Of course the pervasiveness of being overwhelmed is not limited to those with mental illness. I think every parent I know is overwhelmed and from working at a university I can tell you that childless faculty and students alike are overwhelmed as well. It seems that in the course of focusing on one thing everything else falls apart and this holds true in my professional career and my home life.
I’m talking about true balance here. I simply cannot bounce from work to chores at home and then back to work. I need exercise, time with friends, and a solid chunk of solitude to be my best and healthiest self.
I came across the Pomodoro Technique when I was searching for ways to help me focus at work. I have days when it is easy to get my work done, but if I am hypomanic or depressed I find completing my work a challenge. When I don’t produce at the top of my game at work it leads to more stress and that simply feeds into my mental health issues. I also have a significant amount of trouble deciding what to do at home. I know, it is weird. My mommy guilt side says I should be 100% of the time doing things for the kids, cleaning, and working on household projects. My feminist introvert side really wants to sit down with a cup of coffee and say screw responsibility. The Pomodoro Technique has helped me find balance professionally and at home. My work tasks are getting ticked off my to-do list, my home is running a little more smoothly and I’ve found time for writing, reading, and exercise.
So what is the Pomodoro Technique?
– start over
Using the Pomodoro Technique at Work
The biggest tip I can give you for this to be successful is to get up from your desk during the breaks. When the timer dings don’t say, “oh yay, 5 minutes to check Facebook.” For one, you will end up down a rabbit hole and take longer. Secondly, you truly are not giving your brain and eyes a break. If you really need to do something on your break that requires a screen, then stand up and do it from your phone. The refreshing brain break is from a scenery change and movement.
The work part is pretty self-explanatory. Obviously I don’t use the Pomodoro Technique in meetings, that would be pretty awkward, but the rest of the time I am using the technique. I kept a little list of the types of things I do on my mini-breaks so you can get a general idea of how I’m still working (most of the time) when I have my “breaks.”
On mini-breaks I use the bathroom, refill my coffee, grab a snack, chat with coworkers, walk a loop through the library, shelve books, check on my work-study students, distribute mail and office items as needed, tidy my office, open packages at the work-room counter, adjust displays, shred paper, scan or photocopy, ask questions or schedule meetings, make personal phone calls (like scheduling doctor appointments), etc….
My bigger breaks consist of taking my lunch break or working on projects in a different area of library while I stand (displays and work-study related, mostly). When I return to my desk I find I am much more focused. At the end of the day I don’t have an issue with stiff legs, sore eyes, and headaches. And I get so much done!
Using the Pomodoro Technique at Home
Flip the script! I’ve been using this on Fridays when I’m home without the kids (after my morning of grocery shopping and errands). I use my Pomodoros for the things I want to do and the breaks for chores. Here’s a sample of how it works out:
4th break (25 minutes) – fold load of laundry, load up dirty dishes, wipe counters, sweep kitchen
Then it starts all over.
While I’m writing my blog posts or reading I don’t worry about forms for the kid’s school, bills, or dishes and when I’m working on stuff at work I don’t worry about social media or shopping for ModCloth dresses or that Margaret Atwood book in my bag.