How many breaks have you taken today? 

“It’s time to take a break,” is probably not what you expect to hear at work very often. After all, we have been taught that diligence and constant vigilance is the key to being good at what you do.

What if I told you that we have been taught wrong all our lives? 

Curious much? Then allow me to introduce you to the POMODORO system of time management! A technique that helps you get more productive without burning yourself out. 

 

Go ahead, take a break

 

Developed in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo, the name of this technique means “tomato” in Italian, inspired by Cirillo’s college timer that sparked this genius idea. And the process? It’s quite simple if you think about it. It doesn’t need you to make startling changes to your work habits, for starters. It just encourages you to break up your job into bite-sized portions, making things easily palatable. 

How? By tackling each segment of work for 25 minutes and taking a break for 5! 

 

Recipe to get refreshed 

 

While you can kick off using this technique at any given point in time, given that it barely requires any preparation, there are some things you must always keep in mind, apart from having a timer handy, that is!

  • Know what you have to do 

Unless you have an idea about what you have to do, getting them done is not going to be easy. So make a list of the tasks you need to get done. Preferably in order of priority.

  • Set your timer for 25 minutes 

While it does seem easier to keep an eye on your watch instead of being rudely interrupted by an alarm, you’ll be surprised to realise how engrossed we can get in whatever we’re doing unless snapped out of it. 

  • Track your task 

Apart from making a list, it is important to see how you did in 25 minutes. Whether the task could be completed, whether it was adequate, whether you are biting off more than you can chew can easily be seen with proper task-tracking. 

  • If a distraction pops up, don’t try to fight it. 

Fighting distractions is harder than you think it is. The more you try to fight, sadly, the more your mind will wander. So the best thing to do is give in to your thoughts, but not immediately. 

This also works as a great reward system for those who are just starting off and need that extra push to get through 25 minutes without giving in to procrastination. 

  • Take a five minute break 

You’ll be surprised to see how much of a difference these breaks make. Starting from doing simple things like keeping yourself hydrated and stretching to keep those work pains at bay and ending with quickly catching up on thoughts that distracted you, these five minute breaks help refresh you for your next 25 minute haul. 

  • Every 4 POMODOROs, reward yourself with a 30-minute break 

Longer breaks mean more time for yourself. The key to working well is not working all the time. It just means working efficiently and one of the things that make you efficient at work is taking care of things that are important outside work. 

  • Repeat as needed

Getting into the groove might be harder than you think initially. But once you do get used to the technique, you’ll see things are actually different. They are in fact, better. 

 

Rest to the rescue

 

Productivity hacks, are not a new thing. Starting from collating smaller tasks to create a larger, more important task and ending with customisable sleep schedules, enough and more experts have weighed in, trying their best to help us be at our most productive. 

So a technique that encourages us to use our work hours in a more efficient way, allowing us to do more than work all the time is exactly what we need to keep our work and personal lives perfectly balanced. While some of us take great pride in being workaholics, some of us firmly believe that “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” 

A team that flows together, grows together! 

Rumour has it, like yawning, productivity can be contagious too! Don’t believe me? Let me tell you a story. As a fresher at work, once in a while, I’d be caught up in a project that would be really, really important. With sleepless nights and cups of coffee for company, teams I’d be a part of would work very hard and get the job done perfectly. Now, if this scenario sounds familiar to you, you’re probably expecting me to talk about the complaints that followed. 

But sadly, none ever did. Every project completion was celebrated with smiles. 

Sounds strange. Doesn’t it? What if I told you that you and your team have been working hard pretty wrong all this while? 

Allow me to let you into a little secret. The secret that all happy and productive  teams have actually. Team Flow! 

 

Flowing through the team 

According to Hungarian research psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the discoverer of ‘Flow’, “the overwhelming proportion of optimal experiences are reported to occur within sequences of activities that are goal-directed and bound by rules—activities that require the investment of psychic energy… Often hours seem to pass by in minutes; in general, most people report that time seems to pass much faster.”

