Folks, I’ve been in a slump. Oh, I still put words on paper, but I could tell my overall daily productivity had waned. Little tasks kept popping to mind the minute I sat down at my computer. They’d bounce around in my head until I couldn’t hear myself think. Stupid things like the ever important need to paint my garage, or the nagging sensation that my hairdresser had finally texted to make an appointment. I’d pound out words, and think about everything else but my work in progress.
Some might say I had a concentration problem, that I needed to ponder what deep psychological block kept me from grinding out two to three thousand words a day. And I did take a moment of self reflection. There was something holding me back. But knowing it and mitigating it didn’t really help.
Then one day, I came across some slides about productivity. They covered the art of timeblocking, and specifically, the use of the Pomodoro Technique. The mention of a “tomato technique” intrigued me. Visions of stirring a bright red sauce in a pot on my stove seemed far more interesting than staring at words on my screen. Tastier, too. But the process had nothing to do with food. It focused on time.
The standard technique followed a pattern of 25-minutes work then a 5-minute break. Repeat the pattern four times and that last 5-minute break extended to 30-minutes. Then you started all over again for another 4-block cycle.
Basically, I’d give myself a reward of 5-minutes to do and think however I wanted as long as I focused on a task for 25-minutes. Then, after a solid 100-minutes of production, I got a long break—yay!
Well, it worked for me.
Knowing I’d get a chance to stretch my back, look out the window, and play with the dog after a short period of work allowed me to concentrate. That small bit of incentive made all the difference. No more “I won’t get up until I finish this chapter” mentality, which merely tired me and turned the office into a torture chamber. I started waking each morning feeling motivated, and have consistently surprised my neighbors by wearing real clothes instead of athleisure gear.
Within the Pomodoro Technique, people set their own work/break times, too. It doesn’t have to be 25/5, but any combination that worked best for an individual. Personally, I liked the 25/5—I felt I made progress each time the break alarm rang. And an app ran in the background as the timer, too, so no effort on my part, either.
My daily goal switched from word count to cycles. And after a fairy godmother waved a tomato-topped magic wand over my head, I came out of the slump.