Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

End Your Procrastination in 25 Minutes

Procrastinators in the law, take heart!

Your affliction can be alleviated – and possibly even cured – in a mere 25 minutes with the help of a simple kitchen timer.

That’s all it takes for the Pomodoro Technique, a method of vanquishing procrastination that has been heralded by scientists and proven effective for even the most chronic of foot-draggers.

The Pomodoro Technique was invented by time management guru and self-confessed procrastinator Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s. To curb his own dilly-dallying, Cirillo grabbed a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato (hence the name of the technique) and began experimenting.

What he discovered was that by breaking a task into 25-minute increments – with each increment followed by a pre-determined reward – he was able to plow through projects with ease.

If it sounds a bit simplistic, well, it is. And that’s the beauty of the process. It’s easy. And it works.

Set Your Tomato to 25

Here’s the Pomodoro Technique in action:

Step 1: Choose a task. It can be anything: big, small, urgent, trivial. It doesn’t matter. The only requirements are that it’s something you’ve been putting off, and that it will take your full, undivided attention to complete.

Step 2: Choose a reward. This can also be pretty much anything: a Snicker’s bar, a walk around the block, a few minutes of stretching, a quick Facebook visit. Whatever.

Step 3: Set the Pomodoro timer for 25 minutes. Hint: your phone app or a stopwatch will do just as well. The point is to bear down on the project without interruption for 25 minutes.

Step 4: When the timer goes off, stop working. Place a checkmark on a notepad. Congratulations! You have just completed your first Pomodoro.

Step 5: Take a short break and give yourself the pre-determined reward. It is important to stop working when the 25 minutes are up, even if you’re in the flow and feel like continuing. More on this later.

Step 6: After you’ve done four Pomodoros, take a longer break. This gives your brain a rest and lets it process the new information.

“The Pomodoro Technique isn’t just about helping you get things done today,” says Cirillo on his website. “It’s about learning how you work so you can save time in the future.”

So How Does It Work?

Even thinking about an unpleasant task – balancing your checkbook, studying for your Torts exam – activates the pain center in your brain. We don’t want to go there. So we turn to more pleasant pursuits (eating, watching Netflix) instead.

“Once we actually sit down and focus on the dreaded task, however, the pain often disappears,” writes Marjorie Silver on the Albany Law Blog. “As one expert has noted, ‘The dread of doing a task uses up more time and energy than doing the task itself.’ Even if the task remains unpleasant, almost any of us can suffer for 25 minutes. And then there’s the dish of ice cream, a walk in the park, or 10 to 15 minutes of guilt-free web-surfing! Just anticipating that reward helps ease our suffering.”

Researchers have found that students learn better when they take periodic breaks from studying. The new data is allowed to sink into long-term memory. When they return to the task, they feel refreshed – and smarter.

It’s unclear exactly why 25 minutes is the magic number. One theory is that it takes about 20 minutes for the anticipatory pain to dissipate. So you’ve got to keep going to smash through that barrier.

But going longer than 25 minutes can yield diminishing returns. Your brain needs a break. When you give yourself the reward, your pleasure center lights up, and you’re ready for another Pomodoro.

Are you a procrastinator? Have you tried the Pomodoro Technique? What works for you?

Sources:

 

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. During the course of his 35- year career, he has been a solo practitioner, corporate lawyer, legal editor, Legal Aid staff attorney and insurance risk manager. Today he helps lawyers and firms succeed through marketing, work-life balance and reclaiming passion for what they do. He is available for consultations, retreats and presentations (www.yourlawlife.com). Contact jay@yourlawlife.com or 919-619-2441 to learn how Jay can help your practice.

 

About the Author

Jay Reeves

jay.reeves@ymail.com | 919-619-2441

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. Over the course of his 35-year career he was a solo practitioner, corporate lawyer, legal editor, Legal Aid staff attorney and insurance risk manager. Today he helps lawyers and firms put more mojo in their practice through marketing, work-life balance and reclaiming passion for what they do. He is available for consultations, retreats and presentations.

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