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thoughts and ramblings of a pedal powered geek

Pomodoro or Something Like It

Several years ago I heard about the Pomodoro technique. At the time I was working for DreamHost and was really struggling with staying on task and such, and sorta flailing for something to work and make me more productive. That struggle continues to this day.

When I was very young, I was diagnosed with ADHD, and put on medicine. I have been off of that medicine for a long time as my doctors said I had “outgrown” it. I’m not so sure about that anymore, as I have noticed that I am still extremely susceptible to distractions.

For instance, I’ll go and quickly check twitter to see what’s going on. Then, because I’m already in that context, I’ll check my email on my phone. I’m currently looking for work, so staying on top of incoming emails is important! And of course I can’t not look at how my my Neko Atsume cats are doing. And for some reason lately I’ve taken to looking at Facebook. With facebook at least I mostly check to see if there have been any new notifications (comments on my ‘posts’, likes, whatever), but since I’m in an active private group now I’ve been keeping tabs on that. By the time I get through all of that, I go back to twitter “just one more time” and lo and behold, more tweets! And then I’m back to my email … the cycle continues.

Last week after discussion with my therapist, I decided I needed to really get on top of being productive with the time off that I currently have. I’ve been off work for almost 2 months now, and looking for work, but I’m not going to lie and say I’ve been burning the midnight oil in my job search. And that’s actually fine. I was so burnt out from my previous job that I needed the time to myself to relax, to decompress, to right myself again and recover. That is literally the reason I left my job, because I felt like I couldn’t make that recovery while continuing to work there, as the environment was just too triggering for me.

However, I’ve been just wasting time. Spending hours going back and forth between various things just literally wasting time. And not in any sort of cathartic, theraputic, or productive way. Totally devoid of any function.

With the sheer amount of things I want to achieve in my life, this wasting of time, and my recognition of it as such was really bringing me down. And of course when I get down, I start feeling bad about being down, and that cycle drags me in as well.

Enter: the pomodoro technique.

I decided that I wanted to get productive. I would wake up ‘in the morning’, and do my morning routine, then figure out 3 things I wanted to do for the day. I’d then sit down, set a timer, and start working on them. After the timer was up, stop, take a break, go again.

Except I would often either “work through the timer” and keep going, eventually getting distracted and realizing that hours have passed. Or I would fail to set a timer for when my “break” was over, or I’d start working on a task where a timer doesn’t make too much sense, or whatever. I’d get maybe 2 intervals in and that would basically be that for the day.

I’ll admit, those intervals were great, and I managed to get some stuff done, but it didn’t quite do what I was hoping.

One of the treatment methods my therapist uses is called Mindfulness. My former therapist used mindfulness as well, and I’ve been slowly working on mindful meditation and working my way through Search Inside Yourself. The problem I’ve had with mindfulness is, ironically, not being mindful enough to remember to be mindful. Something I’ve considered doing is putting a post-it on my monitor, or a sign on my wall, or something that just says “be mindful”. That way, I’d see it from time to time and it’ll be the external trigger I need to remember to be mindful. Eventually, I would hopefully be able to do away with the crutch and just be mindful all the time, but at least this would get me stared.

With that in mind, and trying to adopt pomodoro at least for the time being, I’ve begun setting timers, not to tell me when to stop working, but just to ‘wake me up’. Especially if I know I’m heading down a path full of distractions, like intentionally checking email or twitter, setting a timer to break the cycle may be able to help. I would rather keep hitting snooze on a timer when I’ve got my head buried in a project even if I’m not going to stop working on it, than spend 5 minutes working on it and the next several hours just mindlessly wasting time.

During the course of writing this post I had to reset my timer several times. I’m hoping that eventually, along with my “be mindful” post-it (which I am now actually going to do), I’ll be able to do away with the “stop being distracted” timer, and either move to proper pomodoro, or maybe something entirely different. But at least I won’t be just outright wasting so much time. Funemployment is great, so long as it’s fun. I’d like to start having fun.