September 9, 2012

I stumbled on the Pomodoro Technique two years ago. It's not a difficult regimen, but neither is exercising and we know how hard that is to keep up. I've been trying to use it this whole time and there have been on and off periods. I'm currently in the middle of an off period, say maybe three weeks of not using it. And I must say, and this is just like exercise, you really notice it's absence.

It's like sprinting and jogging. You can get farther in one session if you pace yourself than if you sprinted. Well, that's not necessarily true. You could sprint the first few laps, then walk the rest if you absolutely have to finish, while the jogger laps you. It's so much easier to go all out from the outset. You're excited and feeling fresh and maybe you have a new cup of coffee. But you know how exhausted you can get, even if you just sit in your chair all day. What I don't think we realize is that we get that tired because we sit in a chair all day and don't get up. We're straining ourselves mentally, stretching it until we pop.

You know when you get the unfortunate task of blowing air into balloons before a party? You have to stretch them out a little so it lets the air in easier. You don't stretch it one big time. You stretch it out by pulling its ends multiple times in little bursts so you don't rip it. So work is like that. One long stretch isn't enough. To get the proper stretch, you need to do less of it at a time, more than one time.

You know how when you're working on something and you can't figure it out, or you're trying to remember where you put something and you cant find it, but then when you're eating dinner, or you're in the shower, or right after you wake up, you get this eureka moment about something that was staring at you in the face the whole time? Breaks work like that too. Except instead of waiting until the next day, their revelations could come at every thirty minutes or so. Let the subconscious part of your brain do some of the work. It's itching to anyway.

It gives you a goal to work towards for the day. Something to look forward to. Without it, your goals could be too vague. Depending on what type of task you're working on, you could severely underestimate or overestimate your end goal and be tired and unsatisfied at the end of the day. Or you could have no real goal at all if you're working on something long term and you work until you're too exhausted to move on. But with Pomodoro, you could have the very clear goal of working a certain amount of Pomodoros. As long as you have the time which is set very clearly, if you can reach the end, you'll feel like king of the world. You could work on any number of things, or any kind of long term thing, but since your satisfaction is tied to your effort instead of your output, you've always got a fighting chance to get to the finish line. Plus I've found that binding your tasks to time actually gets you to do more because of the time pressure.

Try it. It's surprisingly easy to plan your day in thirty minute chunks. That first day you hit your target, whether it be 12 Pomodoros or 16, feels amazing. It's just like a proper workout at the gym, which we all know is good for us most days.