I quite like the Pomodoro Technique. I've used it enough to understand the appeal and have found it fairly effective at times. But it solves a problem I find I generally don't have. So I've subverted it.
What Pomodoro does is give you little rewards in the form of a five-minute break every 25 minutes or so (or at an interval you define). The idea being that if you have a grinding task, it's easier to break it down and have lots of short breaks. As opposed to one long break after one (very) long work session. It also has other knock on benefits.
I find, though, that once I've started on a task, the breaks tend to be a distraction, not a relief. Besides, there's not a lot you can do in just five minutes. Nothing particularly meaningful, anyway. The classic example is having a quick look at social media; knowing you've got a break in a few minutes will help you keep focussed on the task at hand.
But, I usually find doing this quite a jarring experience. Going from what I was concentrating on to something else is, frankly, annoying. And the temptation to keep looking at social media when the five minutes is up is just too great. It's best just to leave social media well alone.
Another classic pomo-break is to get up and stretch the legs. Grabbing a cuppa or a glass of water at the same time is also an option. This is better, but still kind of weak. I never felt the whole leg stretching thing to be particularly satisfying.
So I end up skipping the break and pushing on through, which kind of defeats the purpose of Pomodoro.
None of that is particularly interesting or useful, right?. You're probably thinking, "Yeah, whatever, get to the point, Chuck." So, dear reader, I will. I've found a way to make those breaks count. Oh yes.
Now, instead of rewarding myself with a break or a gentle leg stretch I dish out a little physical punishment on myself. When that notification pops, I know I've been sat too long and I need to do something physically significant. Something to get the blood pumping and the heart beating. I need to PomoDOIT.
This, for me, means bodyweight squats. You don't need to do many to get the heart going, and if you're already pretty fit you can up the pace. They're really effective. Here's a great article on how to do them properly. You don't need any equipment, and you only need very minimal space. If you want to mix it up a bit you could always try pushups or burpees. Just remember to have a little stretch first. You can easily fit a quick stretch and a decent number of squats into a couple of minutes.
When I'm done, I usually record in a spreadsheet how many I completed so that I can track my daily squat record.
Doing this doesn't distract me mentally nearly as much as doing something more cerebral. In fact, it seems to have the opposite effect: it gives my brain a break so that it can get up to a bit of diffuse thinking action. The physical exercise is great for getting the brain going, and the endorphins released feel great. Plus, it feels more meaningful than simply getting up and walking around, both physically and mentally.
It's also a good willpower hack. When that notification pops, the urge is to dismiss it, to make the hard thing go away. But no, this is an opportunity to defeat that kind of weakness, to defeat that little monkey in your head trying to make you take the easy option. And so, because it's such a simple exercise, you stand up and you do it, right there, right then. Making your mark on the world, one rep at a time. Exercising our willpower is as important as exercising our mind and body. The more we do it, the stronger it gets.
Of course, this isn't going to be as easy for those who work in an office. Even the most confident extrovert is going to feel a wee bit hesitant about getting in on by their desk while their co-workers look on agog. So I dare say this is primarily for the home-workers. But you never know, why not give it a crack in the office? Maybe you can get a thing going. A bit of group motivation.
If this seems a little over the top, it may be. Don't overdo it and hurt yourself. Take rest days, and don't do it all day. I usually PomoDOIT for a few hours at a time while working on my main tasks for the day. Or I'll do a few sessions in the morning and a few in the afternoon. Whatever suits. But it is truly beneficial. It feels so good to do the hard thing. It's good to get used to a little regular discomfort. The path to true happiness lies in the struggle and the discomfort of effort. We cannot find true satisfaction in mere comfort alone, but in the journey getting there.
Still not convinced? If you need a little more motivation, I'll now hand you over to Jocko. Now, go get after it.