Dealing With Procrastination

Il_pomodoroLike most people I have a really big tendency to procrastinate and put things off.  From time to time I suppose that is ok but it’s obviously a bad habit to get into.  The other day I was listening to the Polymorphic podcast on How to Market Yourself as a Software Developer and I learned about a book that could help one conquer the bad habit of procrastination.  The book is called The War of Art: Break Through The Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles.  The title is obviously a word play on the classic book The Art of War.  Anyways, I immediately found a copy and read it. It’s not a very long book but I have to say it has a lot of good advice and has an inspirational message for those of us who are procrastinators.  Although it is written for a writer audience and those who have writers block its message is salient for any person who is pursuing any type of creative endeavour and is having trouble sticking to the task or being creative.

After reading the book which is not very long by the way I was definitely inspired to make some changes in my life and stop procrastinating!  So starting today I am attempting to break my bad old habit of procrastination by employing an interesting technique.   The concept is an old one that I have read and heard about before and it is called the Pomodoro Technique. Basically, for those who don’t know, the pomodoro technique is a time management technique developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s.  The technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. These intervals are known as “pomodori”, the plural of the Italian word pomodoro for “tomato”. The method is based on the idea that frequent breaks can improve mental agility.  You can read more about the Pomodoro Technique at the creators website and I also managed to find this paper in pdf format by Francesco Cirillo the creator describing the Pomodoro Technique thoroughly. This is what I used to learn more about how to use and employ the technique.  The following youtube video also has a good short explanation of describing it.

It seems this strategy may be just what I need to focus on tasks more effectively and break my bad habits.  In order to employ this strategy I needed to find a suitable timer.  Since this technique is widely known there are many timers available on the web.  Any search on your favourite search engine will surface lots of useful results.  A couple of web apps I found to be suitable and useful were the Tomato Timer and Pomodoro!.  Since I have a Nexus 7 tablet there are also a number of apps available on android.  I am sure there are some for Apple platform but I haven’t looked.  I managed to install the Clockwork Tomato app on my android device and I really like it.

I have just started using the technique.  It seems pretty straightforward and easy to use.  Do a task for 25 minutes and rest for 5 minutes.  Rinse and repeat increasing the rest period to 15 minutes after doing four consecutive 25-minute sessions with four 5 minute rest periods.  I managed to write this post using the technique.  In fact, this post took two pomodoros to write.  I don’t know how effective this will be for me in the long run but in the short term it should be beneficial.  I think it should help me build muscle memory and improve my poor work habits by keeping me focused on the task at hand.  Self improvement is a process and a journey that I am willing to explore and this is but one small part of it.