Finding time to focus your energy and attention and get into a flow with your work is the surest path to productivity. Flow and focus don’t always come easily, however.
Isn’t it fascinating how on some days you can’t seem to get out of your own way – while other days you can settle down at your desk and address mountains of work with what feels like minimal effort? What is different about those days? How can you access and harness that kind of energy?
I suggest that you try something like the Pomodoro Technique. It’s a simple strategy for chunking your time and building in short breaks, with the goal of enhancing focus and flow. While I would suggest using longer increments of time for your work, so that you can fully engage and focus, here are the basics of the technique:
The basic unit of work in the Pomodoro Technique can be split in five simple steps:
1. Choose a task to be accomplished
2. Set the Pomodoro to 25 minutes (the Pomodoro is the timer)
3. Work on the task until the Pomodoro rings, then put a check on your sheet of paper
4. Take a short break (5 minutes is OK)
5. Every 4 Pomodoros take a longer break
As simple as it sounds, I’ve found that it’s a very powerful tool. Given a clear task and a discrete block of time, you optimize your ability to focus. The brief breaks are rewards for tasks accomplished. Stepping away for 5 minutes allows you to return to your tasks refreshed and ready to refocus. (It also gives you a chance to move – very important for those of us whose work is primarily desk-bound!)
Peter Bell has written a compelling post about his experience with the technique and some of the ways that he adapts it to his own work style. I encourage you to do this for yourself. You may find that bigger or smaller chunks work better for you. Perhaps you do better with a slightly longer break. I see the basic structure as the important part here – the details are yours to customize.
Have you found focus and flow in your work life? Are you looking for ways to increase both? I invite you to get yourself an egg timer and try the Pomodoro Technique. Then, please be in touch – I’d love to hear how it goes!
© Copyright 2009 Paula Eder, Ph.D.