Tackling distractions

I spend most of my time on my computer and found a need to tackle distractions. Here are some of my thoughts on this subject.

One of the methods that has worked well for me is the Pomodoro Technique. One more thing I will explore today is the Break Time List Technique.

I - The Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique works like this:

  1. decide on a task to be done
  2. set the timer to 25 minutes
  3. work on that task until the timer rings
  4. take a break of 5 minutes
  5. repeat steps 2 - 4 until the task is done
  6. after every four "pomodoros", take a longer break (15-20 minutes)

Google Chrome has a wonderful extension called Strict Pomodoro that offers this functionality. Here it is in action.

Strict Pomodoro allocates 25 minutes for work and 5 minutes for break and allows the user to control what websites can be blocked or allowed during the work time and doesn't allow the user to change the settings during a "work session". I have found that either a combination of 32 - 7 or 40 - 10 for work / break sessions works for me better than the default of 25 - 5.

When I keep it activated, I get so much work done and I am really happy that such a simple solution exists. A minor gripe I have with it is the need to click the tomato (Pomodoro in Italian) after each session to activate the next work or break session. This is sometimes good and sometimes bad.

But no matter how much it helps me do my work, there are still some moments of chaotic procrastination that manifest itself in a need to break out of a certain regular pattern of working. I found that this occurs more when I hit upon a difficult or a messy problem during those intense work sessions. Those are the moments when I simply disable the extension. I feel this is just like succumbing to the mad cravings of smoking or coffee, after a while of staying away from them.

II - Break Time List

Today I was reading a blog post on productivity and time management: Productivity: The 3pm Mystery and the Case for Mornings. One of the comments on the article suggested taking note of the distracting thoughts by calling it a "break-time" list.

I thought the idea was ingenious. I felt that it might just work for me when I struggle with an overload of distracting thoughts. Why?

The reason I think this is a simple, but a powerful way of tackling distractions is because, it allows one to write ones own passing thoughts. Writing down something in itself is a great way to keep thoughts in check. As they say, writing is therapeutic.

You jot down something and you know you will attend to it sooner or later. This way passing thoughts are not subject to a suppression into the sub-conscious. So when an entry in the list is attended to, it can be a very satisfying experience.

One thing I thought would be proper is to call it a Distraction Log™. I foresee the following entries in my Distraction Log™.

  1. need to read people's interpretations of Dark Knight Rises.
  2. thought about reading blogs on ncurses for mono.
  3. need to research more on ncurses for windows.
  4. wished to write about my passing thoughts on true education.
  5. wondering how to get over the latest thought block.