Easily distracted or can’t finish what you started? Try this!

It may not be an official diagnosis, but WebMD has me wondering: Could I have adult onset ADHD? They say if you find it hard to:

  • Follow directions
  • Remember information
  • Concentrate
  • Organize tasks
  • Finish work on time

you might.

I write like I clean my house–in fits and bits.

I’ll start one thing and quickly move on to another, and before you know it, I’ll have dozens of half-written essays and a house with just as many works-in-progress.

Easily distracted? Try this!It’s maddening. The internet has made it a thousand times worse. Right now I have three browsers open, and don’t even think about asking how many tabs.

I don’t need your judgment in addition to my own. 🙂

While I don’t have a problem following directions, focus is elusive and I find myself easily distracted.

Squirrel! (Anyone…?)

The good news is my daughter introduced me to a technique that is ridiculously simple yet remarkably effective:

The Pomodoro Technique®. It’s magical.

Six steps (from their site):

  1. Choose a task you’d like to get done.
  2. Set the Pomodoro for 25 minutes.
  3. Work on the task until the Pomodoro rings.
  4. When the Pomodoro rings, put a checkmark on a paper.
  5. Take a short break.
  6. Every 4 Pomodoros, take a longer break.

Six steps so incredibly easy, how could it possibly work? It sounds too good to be true. Except it works for me. My productivity has skyrocketed.

Easily distracted? Try this!Created by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s, the Pomodoro Technique® got its name from the timer Cirillo used when first developing the time management method–he used a tomato-shaped timer.

Pomodoro is the Italian word for “tomato.”

There is a catch, sort of, a “secret” for it to be most effective: you cannot cheat.

It reminds me of when I do a Whole30; sure, I could cheat a little here or there, but the little I “gain” from the cheat doesn’t compare to the benefit of 100% compliance.

To fudge technique hurts no one but me.

I’ve found this the same when using Pomodoro; if I deviate from the process, my productivity and efficiency decreases.

To derive the most benefit, it’s in my best interest to follow the method as it’s designed.

My daughter uses it to compartmentalize schoolwork and projects at work; I’ve used it for writing, working, even housework.

Easily distracted? Try this!You can do anything for 25 minutes if you put on blinders. Those little Pomodoro checkmarks become very incentivizing, little check-y rewards.

You might be skeptical, especially if you’ve set timers in the past to complete a task. But with a little added structure, the Pomodoro Technique® might provide an extra push to not just start, but finish, whatever it is you’re working on now.

After my daughter explained it to me, I shared the technique with my sons. My youngest has gone on to share it with his roommates to help with preparing for finals. Hmmm, maybe I should add a tomato timer to my great graduation gift guide….

 

The Art of Simple is not affiliated with, associated with, or endorsed by the Pomodoro Technique® or Francesco Cirillo.

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23 Comments

  1. Amy

    Does it vary on how many segments you do? So, some days maybe you do one and some days you may do 4? I know that is a silly question!!!! You don’t save this for days when you have 4 segments worth of stuff to do….right?

    • Robin Dance

      Amy,

      I am by no means an expert in Pomodoro, but I can tell you that sometimes I do a single segment, sometimes multiples of four; it just depends on what it is I’m doing. I don’t “save” it for days when I have more stuff to do, but when I want to knock out FINISHING something it’s a helpful tool for pretty much anything :). Does that help? I LOVE questions–and if you have one, that means others probably wonder the same thing. Glad you asked!

  2. Bethany V.

    I love this idea, in theory. When I have time to myself, I think it would keep me from being overwhelmed when I have a lot to accomplish. However, most of the distractions in my day are not of my own making. (I have three small children, and I’m homeschooling the older two). Setting a timer for 25 minutes isn’t going to stop them from interrupting me every 5 minutes 😉
    Though I will admit, knowing the interruption is likely, keeps me from being able to start tasks that I know will require an extended period of concentration. I’m definitely going to look into this further.

    • Mary

      Yes!!! I read so many articles on not being distracted but I have legitimate distractions–dirty diapers, hungry babies, crying babies, babies in dangerous situations, etc. I’d love for a mom in this situation to explain how she gets stuff done during the day without losing her mind. I wake up early to do the truly important, but on the sixth time I’m distracted emptying the dishwasher I just give up. It’s making me crazy and feel lazy/unproductive.

      • Beth

        I wonder if the difficulty following through is a learned behavior for some, brought on by mothering littles. With my high needs first I eventually took three days to write down everything I did and how long it took. It was a bit freeing to realize that he literally needed my attention every 5-10 minutes. No wonder nothing got done. I started rethinking my to do list and kind of broke it down like the pomodoro but in 5 minute segments. If the kids still didn’t need something at the end of the five minutes I’d do five more minutes. If they need something at 2 1/2 minutes I usually make them wait unless it was a safety issue. Now I think I need to work on the 25 minutes for when (if) they are napping. 😉

      • Sharon Harding

        Mary, I totally get the crazy part. I know when I had babies the constant interruptions were so hard. However you are not lazy or unproductive. You are looking after babies and that is hard work. This season will pass, but in the meantime don’t worry about your lack of productivity. You are laying a foundation of love and care every day. You are planting the seeds of love every day. Maybe you don’t see the results yet, but you will.

