Train Your Brain to Be More Efficient

By: Elizabeth Morris

“Work hard” is something you’ve heard all your life. You have to work hard, right?

But does working hard really sum it up? What if you work really hard at something taking 50 hours but you could have done the same work in half the

time? There’s an element of smarts that comes into play when you’re talking about conquering a task. Working smart is just as important as working hard.

One of my favorite techniques about working smarter is called The Pomodoro Technique which was created and trademarked by Francesco Cirillo.

Although I am not affiliated with either Pomodoro Technique or Francesco Cirillo, I love referencing this technique because it is so valuable in training your brain how to focus and become more efficient. So here is my personal opinion on this Technique.

For those of us who are “multi-taskers,”we tend to try to do lots of things all at the same time. Sometimes our multi-tasking actually morphs into the inability to concentrate. We flit from one task to the next without any type of resolution or completion. We may feel like we are doing a lot because we’re doing so much and we may also feel busy because of this constant running around, but this type of work process actually ends up costing us more in the long run.

Jumping from one task to the next or trying to do two tasks at once actually leads to: Workload Build-Up; Inefficiency; Errors; Stress; Burnout and Anxiety. Instead, if we actually sat down and focused on

one thing at a time we would be able to eliminate a lot of these problems. Now, as artistic people we tend to be naturally geared towards hopping around. We start something, get bored, and move on to something else. Any of you who have piles of “projects” lying around your salon or house know what I’m talking about. Our artistic mind gets tired of trying to focus and we intimidate ourselves with the scope of the project at hand or out of disinterest or distraction we abandon one project for another. Soon we have lots of unfinished projects all in some sort of middle stage lying around. Eventually we will have

to revisit those projects, figure out where we left off, and attempt to finish them before impending deadlines. This is so stressful and so inefficient. So how do we avoid this? How do we become more efficient and utilize our time better? This is where a little light bulb went off in my head.

Once I read about the Pomodoro Technique and tried it I was astonished at how my focus actually improved. So what is a Pomodoro and what is the Technique? First off a Pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato. This technique gets its name from the tomato shaped kitchen timers that you may have seen before. Second this timer is used to break down tasks and our day into performance-based segments. The goal of these timed sessions is to increase focus and productivity, but also allow for mental breaks in between. The goal is to use the timer to train your brain to respond to the sound in an effort to create a Pavlovian response. Remember Pavlov’s dog? That is the dog that was trained to salivate and become hungry at the sound of a bell? If you don’t know about this, Google it for more information. By using a timer the light ticking sound becomes a tool to get your brain to snap into high focus work mode. It sounds strange but it really does work. So here is how the Pomodoro Technique is Implemented:

Pick a task you want to accomplish. It can be anything: office work, nail swatches, bookkeeping, you name it. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as it’s something that really needs you to fully focus on it in order to accomplish it. Set the timer for 25 minutes. You are committing to spending 25 uninterrupted minutes on this one task. This is a very important number as this is what Francesco Cirillo discovered was the perfect amount of time to work on something without becoming overwhelmed or exhausted. Your brain is actually able to handle things in 25 minute increments and it creates the perfect situation to allow for full focus.

Work on the project, task, or errand for the 25 minutes and keep working until the timer rings. Don’t do anything else other than the task at hand for the 25 minutes. If you have a thought pop into your head like, “Oh! I need to ____” just write it

down quickly on a piece of paper and go back to working on your main task. When the timer rings put a checkmark on a piece of paper to track your first successful uninterrupted session.

Now take a short break (like 5-10 mins). You can get something to drink, do jumping jacks, use the restroom, take a little walk, or stare at a wall. This is the important part of letting your brain relax and get comfortable again after the 25 minute session.

After your quick break you can go back to the same project if it’s not completed or start another for another 25 min session. Repeat this process until you have finished four sessions. After four you will need to take a longer break of about 20-30 minutes. Your brain will use this break time to consolidate all the new information and also rest between sessions.

To be honest it took a few tries before I was personally able to achieve my first uninterrupted 25 minute session, but where there’s a will there’s a way.

And after I had one checkmark down it was that much easier to do it again and again. You’ll find that with a little upfront investment in honing your focus skills that everything you try to achieve after will come that much easier. You’ll be able to achieve more in less time and you’ll have more time for the things that you find fun. If you want to read more about this amazing technique I highly recommend visiting pomodorotechnique.com There’s a lot of useful information and tools available on this site that will help you get your brain back on track when it comes to completing any number of tasks. This one simple tool has really helped me personally to be able to achieve more in the same or even less amount of time as well as improve my accuracy and efficiency. I encourage you to try it out and see how it can help you.

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