As I approach the start of the new academic year on a full time post-graduate programme, while working and giving up my time for the local elections in less than a year, I have decided to start looking for ways to improve my time management and productivity of the time I dedicate to each specific thing. One thing I experimented with this week was BeFocused, an app that gives you alarms based on the Pomodoro technique.
It wasn’t up for a good start. If the goal is 10 intervals a day, and you start the day running work-related errands and not tracking the time, it’s not going to be adding up by the time you need a lunch break. There is no option for a lunch break unless you use the 15 min break, so what I’ve done was skip the break and start the timer again after lunch. Also it feels a lot like potty-training a toddler or puppy (not that I have ever done that, but I imagine that’s close to this), but that’s TMI. One major issue with it so far, though, is when technology doesn’t collaborate so you end up with nothing to do in the 25 minutes slot, and you have very long phone calls that go over at least one break. This is supposed to help your productivity, but my working day today seems not to suit the Pomodoro model at all.
Off to a better start, as I’m home all day so I can attempt the 10 cycles, no problems. The only issue is, I realised that keeping the volume on to get the alarm means I get notified of everything else coming through, which isn’t going to help focusing. For that reason, I turned on Do Not Disturb and guess what? No ringtone to notify me I finished my 25 minutes. My first break was wasted trying to work out how to stop incoming notifications other than BeFocused. I was successful in having the long break at lunch time, but it turned out 15 minutes are just about enough to cook my lunch and spend 2 minutes eating it before it’s again work time. And that’s because I lack the gift of patience (which popped up as my Echo prayer prompt at midday!) and I stopped cooking the pasta as early as humanly possible. Maybe the long break time needs a re-think.
The plan of getting a longer lunch break has been imperiled by a headache at the start of the day. The only vaguely productive things I managed to do were out of the house once the headache went away. I also wrote a whole blog post focusing for an extended period of time, but never thought about turning on the app. Keeping my phone on silent and upside down does the trick.
My (now daily) headache went away early enough for me to be able to get into London and sit through a very long meeting. No pomodoro technique used, or needed. The headache came back later in the evening, but I managed to go through another important meeting and a good hour at the pub with a friend to debrief. All considered, a productive day.
I had to take the day off sick as my headache did not go for most of the morning. I tried to use the rest of day to relax and make sure if it was a cold coming up, I would stop it in its track (but apparently blocked noses are a symptoms of cluster headaches, which are more like what I’m experiencing). Splitting Jason Batesman’s filmography in 25 min chunks doesn’t seem like a great idea, so the app went unused again.
After a day being busy (there’s a byelection going on) and then having a headache, and a day in bed with the same headache for most of it, I wonder about whether to try the app again next week. My diary is looking like there aren’t few occasions for tasks I can put in 25 min chunks. In fact, I find most tasks I deal with don’t benefit from 25 min intervals. I’m forgetful and it takes one little distraction to lose track of what I was doing. I find I’m more productive if I end things when I can easily pick them up again. Maybe one week isn’t enough, and I should play around with the intervals before I give up on the system. I can see some benefit in taking short breaks once in a while, especially getting up from the chair during long days at the desk. I know I can get lost into it and not move for ages, and so my waistline can tell!