Have you heard of the Pomodoro technique? Despite the name, it’s not a tomato sauce recipe but a time management and
Essentially you choose 1 task, work on it for 25 minutes (set a timer) with no interruptions, then take a 5 minute break. Rinse and repeat 4 times then take a longer break of around 30 minutes.
The theory is focusing on 1 task at a time for short periods helps you make solid progress on your to-do list, therefore making you more productive. Multitasking seems to be a myth that simply creates the illusion of being busy without necessarily producing very much. This method forces you to monotask and complete to-dos.
The Pomodoro technique also helps you sort larger projects into individual tasks which are simple to complete. You can learn how long each task will take you to complete, meaning you can give better estimates of how long the overall project will take. For example, maybe you are building a new website. Instead of writing ‘work on the website’ on your to-do list, you might break it down into ‘list web pages’, ‘design site structure’, ‘choose website template’, ‘create each web page’ etc.
25 minutes is not too long to maintain concentration but is long enough to do meaningful work. It also seems easier to avoid checking your email or playing on social media knowing that you are ‘allowed’ to do those things in your rest times. It’s much more practical than trying to eliminate distractions for a whole day.
If you lose track of time or go off task that’s ok. Just look at your to-do list again, reset your timer and get back on track.
Frequent short breaks give you time to feel refreshed, make sure you are on track with your to-do list and allow you space to do something fun. I often spend my break making a cup of tea and checking Instagram and I don’t feel guilty about it at all 🙂 There’s plenty of research indicating that planned breaks help improve concentration and productivity. Movement, especially walking, also seems to aid decision making and problem-solving so when you sit down to work again you may be even more productive!
That’s all very nice but how can a productivity technique help with back pain?
Pomodoro technique’s pattern of regular short breaks makes it easy to get up and move around frequently. How often do you leave your desk during an average working day? Maybe once or twice to use the loo and once to go out and buy lunch? Now imagine having two 5 minute breaks every hour. In addition to the benefits described above, you should enjoy some health improvements.
Regular movement such as walking or stretching has many potential health benefits. Although we can hold a single posture for some time it’s actually not that good and will likely lead to some tired stiff muscles. Movement aids circulation, particularly in your legs and intervertebral discs in your back. This may help to reduce swelling and improve the healing process It gives your muscles a gentle workout which should improve their flexibility and strength, and strong flexible muscles are usually not painful.
Movement is also soothing to our ‘danger receptor’ nerve endings thereby dialing down your pain levels.
Breaks also offer you a chance to adjust your posture and assess your desk set up. When you sit down to work quickly check your mouse and keyboard are close to you, your screen is straight ahead and you can get your chair under your desk. A comfortable seated posture will help your back feel supported and therefore should help you manage your pain levels. But remember, you still need to move often!
You may also find the Pomodoro method helps you feel more organised and less stressed. Therefore you may feel more relaxed, hold less tension in your muscles and breathe more easily, all of which should reduce your pain levels.
You can read more about Pomodoro Technique.
You can use any timer for the technique. I often use the Timer extension for Chrome but you might prefer your phone clock, oven timer or a simple egg timer.
To learn more about pain management watch the Tame the Beast video.
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