Recently (meaning earlier this week) I had a wave of fear hit me about getting older. I will be 26 soon and on the tail end of my oh so fabulous 20’s. Naturally, I freaked out a bit and worried myself about my memory. I had some flashbacks to visiting my great-grandmother in hospice and her not knowing who the hell we were. Dementia was hard on her and just terrifying. I don’t want that to happen to me, and I will do anything I can to postpone it for as long as possible and maybe even get away from it. Because lately, I can’t remember a line I read a minute ago thanks to a constant brain fog I experience. Not to mention the absence seizures that generally mess up my flow. I feel like I am hitting a wall with my memory and it is trying.
So, the Pomodoro technique, here is a brief idea of what it is:
The Pomodoro Technique was invented in the early 90s by developer, entrepreneur, and author Francesco Cirillo. Cirillo named the system “Pomodoro” after the tomato-shaped timer he used to track his work as a university student. The methodology is simple: When faced with any large task or series of tasks, break the work down into short, timed intervals (called “Pomodoros”) that are spaced out by short breaks. This trains your brain to focus for short periods and helps you stay on top of deadlines or constantly refilling in boxes. With time it can even help improve your attention span and concentration .
Pomodoro is a cyclical system. You work in short sprints , which makes sure you’re consistently productive. You also get to take regular breaks that bolster your motivation and keep you creative.
I have adapted it to fit my workflow and have it work in a way that is a little less intense.
- I have my timer set to 30 minutes, but I don’t time my breaks. Timing my breaks kind of makes me feel rushed when I am not. I’m not a med student who has to cram every single night. I am just a overachieving girl with a list of things that need to be done. Generally my breaks are about 20 minutes long. During the 30 minutes of work time I try to focus as much as possible on the task, no music, nothing playing in the background on TV, just silence.
- During my breaks I get up and move away from the computer. I drink some water, go outside and get the mail, maybe start some laundry (I am a very boring person). I do anything but be in front of the computer.
- If I am on a roll and my timer goes off, sometimes I keep going. But, I have a reminder on there that says “rewind” which tells me to go back and read what I wrote or read during that time to make sure I didn’t miss anything. So it’s a little edit session instead of a break. Because when I start typing I don’t usually want to stop.
- If I have nothing to do during a break that can hold my attention I will play solitaire or a puzzle. I know I told you I was boring. I put some music on and play a couple of rounds of solitaire or solve a puzzle. I do this if I am writing a piece for someone else and I am struggling to get through it. Usually I will be in the middle of one and think of something to write or say and I get back to work. I don’t even mess with timed breaks in this case. It will either work or it wont.
- If I am writing a school paper that has a very close due date (like that night maybe) and the timer goes off I will take that 20 minute break to run through my “memory palace”. If you haven’t heard of what that technique is, you should look it up. It is a cool way to remember things that are too hard to make into a mnemonic. For instance, the steps for building a He-Ne laser (I made the mistake of taking an optics class) is something I have in one of my memory palaces. I can walk through it and make sure I didn’t turn a wrong corner and miss a step when writing it out. Because when I see what the step is I subsequently see the details I forced myself to memorize about each step. It’s a good way to utilize a break on a deadline and kind of relaxing. Think of it as nerd meditation.
I have been sort of using the pomodoro technique without knowing it for a while. It wasn’t until recently that I found out that it was in fact a real way to study that other people use. The memory palace is new and I use it for almost everything I can. It’s like going through your brains own library. My recall has improved and I stumble through sentences a lot less.
Both of these things, but especially the pomodoro technique have improved my productivity. I was struggling with brain fog more so than usual lately and decided to crack down on myself to really push past it. It is something I have to fight everyday of my life now. The absence seizures aren’t much of a fight, they are just an annoyance. But they actually force me to go back and review things that I normally wouldn’t. I catch a lot of missing points and errors because of this.
I suggest using both techniques if you are a student or even someone who works from home who needs to keep on track. It will help your brain get past that stupid fog we experience because of medications.
Focus is important, and using your brain in a more effective way is a great way to help fight memory issues and fog. Give it a try, I recommend reading more from the Life Hacker site and adjusting the technique to fit you.