by Susan Caplan McCarthy
If you work at your computer, chances are that you welcome in small distractions throughout the day. You decide that you can’t proceed with a task until you look up a few facts online. You feel the need to check a news feed … or the weather … or to see if your cousin posted pictures of the vacation you just remembered she came back from three days ago.
The Pomodoro Technique and the 52-17 Rule both include sprints of focused work followed by brief breaks. Time blocking can also help you stay focused by limiting the time you work on a project before switching to another activity.
The Pomodoro Technique
This technique was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s and gets its name from the tomato-shaped timer he used to improve his productivity. As a productivity technique, it doesn’t get simpler than this:
The 52-17 Rule
This productivity tool from Japan has you work in a focused way for 52 minutes and then take a 17 minute “break” where you do something of a more physical nature – take a walk, clean the house, drink some tea or coffee. You could even meditate or read a non-work-related book – but no scrolling through Facebook or any other social media, and no answering emails. The goal is a 17-minute break from work.
Repeat throughout the day. I know, the 69-minute blocks seem a bit odd, but the fact that it doesn’t align with an hourly clock is probably a good thing. Have you ever gone to start a project, glanced at the clock and thought, “well, starting at 9:52 is strange, I’ll just round up and start at 10,” for no good reason? Ah, anything to justify a bit of procrastination.
You can repeat 52-minutes of focused work followed by a 17-minute break as often as you wish throughout the day.
Does Timing Yourself Really Help You Get Things Done?
I like the theory of timing yourself to keep you focused. If I know that I have to finish something by a particular time because I then have something else on my schedule, then I’ll push to get the task done. (I do this during my weekly cleaning routine because otherwise I’ll dawdle.)
However, the 25-minute segments associated with the Pomodoro Technique seem to end just as I get involved in a task. And, for whatever reason, I can’t get myself to set a timer for 52-minutes although I know it would be a good thing to insert more breaks into my day. How about you?
Do you adhere to a pattern of focused work followed by a brief break during part of your day? Do you set a timer or work to finish a task and then give yourself a break? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.
Susan Caplan McCarthy
I help people focus on what's important to them by guiding them through clearing clutter and distractions from their lives. I teach decluttering and organizing skills through articles; books; courses; speaking engagements; as well as virtual coaching sessions.