Transitioning from grad school to learning how to live the military spouse life and trying to figure out “working from home” has created some… interesting growing pains for me. This past year has been a lot of change all at once. I finished my residence classes for my master’s degree (although I would still have one more online class to take) and got married in the same week, moved across the state to be with my husband, lived by his crazy schedule, recovered from six years of going nonstop (which took longer than I expected), tried to break into the freelancing world, started writing a book, moved across the country with my husband (that military life though), and have ever since been trying to settle into a productive, healthy routine. When I was anticipating the beginning of this calendar year, I emphasized that I really wanted to focus on productivity and tangible, achievable goals this year. My goals included getting healthier, reading more, and developing myself professionally.
January and February wound up being much harder for me than I expected. The end of February found me two weeks in our new home and far from having a handle on what my day-to-day should look like. March was the result of the misdirection I found myself with in February. I was productive in odd spurts, and while it was my best month for the blog yet, I came to the last week of March feeling discouraged. I felt like I was spinning my wheels without getting anywhere. It seemed that no one was taking me seriously professionally, and even worse, I wasn’t taking myself seriously. My first step toward being taken seriously was “unmasking” on Twitter. I kept my Twitter handle, but changed my name, profile picture, and bio to reveal who I am: Rose Elliott, writer.
When you’re a writer trying to break into a writing career, it can be very easy to question your worth professionally. I am constantly asking myself, does my voice matter? Will I ever make it? What if I finish my book and nobody wants to read it? What if I never get published? The what ifs, questionings, and uncertainties were swirling all around my head, and it was debilitating.
I was sitting down at my computer to write every day, but I was unfocused and had no system to my day. And I have always thrived with a schedule. But my problem was that I was viewing my time as too restrictive. I need a schedule and a system, but something that wasn’t so restrictive I felt suffocated, inflexible, or immobile with my “home office.”
Enter, the Pomodoro Technique.
I had heard of this technique off and on during college and that it did wonders for productivity. I was skeptical and (to my shame) never even tried it while in college. At the beginning of the year, I came across the technique again through a Buzzfeed article. I can’t find the specific article any more, but the author of it recommended a few apps that used the Pomodoro Technique to help the user with productivity. One of these apps was Tide. I liked the look and feel of Tide more than the other apps (I’m all about aesthetics and pretty pictures), so I immediately downloaded it. And completely forgot about it. Until the end of March.
The Pomodoro Technique is a method for focus that implements alternating productive and break periods. The classic method has you working for 25 minutes and then taking a 5 minute break. After four 25 minute sessions, you can take a longer break, up to thirty minutes. You don’t have to follow the technique in this specific way (you can lengthen or shorten your working and break times according to your needs), but it’s a great place to start from.
Beginning on April 2nd (a Monday, as I love starting things on Mondays), I began using the Pomodoro Technique. I’ve decided to chronicle and share how this technique has helped (or not helped) me be productive. Each week of April, I will share how each day went, what went well, and what could have gone better. At the end of the month, I will discuss whether or not I will use this method long-term and how I will use it.
Monday, April 2nd
I think the best way to do this is share my schedule and what I did each day using this technique. At the end of each week, I’ll reflect on how it helped me that week.
Prior to starting my first Pomodoro, I worked out for an hour, came home, showered, got dressed, did my makeup, and made myself breakfast and a cup of coffee. Today had fewer Pomodoros than a day typically would because my husband got off work earlier than usual and I had a couple errands to run before getting him.
- First Pomodoro (10:07-10:32): worked on a blog post, “On Submission: Part Two”
- 5 minute break (10:32-10:37): got up, walked around the house, loaded my breakfast dishes into the dishwasher, switched out the laundry/started a new load.
- Second Pomodoro (10:37-11:02): continued work on “On Submission: Part Two,” read a commentary to help with my thought process, along with some writing
- 5 minute break (11:02-11:07): went to the bathroom, put my coffee cup in the dishwasher, walked around the house
- Third Pomodoro (11:07-11:32): continued work on “On Submission: Part Two,” did more switching between commentary reading and writing
- 5 minute break (11:32-11:37): bathroom again (trying to up my water intake), checked the laundry (dryer needed more time), walked around the house (trying to keep up with hourly step goals)
- Fourth Pomodoro (11:37-12:02): finished and scheduled “On Submission: Part Two.” I did message with my husband a little bit, but thanks to a bad connection it did not deter from my work
- 30 minute break (12:02-12:32): bathroom (again, darn water goals), chatted with my husband, made lunch, walked around the house, made sure my cats weren’t killing each other, browsed social media briefly
- Fifth Pomodoro (12:32-12:57): Started writing this post!
- 5 minute break (12:57-1:02): I decided since I needed to start my errands by 1:15, I would skip this break and keep writing. I let my app run the break so I wouldn’t be tempted to play on my phone, however. Worked on this post until 1:15, when I left to run my errands.
