New Work Structure

I get distracted easily.

It happens to me all the time. I've never been diagnosed with ADD, ADHD, or anything of the sort. I don't think I need to be diagnosed although I had a number of friends in college who faked their way through a medical analysis so they could be prescribed medication that would help them study better. I was never one of those people and I'm okay with my short attention span. It is difficult for my to pay attention for long periods of time without a structure in place.

Work is a unique struggle for me because I'm trying to balance the legitimate distractions of email, Slack, iMessage, social media notifications, and more. In the past I've bounced around getting things done and moving on to the most recent notification. I'm productive this way, but it's draining. Mentally, I end my days feeling exhausted. I often feel like my days have been wasted. Even when I have plenty to show for my day, I go home feeling like I have only garbage and a frazzled brain to show for my efforts.

Yesterday, that changed.

I stumbled on to something called the Pomodoro Technique. It's a system for focusing on work that helps people work with time instead of against it. I'd argue that this system works in favor of those with short attention spans. I was thrilled by the discovery and gave it a shot yesterday afternoon.

The process is simple:

  1. Choose one task
  2. Set a timer for 25 minutes (my iPhone in this case)
  3. Work on the one task until the timer rings, then put down a check mark
  4. Take a five minute break
  5. Repeat steps 1-4 three more times, then take a 15-minute break

I did this four times yesterday afternoon. I got more done in those four segments of 25-minutes than I feel like I've gotten done in ages. I know that is not entirely true. Part of the secret to being productive is feeling productive. I'm a gut reaction guy and I make most of my devisions based on how I feel. I felt productive yesterday afternoon.

I was able to knock out a number of important items on my work To-Do list. I wasn't afraid to work on the same task for two 25-minute periods with a 5-minute break in the middle. It helped me break up the monotony of almost an hour of working on the same thing. During my 5-minute break, I got up and walked around my house. In that short time, I played with my dog and watered some plants on the deck. As soon as the timer ran out, I sat back down and jumped back in to my work without missing a beat.

I think one of the secrets to making this technique work for me in the long-run is to spend 20 minutes every evening mapping out my work for the following day. I keep a running list of my projects and other items I am responsible for getting done. Be referencing the list and breaking up the work in to actionable 25-minute chunks, I've got a solid approach to my work.

I'm also considering putting my devices in "Do Not Disturb" mode during my working periods so I don't run the risk of being interrupted. I can check email, Slack, and other messages during my break periods as I'm up and about. I'm going to start by dedicating at least one of my 25-minute blocks purely to email and administration. I'm happy to do that, but I'm tired of the simple distractions of messages taking away from my work instead of leveraging them to make my work better.

I'm excited about this new structure and will keep you posted on my progress!