I’ve recently been having great results in being more productive by using the pomodoro technique when doing computer work.
There are more details to it, but the simple basic idea of the p.t. is to work doing something computer-y or mental for twenty-five minutes, then take a break for three to five minutes, and then repeat. I find that the breaks feel best when I do non-mental things – meditate, not meditate but still sit motionless without doing anything, go for a short walk, lie down and space out, do dishes, fold laundry, make food, or exercise. (The formal instruction for the technique also says that every fourth break should be about fifteen minutes long.)
I have often, in my life, felt like I had so many pressing things to do that I didn’t have time to take breaks, and didn’t deserve them. What this way of working would do is create an agitated, jittery, must-be-productive “tripping ahead” energy that was uncomfortable. And those unpleasant body sensations seem to have at times eventually inspired me to check out from what I intended to be doing, to do fun, non-productive stuff instead. The jittery “need to be productive” energy has especially driven me to do things like collecting funny pictures or writing comments to collect Reddit karma, activities that are entertaining, easy, and have given me the illusion like I am getting something valuable done and making progress on something, but do not actually add much value to my life.
Generally, in my life, when I have done mental/computer work and have not taken any breaks, I have often felt sharp, alert, and energized for the first hour or two, and then lost steam – everything has started to be a drag, and I have started to drift.
I notice, that when I am using the pomodoro technique, I have to discipline myself and be strong to take the breaks when the twenty-five minute timer goes off – that agitated, jittery, must-be-productive, “tripping ahead” energy has often told me “don’t take a break, you don’t deserve a break, you have too much to do, just get one more thing done, skip this break and maybe you can take the next one”. But when I have been strong, stopped working, taken the break, and been willing to face and feel the agitation without having it compulsively drive me, I have found that the agitation dissipates. I have then felt more centered, engaged, energized, focused, calm, intentional, and refreshed when the break has ended and I have gotten back to work.
Also, even though three to five minutes is realistically a short period of time to take a break, knowing that I have a set relatively small number of minutes to get stuff done before I have to stop for a break seems to have had me feel like I have limited time to get things done in, and to a value to my time more and to feel more of an urgency to not waste time, relative to feeling like I have a whole unscheduled long stretch of hours upcoming before there is any external constraint that will make me need to stop.
The bottom line is, taking regular breaks while working on a computer seems to keep me more energized and fresh for hours on end.