The idea was to come home and do at least two more Pomodoros (the space of focused time), but instead I put on some music, unloaded the dishwasher, switched out the laundry, and cleaned out the litterboxes. I then browsed social media, submitted a proposal to a potential freelance job, and then settled in to read until it was time to cook dinner. Overall, I am thrilled with how today went. I got my blog post done in the small space of working time I had today. Just last week, I spent this same amount of time flipping through various internet tabs and trying to force myself to focus on writing a post. In the end, I wound up working on the post until bedtime so it would be scheduled on time (another intermittent issue I’m having – writing blog posts the day before they’re due to post).
Tuesday, April 3rd
Prior to starting my first Pomodoro, I worked out for an hour, came home, showered, got dressed, did my makeup, and made myself breakfast and a cup of coffee. Today was a duty day, meaning I did not have to interrupt my day at 3 pm to retrieve my husband from base.
- First Pomodoro (10:00-10:25): Wrote my review of Surprised by Joy by C. S. Lewis
- 5 minute break (10:25-10:30): checked social media, took care of my breakfast dishes, walked around the house to meet my hourly step goals
- Second Pomodoro (10:30-10:55): scheduled my review of Surprised by Joy; started writing a follow-up to a recent post
- 5 minute break (10:55-11:00): took care of my empty coffee cup, walked around the house
- Third Pomodoro (11:00-11:25): continued writing my follow-up post
- 5 minute break (11:25-11:30): messaged with my husband
- Fourth Pomodoro (11:30-11:55): scheduled aforementioned follow-up post, went to the bathroom because I forgot to during my break, and started writing a post about military life
- 30 minute break (11:55-12:25): messaged with my husband, browsed social media, walked around the house, planned tonight’s dinner, warmed up leftovers from last night for lunch
- Fifth Pomodoro (12:25-12:50): continued military life post, monitored a couple work-related questions I shared – one on Twitter, another in a Facebook group
- 5 minute break (12:50-12:55): browsed social media
- Sixth Pomodoro (12:55-1:20): continued writing military life post
- 5 minute break (1:20-1:25): walked around, checked on aforementioned posts
- Seventh Pomodoro (1:25-1:50): continued working on military life blog post – almost done!
- 5 minute break (1:50-1:55): refilled my water bottle, grabbed a snack
- Eighth Pomodoro (1:55-2:20): scheduled military life post, updated Pomodoro post, began thinking about executing a project
- 30 minute break (2:20-2:50): browsed social media, played with my cats, walked around the house, took care of snack dishes
- Ninth Pomodoro (2:50-3:15): started working on ~secret project~
- 5 minute break (3:15-3:20): gave my cats some attention, walked around the house
- Tenth Pomodoro (3:20-3:45): continued working on ~secret project~
- 5 minute break (3:45-3:50): refilled water bottle, walked around
- Eleventh Pomodoro (3:50-4:15): continued working on project
- 5 minute break (4:15-4:20): browsed UpWork for potential freelance work
- Twelfth Pomodoro (4:20-4:45): continued working on project
After the last Pomodoro, I relaxed and made dinner. I had Bible study at 6:30, and then after that spent the evening reading and relaxing in bed. Duty nights are pretty quiet for me.
Wednesday, April 4th
Today was a little different. I woke up not feeling well, so I took my morning slowly. I had some things to take care of around the house, and so I did not do any Pomodoros today. I got stuff done around the house and handled a couple issues that came up. I also did some development on the thought process for one of the chapters in my book.
Thursday, April 5th
I woke up this morning feeling even worse than I had last night. I knew immediately today would have to be a sick day. It’s frustrating and discouraging, but I know it’s important that I take the time to get better so that I don’t draw out any sickness for longer than necessary. I speak from experience. So today was spent parked on the couch, blowing my nose every thirty seconds, and trying to stay coherent.
Friday, April 6th
I’m still sick today, and it’s Reid’s day off. So I know not a whole lot will get done. I decide not to do any Pomodoros and just do things as I can and as I feel up to it. Despite our slightly busy day, I still manage to get some blog posts written and scheduled (including this one). Over the weekend I’ll get some more reading done as I prepare for the coming week. Hopefully next week will be better.
Week One Takeaways:
I’m already amazed at how helpful this technique is for me. It’s nothing more than just setting a timer for work time and then break time, but I appreciate the way this app, Tide, operates. You can set up your Pomodoros (working time) however you want, you can choose your break time lengths, and when you want to do your long break. I also learned some things about myself this week.
First, it really helps my productivity to be able to visually see how much time I have to work on a task. This may be why I always felt more productive when I was in class (not that I ever did homework in class…). Second, I have a hard time getting a good start the morning after a duty day. I don’t have to get up at a specific time or take my husband to work, because he’s already at work. That automatically puts my motivation at a low. I need to have a plan in place for mornings after duty days that will get me moving. I will try to come up with something in the coming week.