by Susan McCarthy
Alternating periods of focused work with short breaks can help you stay focused and accomplish more.
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 do you work to finish a task and then give yourself a break?
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