I have nothing against zombies and squirrels -apart from the not getting bitten part- but I really don’t want to behave like either one of them. You’ll see what I mean if you read on.

Let me start my suggestion of the week with a confession. I talk really fast and I have trouble sitting still. When I am forced to sit on a chair, like now when I want to get work done on the computer, then it’s always been very hard for me to focus.

Since a lot of my work involves the computer I have learned to slowly reach “the zone”, my focus mode. I can stay in focus mode for a couple of hours, but I would also easily get catapulted out of it by a phone call, a knock on the door, me running out of coffee or other banalities. For a very long time my answer to this problem was simply to lock myself up in the basement, in a library, or work through the night. And prepare about a half gallon coffee of course.

As you can imagine, this behavior is not very social. The more I had to write the more I had to disappear, without cellphone access or other means to reach me. Well, or I would be pretty unresponsive even when present due to zombie-like tiredness. Since it wasn’t sustainable anymore to be unresponsive for half of the day, something had to change.

Squirrel_dsI actually had mentioned this problem months before and this is how long it took me to finally find something that worked. Now, that I made it my habit I want to briefly share what I do for those of you who may have similar problems.

You have probably heard of the Pomodoro Technique. When I first heard about it, I didn’t give it much benefit because I would already need 25 minutes to reach my focus mode. And I also didn’t like all the tracking and estimating, because it would just distract me from my tasks at hand.

From my weekly planner, I already had a good feel how much I get done in a week. Beyond that I don’t care how long it takes to get done, because all that matters is that I get it done.
However, I had to make progress in shorter blocks of time, which also allowed me to stay around and do something else in between these blocks. That is what is great about the principle behind the Pomodoro technique. A short focused block. But I had to do it my way.

So here it goes:

1) I can tame my inner Squirrel for about 15 to 20 minutes, so I set a timer for let’s say 20 minutes.
2) During this time nothing distracts me from my task.
3) Everything that comes to my mind that is not task related and I deem too important, is written down quickly and pushed out of my head again.
4) When the timer goes off, I immediately stop what was doing
5) I set the timer for 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the list from 3 or other things I want to do.
6) Now is time to either browse the Internet, read emails, transfer tasks from the list to Asana or a to do list, make coffee or do something that is relaxing.
7) I start with 1 again until it’s time for a bigger break (e.g. lunch) or the task is done for the day.

That’s it. Pretty simple, right? For a timer I either use my phone’s or Google’s timer (just google “timer”).
photo credit: Salmando via photopin cc
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This is Quick Tip No 35