Do you ever have so much stuff to do that you just sit there and do none of it?
It’s amazing how a to-do list can be paralyzing. Failing to do anything is a sure way to feel horrible by the end of the day.
I have discovered a method which works wonders for my productivity when I have a bunch of things to do. It’s a really simple concept called focus sessions.
This is sometimes called the Pomodoro Technique (more on that here) and the idea is easy-to-follow. You set a timer for a short burst (25 minutes is just about right) and work with focused intensity for that time period. Then, you give yourself a short 5 minute break. After you’ve done four rounds of focus sessions, you can take a longer, 25-30 minute break.
Why does this help?
Personally, this helps me because it provides a time boundary. Thinking “I need to do all this laundry” is a lot more overwhelming than thinking “I will do laundry for 25 minutes.” It tricks your brain by chunking tasks into more manageable time periods. It also helps me avoid getting burned out by just hammering away at a task for hours until my eyes are crossed and I’m exhausted. For some people, this can almost turn things into a game of “how much can I get done in the next focus session?”
What can I use this for?
I have found that this concept works great for so many things. I’ve been using it mainly for cleaning or organizing tasks. If I have a day available, I’ll make a short list of some household tasks to complete, such as “clean microwave,” “do laundry,” or “sweep floors.” Then, I’ll set the timer and work on only the things on the list for that time. This gives me the freedom to choose what from the list I’d like to do at any time, but I’m still getting the things done that I need to focus on.
This technique is especially helpful for intense focused work, like writing or working on a project. It gives you enough time to get “in the zone” but allows short enough breaks that you won’t burn out.
Is there an app for that?
Yes. There are quite a few pomodoro-style timers in the app store. I’ve been using a free one called “Focus Keeper,” but there’s a long list of them which do about the same thing.
Of course, you can always use a good old fashioned timer.
I hope you give this a try and let me know how it works for you!
You can always reach me in the comments below, on Facebook, or through email (firstname.lastname@example.org).