First off, I have integrated timers as part of the last step in my focus ritual. So let's take a look at that.

Focus ritual:

  • Place my phone out of sight – Having my phone out of reach isn't enough for me. If I catch a glimpse of my phone, there is usually that urge to pick it up, which I have to resist, which disrupts what I'm doing. Additionally, pretty much all of my notification sounds are turned off already so my phone rarely makes noise.
  • Put in noise cancelling earbuds and play some binaural beats – I primarily listen to the Spotify playlist below. Sometimes I'll switch it up and listen to the sounds of ocean waves crashing.
  • Toss on a hat and hoodie, and pop the hood up – Let's be serious, there's a 97% chance I'm already wearing a hat. I like to put on the hoodie because it's cozy and the hood can block some of my peripheral vision.
  • Set a timer and follow the Pomodoro Technique 🍅.

Timers come into the picture when using the Pomodoro Technique. If you haven't heard of that before, check out the Wikipedia page linked above.

My pomodoro interval breakdown:

  • 40 minutes of focus, 5 minutes break 
  • 1 or 2 intervals back-to-back (45 minutes or 1.5 hours total)
  • 3 intervals maximum back-to-back (2.25 hours total)

Intervals per day:

  • 1 x 45 minutes in the morning for writing/research
  • 2 x 45 minutes during the day for work (not necessarily back-to-back)
  • 2 x 45 minutes in the evening for writing/research (back-to-back)

Additional notes:

  • If I find I'm having trouble sitting down to get some work done (i.e. procrastinating), I'll commit to a shorter interval of 25 minutes of focus and a 5 minute break. This gets the ball rolling and gets me into the zone, and I typically end up working longer than the 25 minutes.
  • If I'm worried about a timer going off and interrupting my flow, I'll use a stopwatch instead and check it when I'm ready. Often the timer going off doesn't disrupt me too much; I simply turn it off or reset it for longer.
  • I keep the timer out of sight as I find watching the numbers tick down too distracting.
  • The breaks are important because the brain needs some time to relax. For this reason, don't use your phone during the breaks. A phone requires a narrow focus and doesn't give your brain a rest. You'll want to widen your focus. I like to pop the hood off, take the earbuds out, and go on the patio to have a look around outside.

I had heard about timers a lot in the past but never used them. Why the change of heart? I was listening to the podcast episode below, where Rob Dial covers a lot of what I wrote about above, and the timing was right.