Now, while a lot of us believe that Flow is a rather individual process, it isn’t quite so. Starting from surgeons and ending with army officials, instances of achieving Team Flow are many. Remember that time you all worked to meet the deadline that seemed impossible to achieve? That time when you registered little apart from what you had to do – working hard, determined to do your best so that the piece of the puzzle you were responsible for fit in seamlessly at the end of the day? And when you were done, you realised that every single person in your team had done a job so good, that it was absolutely perfect!

Well, that’s Team Flow for you. 

While the thought of contagious productivity can be extremely intriguing, it isn’t particularly easy to figure how you can get your team in the Flow state. But thankfully, there are ways to get there. 

  • The power of communication: While having tasks and deadlines in place is obvious, it is important to communicate goals and deadlines very clearly.
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of insignificant tasks: Even though there’s always a larger objective to achieve, it is very necessary to keep track of all the small tasks that need to be done. At the end of the day, every little detail is important and skipping one might just make you fall flat on your face.
  • Feedback matters: Though being in the zone is fun, it doesn’t work well unless all your team members know how they are doing. You see, doing the work isn’t ever enough. Unless you know if a task has been completed successfully, you’ll never be sure of what to do next. And when you don’t know what to do next, your productivity takes a blow.
  • Don’t test your limits: Expertise exists for a reason. And while getting into flow that is exactly what makes you tick. At times, even testing your abilities can do wonders. But in case you aren’t skilled enough yet, it will only stress you out. Be sure you never bite off more than you can chew.
  • Team power: A great team makes getting into the flow state easier. At the end of the day, if you don’t have to worry about someone taking advantage of the others, it is much easier to concentrate on the task at hand. It really feels great to know that your team will have your back!

 

Let’s go with the Flow

Have you heard of the Flow State? 

 

Wise men say, if you truly enjoy what you do, you never know where the time flew… Sounds doubtful, right? It did to me as well. In fact, when I was new to this world, it was especially difficult for me to figure out how people were so engrossed in work, yet happy. I also couldn’t figure how they would achieve so much without feeling stressed and most importantly, I couldn’t figure out what I had to do to get there. 

To be honest, much as I tried, it seemed impossible for me to solve this. To love your job was one thing, but to achieve so much, an absolute mystery. However, things became clearer when I was introduced to the idea of the Flow State. 

For the uninitiated, the Flow State is one where people are so immersed in what they are doing that there is little scope for them to even acknowledge something that isn’t a part of their plan of action. 

 

Rules that make it Flow 

 

The idea of being so engrossed at work that your productivity is at its optimum is a great thought, but putting it in action takes effort and quite a bit of discipline. And here’s what makes it tick. 

  • Define your goals. Unless you know what you have to do, achieving them can be very, very hard. 
  • Eliminate distractions, internal and external. If you have your mind wandering, trying to figure things that aren’t on your To Do list, chances are, you’ll end up confused and distracted. 
  • Know what you can achieve. It is important to have a realistic idea about your skills, talents and limitations. Biting off more than you can chew can often lead to burnouts which are more evil than good. 
  • Be able to judge yourself. There’s no point in toiling for hours if you are incapable of judging your progress and performance. When you fail to do so, you often end up having to redo most of what you spend hours on completing. 
  • It might be hard, but loosening up and saying goodbye to self-consciousness is a very important part of the process. You see, it is only when you bid goodbye to relevant inhibitions that you can truly experience peace. 
  • Don’t try to track yourself in terms of time. While it is important to be able to finish work on time, giving yourself strict deadlines won’t help at all. 
  • Be in control of the situation. If you feel like you’re flailing, chances for panic modes to set in are very high.
  • Make sure you love what you’re doing. If there’s no love, there is no scope to go with the flow! 

 

Flow at work 

 

While most cases of Flow are linked to success stories of writers, artists or athletes, it thankfully isn’t restricted to only creative professions. If you think about it, Flow can easily occur when you are so focused on your tasks that everything seems effortless! 

The minute you focus wholeheartedly on what you have to do, there is an immediate spike in performance.

