Work. Work. Work. Call. Work. Work. Call. Call. Work. Call. That’s how a day might look. As you move up in your work, it might be all synchronous work, where you’re sitting in a meeting or jumping on a call. In between, should those meetings have been “productive”, you’ll be left with homework that you’ll need to respond to. You’ll only be able to designate the time in between the calls to get that homework done, before a new call assigns more work. Sunrise, sunset.
My experiments with the tomato timer have been a game changer for me. Even now, as I write, I watch the time tick down on a very basic desktop timer. Tick. Tick. During this time, I only work on one task at a time. I avoid jumping around, I avoid Facebook (I’m definitely not perfect). I feel the itch all the time. Sometimes, the work in the instant seems loathsomely boring compared to the rainbows and butterflies that await me on my feed. When I stop to collect my thoughts mid sentence, I think I can just click on that link, or switch to that other tab, or go somewhere more exciting.
Nope. I’m stuck here. I’m stuck here until I finish this post. My “break” is to go and look for an free for reuse image for the post. It’s like the break of taking out the trash while working in a kitchen but enjoying being able to get outside for a moment in the fresh air.
I used to struggle to do a single tomato. Now, I can do four back-to-back tomatoes (25 minutes each). Ever since my first government job where I thought looking up news related to my work was work, I’ve started to feel like I’m taking back a sliver of control over my attention. When I think about this, the pain of sitting still ebbs.
We don’t need more chunks of time, we need bigger chunks of time. We need to be able to break through that painful desire for external stimulation until our thoughts poke through and fill the void. New ideas, new thoughts. These are what emerge. The world needs this from us. We need it.
From my experiments, I’ve learned that attention can be developed. We need to offer this as a class, maybe through meditation, maybe through just single tasking things. But we all need to work on this.