, I was serving on a VSCPA committee and one of my colleagues, who I only saw a couple of times a year, showed up looking remarkably thinner.  His secret?  Each hour on the hour, he got up for 10 minutes and walked around and drank 8 oz of water.  Now the small things do add up.  So taking 5 minutes away from your task at a 25 minute interval, or 10 minutes at a 50 minute interval, gives your brain space, and gives your body time to move.  I've never forgotten my colleague's result (even though his name long-escapes me). 

For someone like myself that gets lost in my work to the detriment of my poor body (and brain) deploying this technique over the last few days has had noticeable results.  In my 'rest' periods, I've done the following:

  • brief exercises with a body bar
  • yoga breathing
  • yoga stretches
  • drank 5 oz of water at each break
  • walked through the house (when working at my home office) and picked up items, or started laundry etc. 
Over the course of the day, those breaks add up, and you have a refreshed body, a tidied space, and some blood and oxygen coursing through your body.  More importantly, one gains a time structure that onec an synchronize one's mind/body to so that one can effortlessly (okay, better) accomplish the daily tasks at hand with forethought on how much time something will take and efficiency, as the clock is ticking in the background!

For my past bad habits when I would enter many successive days (having done so in the last 6 months) strung together of 12-15 hours of work with inadequate movement and hydration, I always emerged from those clusters of work feeling drained and ill.  So much so, that I would sometimes have to go to the doctor to get my body unstuck.  And it was all work, not any of my other necessary things that needed to get done.

For those of you with these struggles of needing an assist to start a task as well as some fall protection so that you don't fall into your work without being able to get out of it for the sake of your mind and body, I highly recommend this technique and this wonderful app.

I'll continue to work with this technique and integrate it with my deployment of  Getting Things Done - The Art of Stress Free Productivity by  David Allen.  On that front, I introduced one of my clients to this marvelous, flexible system of David Allen's.  It's a small company, and all of the staff is deploying it. The president, who is very organized, is finding it provides him a greater finesse to his current system, and feels the benefits immediately.   In just a few short weeks, all are feeling less stress, more organized and more productive.  For my own part, I'm refreshing my utilization of these techniques, because it does work.


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