Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Pomodoro Your Life

One of the best gifts I ever got was a Kindle. Ben got it for me for Mother's Day in 2012, and at first, I didn't really think I needed it. Over time, I started finding more and more uses for it- there were cute apps my kids loved. I could get the next book in a series when I was too impatient to wait for a library hold. Food prep was more tolerable when I spent the cooking time accompanied by my favorite shows on Netflix. Soon, the Kindle was one of the most used things in our house. And like all well-loved things, it started wearing out. It got to the point where apps would only work properly if I turned the thing completely off and started it up again. Today, I still use this strategy when my favorite show won't load on the Netflix app. The Kindle works. But most days, it needs a hard reset to get on the right track, and I end up wasting a lot of time time coaxing it to do the thing it's designed to do. The Kindle is me.

I've been down and out for month. For the past few years, I've been in a pattern where I go through long periods of time where I feel unmotivated, sluggish, overwhelmed, and generally terrible. I might have a breakthrough for a day or two, but it usually takes a hard reset for me to get back to a bare minimum. Even then, I can't guarantee that I'll still be in working order the next day. I'm entering a new season of my life, and even though the external pressures seem easier than ever (my kids are older, I'm well finished with grad school), for some reason, everything seems harder. I know I feel better when I'm active and that I am a creature of momentum, so I'm trying to swing the pendulum back to vibrant Ashlie. I'm gathering a new set of tools to coax myself into a positive routine, and one of my favorite efficiency tools is The Pomodoro Technique.

The idea behind the technique is really simple: short bursts of focused energy, followed by a small break. It's the embracing of the rules that is extremely helpful. During your 25 focus block, you are ONLY working on the objective that you set for yourself. Time your break as well as your focus time. After four blocks of focus time, take a longer break. Before you know it, you're powering through blocks of productive time with very little distraction.  

On a recent day of blog/personal organization work, I used Pomodoro to make a mind map of personal goals and assign due dates to action steps, draft 2 blog posts, add images and schedule social media for the posts, fill out my planner at the month view, fill out my planner at a week view, and develop and then implement a habit tracker. This added up to 8 focused work periods, which seems like a lot and a little at the same time. Even with no personal distraction, this amount of focused time was TIRING.

I used a few tricks to make my Pomodoro experience even more successful. I thrive on Gold Stars, so I needed a way to get points for not being distracted during my 25 minute focus blocks. Enter the Forest app. I use this often when I need a forced distraction from my phone. When you start up the app, a little tree begins to grow, and until your chosen time period is up, you have to kill the tree in order to get past the screen and into your apps. I set the Forest app to be in effect during my focus blocks, and also used a Google timer on my laptop to track the time and utilize a loud noise to mark the end of a time period. Because a focused day of using Pomodoro can mean a lot of sitting, I used Go Noodle to fill some of my 2-5 minute breaks. We use Go Noodle for brain breaks in my classroom, and I've used to get rid of energy with my sons, but I never thought of using it for myself. The videos are short and you can choose Zumba, silly campfire rhymes, yoga, mindfulness, and a bunch of other themed movement activities. It's accidentally Pomodoro perfect. 

I find Pomodoro to work best when there's a large block of time and a big list of tasks to tackle, but it can be used to stay on track for singular focused bursts, as well. I love seeing how other bloggers use Pomodoro- Xandra from Heroine Training has a great video about how she uses Pomodoro and Sarah from Yes and Yes mentions Pomodoro in her post on ways to increase your attention span. 

Have you used the Pomodoro Technique? How do you claw yourself back into an upswing? Let me know! Wishing you productivity. 

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At March 29, 2017 at 3:30 PM , Blogger Molly said...

I've never heard of this technique and it sounds wonderful! I have such a hard time pulling myself out of a slump, so I think this would be very useful at work. Also, that Forest app is GENIUS. Downloading immediately. :) May productivity and inspiration continue to strike for you!

At November 26, 2017 at 7:26 AM , Blogger Kerry Schultz said...

the same happened with me, it took me some time to discover the many uses of the device. and i really like the sound of the app that you have mentioned here, keep posting more


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