So for the past year or two I’ve been structuring my schedule in part by using the pomodoro method: 25 minutes of intensive work, a five minute break, then back to work. After three or four periods, you take a bigger break.
Lately it hasn’t been working so well. Part of that, I think, is just that any system I use seems to wear out after a couple of years and I need something different to keep me focused. But part of it is also that with the dogs I can’t structure things as smoothly, especially now that I don’t have time-travel material to watch as part of my job. If they insist on attention mid-way through a pomodoro, I’m probably going to stop and give it to them and make a mental note to count this as an early break. Or simply decide to skip a break because they’re slumped on my legs and quiet and I don’t want to deal with them waking up.
And sometimes, if writing’s going really well, I don’t want to break at all. The end result is that my day’s precise structure becomes as limp as oh, I don’t know … a big floppy watch maybe?
(Salvador Dali’s Persistence of Memory, courtesy of wikiart. Copyright remains with current holder)
So last weekend, I began thinking. My typical work day is 9.5 to 10 hours, less a morning and afternoon break, less a half-hour to walk the dogs at lunch (as I’ve mentioned before that last figure will go up once it gets cool enough for longer walkies). Add in my five minute pomodoros and it’s roughly 2.5 hours of break per day. So what if I simply treat that figure as total break time and use it whenever? Hence the title of the post, though I’m pretty sure improvised pomodoro isn’t pomodoro at all.
So far it’s worked reasonably well. I’m much more conscientious about tracking break time than when I track writing hours. And the flexibility is great for working with dogs, taking naps, etc. Also if I’m writing on a streak or I reach a stopping point where my brain just locks up, I can take or not take a break accordingly. On the other hand, scheduling regular breaks pushes me to actually take them. If I look at the break period as a pot of time I’m giving up when I get up and stop working, I find myself much more reluctant to break, and that gets tiring (to say nothing of the effect of not getting up and stretching regularly). Still I think I’ll continue trying it and see if I can overcome the problems. I just have to remind myself that I’m not getting a free vacation or comp time if I save up the hours and don’t use them, so I should just go ahead and take the break.