An Experiment In Focus and Productivity

For over a year now I’ve been working from home. Having worked in an office for many years I can attest that I am much more productive at home vs being in the office. When I am in the office I get distracted by chatty co-workers, hallway conversations, and I spend way more time than anyone should have to trying to figure out how to use the copy machine/printer. Working from home allows me to avoid those kinds of distractions, not to mention saving me 2-3 hours a day in “getting ready” and commuting time.

However, there are things that still distract me no matter where I work. Things like social media, blog reading, or my personal "things to do list." Add on the constant dinging of new work emails being received and work-related IM’s popping up, and it can get tough to focus on the tasks at-hand.

Last week I felt very overwhelmed and needed to find a solution if I ever was going to get anything done. I remembered a post I read a few months ago on one of the “blogs about blogging” that I read. The post introduced (me) to the Pomodoro Technique.

The Pomodoro Technique basically advises working in timed sessions that are followed by timed breaks.

I did a quick search and found several apps for it. I downloaded this one to my Macbook and used it while working a personal project over the weekend. I got the work done much faster than I anticipated so I decided that it might be useful to try during work.

On Monday I downloaded this (free) app to my work PC and tackled a fairly large project that I had put off for days. I set the timer for 25-minutes of work with 5-minute breaks.

Guess what - it really worked.

During those 25 working minutes I shut out all social media, work emails and IMs and thoughts of other tasks that needed to be done. I found myself surprised to hear the buzzer ring signaling that it was time for a break. It had felt like no time had passed, and in those short 25 minutes I had gotten so much done! I was able to complete the project in one day originally thought that it would take 2-3 days to complete.

But something inside me wondered if it really was timer or just me finally putting my nose to the grindstone to the job done.

So on Tuesday I didn’t use the app at all. And basically got nothing done.

Oh I did a lot of work but that was the problem - too much multi-tasking of little tasks on a variety of projects but nothing fully completed versus focusing on ONE thing and seeing it to completion.

So I decided that irregardless of whether it was me or the app - I need to use the app. I used it again today and was definitely was more focused and productive so consider myself a full adopter.

Another advantage I found to using this method is that it forces me to take breaks.

During my 5-minute breaks I actually stand up and stretch, get a drink of water, etc. Sometimes I forget to do that and end up sitting in my chair for hours on end.

That’s not good for anyone, let alone someone who runs.

Oh and thanks to the Pomodoro app writing a blog post doesn't seem so daunting anymore...this is my fourth post this week. :)