      • Robin Dance

        Hi Mary,

        I had three 4 and under back “then” so I hear you. It’s easy to be defeated. Actually, I’m SO thankful I didn’t have the internet competing for my attention because I know myself, and I’m pretty sure most of the time the costs would’ve outweighed the benefits. (I would have felt defeated by ALL the moms who seemed to have figured it out).

        This IS a season, and one day you WILL be beyond it :). That’s a strong message of hope!! In the “now” of it, I love what everyone has said here. DO track what you’re able to complete. DO recognize you’re in an incredibly important season of development for your children, and they need you more than accomplishments of tasks. Mostly, anyway. When you’re out of TP (or diapers), you DO need to make a grocery run! Extend grace to yourself; don’t speak to yourself the way you’d never speak to another soul! Look at what you HAVE done rather than focusing on what you haven’t. Pomodoro might not be for “now” but it’s a great tool to keep in mind when you’re children are able to entertain themselves for segments of time.

        We are FOR you!!

    • Penny

      OMG, yes interruptions will happen….
      So my friends and family Nicknamed me ” Pen to paper Penny “I do have to write down my thoughts, ideas and things that I want to accomplish…Being that I have been diagnosed with ADHD & Short term memory disorder, I have found ways that works for me in order to keep on task and not feel that I am lazy and disorganized do you still feel like a normal person.
      So this is what I did;
      1A.- I made a list of things that I had to do for that morning and afternoon ( split the day so it would not feel so overwhelming).

      1B.-As well as a (picture) List of activities/chores for my little kiddos to do…also let them know that I would be checking on them every 10 or 15 minutes to see how they were doing, so they knew that I was making them responsible for their actions/time as well (I would check on them as part of my break time & use 2-3 minutes out of the five minutes I gave myself to do so).

      ***2A.- Set my Pomodoro to a shorter time frame, e.g.10min or 15min increments to get certain things/areas done. Then I would take a five-minute break to either go to the bathroom, drink some water, make a quick call and check on the progress of the kids (being that their attention span is so much shorter).
      2a.-Sometimes I would also have to repeat the “Short-Pomodoro” time frame up to 2-3 times (=to a total of 30-45 mins.) For one job/Activity in order to finish it….And that’s okay too!

      2B.-Also, have timer set for the 5 minutes of break time (as to not get sidetracked too long and to be able to return to my Pomodoro activities)!

      Lady’s, this a processed and may look and seem a bit complicated but it’s not, prioritize your list/activities and be realistic on how long certain things take to do (for you and your family) in order to finish & stay on task.
      Good luck!
      Penny.

      • Robin Dance

        “Pen to the paper Penny” <– SO fun! It's good to be known by what you do well :).

        But encouraging advice on how to modify this method. College students (where this originated) don't have babies (typically), so yes, definitely a temporary season that doesn't last forever.

    • Sophia

      I definitely agree with you there! I think my problem is that I have so many things I really wish to achieve, but with three kids (one is a bubba) I don’t get through my list and anxiety sets in a bit! There are some interesting techniques mentioned here, so I might give it a go and see if it does help me a bit!

    • Robin Dance

      Bethany,

      When my youngest was born, my oldest was still four; I totally understand how challenging this is with three littles underfoot! BUT, a few words of encouragement that might help: 1) Once your youngest is old enough to follow simple instructions, this will help him/her (and all of your babies) with understanding time, respect for others, exercising restraint for a short time. 2) BRAVO for you breaking this into smaller time increments (and the above still applies for that); find a way for this to be a tool and resource that HELPS you not frustrates you further. It is so satisfying to FINISH even the smallest of goals :).

  3. Icy at Creative Living Abroad

    Thanks for sharing! IWe’re doing the same technique in our Ph.D. “Shut up and Write” sessions… we should be working on our articles for 25 minutes, then stop and socialize with our colleagues, then go back to writing. 🙂

    • Robin Dance

      Oooo–I LIKE what your “breaks” look like :).

    • Robin Dance

      That’s progress!

  4. Southern Gal

    It’s worth a try! I’m going to share it with my youngest son, too.

    • Robin Dance

      Hey Southern Gal!! Let me know what your son thinks about it. It made me smile when MY youngest shared with his college roomies :).

  5. Sarah

    Are we allowed to huck the Pomdoro at our kids when they’re interrupting our task time? I would also consider just using a real tomato. Please say either one is ok.

    • Robin Dance

      {{giggles}}

      :-O

  6. Leslie MP

    Up! (the squirrel reference)

  7. Lucy

    Great article. I hate getting distracted and every time my mind wonders off I find myself on facebook. I’m using this free chrome plugin called Strict Workflow that follows the pomodoro principle. No need to buy timers or anything. I’d personally recommend.

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