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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Using a timer to incorporate research into the work day

I am unusual, perhaps, in doing research and writing at my desk in my office at school during normal business hours. A lot of people I know think that you have to work only at home so you won't be bothered, or only in the evening. I've started using a pomodoro timer, which has several advantages. You can focus intensely for 25 minutes at a time on a specific task, and you can also keep track of how much time you spend on something. Yesterday, for example, I spent 1 session of 25 minutes on class preparation, 1 on my book Lorca: modelo para armar, and 5 on a panel reviewing grant applications. I also read a paper for an independent studies course, met with the student in question, taught my class, and a few more things. The point is, I worked in 1 session on the book (as I've already done today). On a day I didn't teach (Monday, I devoted 3 sessions of 25 minutes to that same book, accomplishing quite a bit and coming up with some ideas I hadn't thought of before. You might say 25 minutes is barely enough for a day, and I would agree with that. It is infinitely superior, though, to zero minutes. If I can manage to do double or triple or quadruple that, on a few days a week, then I will make substantial progress.

The pomodoro timer comes with breaks between the sessions. I set mine for 7 minutes rather than 5, because I have enough time. The energy is more lacking in my case, especially since I've been sick and also have undergoing a major personal crisis. I'll be on campus 11 hours today, so I should be able to squeeze in a few more sessions of pomodoro devoted to class preparation and other tasks I am behind on.


Clarissa said...

I've been trying since spring to school myself to work in small segments of time while I'm in my office on the days when I teach. And it simply doesn't work. I don't seem to be able to switch my brain from teaching to research. This is very frustrating to me but I'll keep trying.

Jonathan said...

Start with research, then you won't have to switch back and forth. It will be easy to switch from research to teaching. If your prime time for writing is in the morning, then prepare classes the day before in afternoon and evening.

Andrew Shields said...

(Aside on your aside: I hope the crisis is over soon.)

Bob Basil said...

I had not heard of this approach before -- thank you for cluing me in.

Like Andrew, I hope your crisis passes soon. Sending good vibes your way.