I love the Pomodoro Technique, hugely popular for task time management, and crushing, mincing, and dicing procrastination... sorry.
Developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s, the technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals. Twenty-five minutes is the suggested time frame for each interval. This technique has helped me and likely millions of others overcome the seemingly insurmountable by bargaining 25 minutes of my life in exchange for the reward of my choice in a short break, and ultimately providing unfettered access to flow.
But if you're unable to hit the 25-minute model of focusing on one task at first, try focusing on a single task for half of that amount of time, and work your way up. My tomato soup version started with a smaller amount of time in the beginning, training my neuron synapses (word of the day… your welcome) to be even stronger each following day.
On boring tasks where I’m struggling with procrastination, this technique works really well to get the ball rolling. Reminding myself there is a reward at the end of the time limit is my golden carrot or Matcha Tea reward. I give myself a time box to focus on that single task, channeling the project with tunnel vision and a mental stopwatch, no phone, no excuses! And I have a clear outline of what a successful completion of that task is going to be.
If I don't finish my task in my time allotment, no worries. At least I have begun to pry open the door and have started cracking the code to move my dreams forward, picking up again when I have the mental space. More Matcha tomorrow.
I now know that next time a little bit more will be accomplished than last time. That’s how our brains start to build the architecture of success, each time becoming easier, more familiar, and more habit-like through repetition of practice. Though the tasks can vary, the process of digging in to find flow looks the same. Having a go-to method about how to deal with the barriers helps me wrap my brain around what would otherwise feel huge and overwhelming.
For larger tasks, I like to give myself time to just math through how I would achieve success before I start my timer. I prepare for the task by moving obstructions out of the way (literally, in the case of painting the garage).
For this task, something I really didn’t want to do, I started by declaring my need for a time window to be set aside in a “do not disturb” manner.
I took time thinking through the steps. I checked out a video tutorial (I love learning from other people’s experiences.) I had to find paint, the drop cloth and the proper brushes. I needed painter’s tape and a step stool.
And so the path to flow began.
The planning of the project has pulled me in like a vortex, and eureka! I found flow! I'm now able to recognize the feeling of flow and harness it. Outta my way kiddos, mamas painting!
The reason Pomodoro encourages a 25-minute time block is that procrastination and impediments seem to be overcome at the 20-minute mark, correspondingly when flow seems to take over. So I baited myself with a smaller window of time and effort but enjoyed the time-flying benefits of flow, even on something I didn’t want to do
I use my watered-down Pomodoro technique, my tomato soup version of the technique, even for small mundane tasks that I don't feel like doing, like unloading the dishwasher.
When chess players were teamed up with players who were 4% better, the challenge excelled their game. Now I add the 4% challenge. When we challenge our skills by as little as 4% (a very doable gap) we create motivation and incentives that are within reach.
My reward is now self-driven and intrinsic. These are massive keys to harnessing productivity. I am competing against my old record in a positive way.
Three minutes, twenty-four seconds, thank you! ...Huffing on my fingernails. Not sure if I hold the world record for dishwasher emptying, but I am good at tricking myself into getting things done.