work denser, not longer

Work in pomos. When you’re in the pomo, do that task. If you get distracted, return your attention to work. Always, always take the pomo breaks. Never use the breaks for social media or any kind of video game. When you take pomo breaks, ideally spend that time walking around the block with a friend, or talking to someone in the office who’s on break with you. It’s crucial to take the full break each time, especially when you don’t want to, because that means you’re building a sense of motivation, of wanting to return to work. This is vital to staying focused.

ways of alleviating energy burn

I think largely we don’t work very hard because we’re afraid of misusing our energy reserves for the day, or week, or month, or lifetime. There are three levers we can pull on to adjust energy cost.

  1. Decrease the energy cost of work
  2. Increase our overall energy reserves
  3. Work less

We default to 3, I think, whereas 1 and 2 are both very powerful.

decrease energy cost of work

  • Get used to working more and it’ll be less hard
  • You may not being experiencing flow, but you can experience flow even on things you don’t object-level care about. It just takes times. This is the value of the pomodoro. Once you have two under your built (during which it will probably be very hard to focus), it will start getting much easier. Your work will flow more naturally, and it’ll become easier to move from task to task.

increase your accountability

Post your tasklist somewhere public, ideally in a slack channel if you’re working a standard job. As you work through it, cross the items off one at a time.

take 2

time dilation

  1. your day passes at the same rate, regardless of how productive it is
  2. doing boring things is actually good because it dilates time, meaning you have more experienced life. your body will scream against this at first. but push through. it will acclimate. this is similar to entering flow.
  3. the more you do boring things, the more you have tolerance for them, and eventually enjoyment of them
  4. the more boring things you do, the more time you have, and the more subjective experience you get
  5. this is true of work too. when you’re not in a high-excitation state, the world moves slower. but this is actually of huge benefit. things that you estimate might take you a day will take you thirty minutes so long as you continuously return your attention to it
  6. pomos are a good way of accomplishing this. they have several of the qualities we’re looking for: single-task oriented, short and thus speed-oriented, and designed with breaks, which helps people who are used to scrolling on their phone all the time. although, it’s important that you don’t use your phone on breaks. ideally you go on a walk with a friend around the block. otherwise, you can use the restroom, get some food/water, pace around your room, or just stand still and look at a wall. part of the magic of the break is that it’s slightly less engaging than your work, while still being relieving. i had a friend who accidentally ended up training with thai buddhist monks, and she told me that the way they work is consistently thoughought the whole day, with frequent small breaks, preventing brain burnout. the breaks were about sitting down and resting briefly, resting the mind, staring off into space, resting in the presence of others (accompaniment!)

reducing energy expenditure

  1. one of the main reasons we don’t work hard is a fear of using too much energy ineffectively
  2. this is a reasonable fear and something we should think about carefully
  3. there are two obvious ways of navigating this: reduce the strain of our work, and increase the quality of our rest
  4. reducing the strain of our work can look like multiple things: tweaking internal variables to improve energy efficiency, tweaking external variables to improve energy efficiency
  5. internal variables are things like: capacity for boredom or capacity for doing things that feel minorly painful, and developing positive motivations and personal/emotional reasons for doing the work you’ve chosen to do. one example of this is wanting to do well at your job, and that your boss knows what you need to do well in order to do well at your job, so you get the emotional clarity from yourself and the logistical clarity from your boss.
  6. external variables are things like: social accountability or accompaniment, working in a space that’s conducive to work (usually somewhere quiet), having some sort of audio that helps you focus (white noise, music, etc), being in an area with fresh air and a good temperature, being in a clean space, not having too many distractions

work tracking

  1. we tend to do better when we have clear visibility into our own behavior and actions
  2. people naturally lose significant weight when they keep a food diary without attempting to modify their behavior
  3. people who lift get better at lifting faster when they track their progress
  4. in the same vein, tracking pomodoros then reflecting on each pomodor once it’s over will dramatically increase your productivity and make it more rewarding to do so. i recommend the Session app available across the apple ecosystem for doing this. it has built in retros for each pomo, and a built in calendar view populated by your pomo history. you can really see the progress of what you’ve accomplished in the day, and notice any patterns that are working well or holding you back. seeing the direction you’re headed is often sufficient to adjust course without trying
  5. i would also recommend a modified timeblock planning technique. i use the left column of a sheet of paper for my proposal to myself, and the right side of that sheet of paper to record how my actual day is unfolding, in ~real time. for my brain, personally, the traditional timeblock planner is not enough. i need to have an affordance for reconciling past me’s promises and current me’s delivery. otherwise, i’ll simply feel a deep cognitive dissonance. on one hand, i’ll feel tired and minorly proud of myself for taking on so much. and on the other, i’ll feel a deep shame for not accomplishing many of the things i said i would, and even worse, an aversion to looking at the truth and seeing all the ways i “betrayed” my past self. prioritizing transparency and comparison, and using the delta between my goals and my actions as a primary loss function, has contributed way more to my success than most other tactics. plus, it has the built in benefit of increasing productivity and decreasing expectation simultaneously.