This summer I found myself in the position of having to write nearly 1000 50-word article summaries. It’s a task that sounds interesting enough until you’ve written several dozen of them! (This was for our forthcoming book, which you will surely want to buy for all your friends and family.) The problem is primarily that the task seems endless and it is unvarying. And I was on deadline.
I found the answer in the Pomodoro technique. It’s pretty simple:
Set a timer for 25 minutes. Work diligently. When the timer goes off, mark an “x” on a piece of paper and set your timer for a five-minute break. Repeat. When you have four x’s, take a slightly longer break, 20-30 minutes.
This sounds like a lot of breaks, but those 25 minutes are solid work. Even I can go without Facebook for 25 minutes. As a result, I was able to work longer hours than I otherwise would have been able to.
I’ve been able to carry that technique with me into the school year. It doesn’t work for everything - classes and meetings being prime examples. But for grading, checking email, etc., it’s effective at keeping me on-task. I can work at most anything for only 25 minutes.
The x’s also help, not unlike stickers.
There are apps that will auto-time you, but it’s recommended you set the timer by hand each time. I guess it’s a way of taking ownership over what you are doing. I can’t vouch for that, not having used an app for comparison. One slight deviation I do make is that while one is supposed to stop work the moment the timer sounds, I take a few extra seconds to save any electronic work. You can imagine for yourself why that might be a sound idea.