Moreover, Flow can encourage individuals to learn more at work. Why? Skill is an integral part of achieving this state. When you lack a skill, achieving complete focus can be harder than you expect. In fact, it might even seem boring without anything challenging your abilities after the first few times. 

Being engaged at work is not merely about turning up everyday and sitting at your chair for 8 straight hours or more. Those who have experienced Flow know better. When you are so engrossed in work that you love, not only does the quality of your work improve, it also leads to greater work satisfaction. It also boosts creativity which in turn has a great effect on performance and productivity and even intuitive decision-making. But to expect everyone to experience this state is not the right way to go. After all, if there is no love for the job, there’s no way you can go with the flow! 

Power through: with a nap!

Have you ever helped yourself to a large lunch at work and couldn’t but help doze off at your desk? If you have, you’re probably no stranger to the hell that follows. You see, dozing off at work is a rather unforgivable sin at the work spaces and places that we are used to. But did you know, things are not quite the same all over the world? You see, there are some places where falling asleep on the job is absolutely acceptable. Don’t believe us? Allow us to introduce you to Inemuri. The Japanese art of sleeping on the job. 

Translated from Japanese into “asleep while being present”, Inemuri is a way of life that only adults seem to be familiar with. While children have Hirune or specific nap times allocated for them, for Japanese adults, things are quite different. At the end of the day, they are known to be some of the hardest working people on the planet!

 

Nap here, nap now!

 

It was during one of my trips to Japan several years ago that I was introduced to this very interesting, but alien concept. I was used to a 9-5 work life in India and if anything, sleeping on the job, in my workplace was absolutely unacceptable. Even if we had pulled an all-nighter and could barely keep our eyes open the next day. In a haze of coffee and sleeplessness, the hours spent at work were rather… unproductive. 

In Japan, I realized that there was a rather simple solution to deal with all those extra hours, all that hustling and the inevitable burning out because you were too busy trying to keep your eyes open. Yes, you guessed it right: urban napping! 

 

The power of naps

 

To be honest, if you really think about it, you’ll realise that gone are the days when organizations looked down upon an employee dozing off. In fact, if you take a look around any modern organization that is known to care for its employees, you’ll see tons of sleeperies and sleeping pods in place, offering respite from the long, stressful hours you spend toiling away at work. 

Did you know, that power naps do quite a bit more than help you combat mental and physical exhaustion. They boost your memory, help you learn and understand better, impact your creativity positively, and even makes you more alert. But if they really do help so much, you must be wondering, why are people so apprehensive of them? To be honest, you can’t really blame them.

 

The rules of the naps

 

After all, not all naps are equal, some just end up making you feel worse. Thing is, if you don’t know the rules of Inemuri, you will wake up groggy, disoriented and desperate to go back to sleep! 

For starters, you must know how to respect everyone’s space. Dozing off can often mean that you have no idea where your head is lolling off to. And while it might help you, it might endlessly annoy your colleague whose bag you have ended up using as your pillow! If you really have to use a bag, make sure its your own. Plus it makes sure that no one has access to it while you’re in dreamland. 

Even though sleep is about comfort, it isn’t particularly advised to drag up several chairs to make a bed out of it on the work floor. Sleeping on the table resting your head on it might not be the most comfortable thing to do, but we aren’t trying to get a good night’s sleep here, you see. 

Snoring, though uncontrollable, can prove to be quite the Inemuri sin. The thing about public napping is ensuring that no one else around you is disturbed. And the one thing loud snores do ensure is public disgruntlement. 

Similarly, it isn’t recommended to keep your phone on loud as you wait for your alarm to wake you up. Especially when others are busy at work and don’t want shrill rings to distract them! 

In case you see a fellow colleague over-sleeping, it isn’t rude to wake them up. In fact, if you see a friend looking visibly exhausted, don’t hesitate to urge them to take that quick nap! 

However, embracing Inemuri in no way means embracing a toxic work culture that forces you to work so hard that you can barely keep yourself together. It doesn’t mean hustling 24X7 and it most definitely doesn’t mean becoming a slave to your workplace. What it simply means is making sure that you don’t burn out trying to get everything done when work hours seem long and deadlines overwhelming!