In my copywriting career, I have a few challenges you may be able to relate to. I have an active family (four kids!), a spouse who travels for work (gone for two overnights as I write this!), and an anxiety disorder (always unpredictable!). In short, I often feel overwhelmed and under-motivated. And yet, I have to be productive when I’m unmotivated, or else I won’t have a thriving career!
Even though I use block scheduling in my business, some days it’s really hard for me to stick to my routine. Any number of factors might disrupt my carefully-crafted work plan:
- Low energy because I slept poorly
- A sick kid home from school (or worse, home for days because their whole class is quarantined)
- A project is taking longer than I expected because of unrelated stressors
No matter what *your* specific challenges are, I know we all struggle with motivation and productivity sometimes. And there are VERY few acceptable excuses for missing deadlines. So instead of spinning your wheels, consider setting a Pomodoro timer.
Bursts and Breaks to Help You Get Stuff Done
In essence, the Pomodoro Technique gives you the mental space to truly focus on the task at hand. You can use time to your advantage (instead of fighting against it) by setting a timer and committing to working distraction-free for that period.
And then you give your brain a short break before asking it to focus once more on the task at hand.
Generally speaking, the experts recommend working for 25 minutes, then taking a 3-minute break (that’s considered one session). Often, people find it useful to cycle through four Pomodoro sessions before taking a longer break.
The beauty of this method is that I can tailor it to my precise situation any time I need to be productive when I’m unmotivated. This is how I typically decide how to structure my focus sessions:
- Calculate how many hours (or minutes!) I have to work.
- Create my to-do list for that time frame.
- Set my timer.
- Get to work!
If I’m running really short on time, I sometimes choose a 15-minute focus session. Or if I pick up steam during a focus session, I might blow right through my break time. There are guidelines and recommendations, but ultimately it’s your business and you get to decide how to use your time.
But What Makes This Method Different Than Other Hacks?
As I mentioned before, the unpredictability of my life, energy level, and mental health means I have to develop a generous balance between discipline and flexibility. For me, block scheduling is too rigid and doesn’t always give me the grace I need. And of course, you’d find me reading novels on the couch every day if I decided what to work on based on what I “felt like” doing.
Pomodoro sessions give me firm boundaries to help me stay productive when I’m unmotivated. And at the same time, they allow me to define “productive” in a way that fits my day/energy/anxiety level.
Secondly, a focus session is long enough to make substantial progress *without* making the whole day feel like an interminable chore. (Do you know that feeling?)
And yes, sometimes I spend an entire focus period staring at a blinking cursor and/or whining about how much work I have to do. But I *never* spend my focus time doing any of the following:
- Scrolling social media
- Checking/refreshing my email inbox
- Playing Wordle
- Doing laundry/washing dishes/cleaning the litter boxes
- Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera…
Then when break time starts, I have a few things I know I can fit into those 3- to 5-minute blocks:
- Reading a few pages of a book
- Checking my notifications
- Taking a short walk in the sun
- Closing my eyes and thinking about how much I don’t want to start working again, but feeling grateful that at least I don’t have to work right this minute
(Some days are better than others, okay? You get me.)
The point is, the Pomodoro method means I don’t have to power through six hours of work at one time. I just have to do a 25-minute stint. And on the flip side, I don’t have to berate myself for literally getting nothing done all day. I can get a few focus sessions in so I’m taking care of my clients, while I’m also taking care of all the other people who need me (including myself).
What Tools Help Me Stay Productive When I’m Unmotivated?
I haven’t spent a dime on implementing the Pomodoro Technique in my life. However, it’s only fair to point out that the inventor of the Technique, Francesco Cirillo, wrote a book (The Pomodoro Technique: Do More and Have Fun with Time Management) and has Pomodoro trainings available.
If you want to dip your toe into the waters without investing money, here are some free Pomodoro tools you can explore in your business:
- A notebook + writing utensil + timer. This low-tech tool lets you track your to-do list and focus sessions anytime, anywhere!
- Pomofocus.io. This web app allows you to record your to-do list and will automatically track your focus sessions and breaks for you.
- When I updated my Windows recently, I realized the clock app has a focus timer included. I use this app when I have a random amount of time to work (rather than a 25-minute block). It automatically and evenly spaces my focus sessions based on the number of minutes I have available (which, honestly, varies daily).
- And of course, the App Store and Google Play have a kajillion options for you to choose from. You can download any one of these on your mobile device to up your productivity game.
Personally, I love how accessible Pomodoro is. I still have to put in the effort, but ultimately I’ve found that I’m able to produce exceptional copy that gets results for my clients—even when my day is not going according to plan.
Your turn! What helps you stay productive when life happens? Will you test out the Pomodoro method? Let us know in the comments below!
Note: This post contains affiliate links.
Last Updated on August 18, 2022
Great article, thank you for sharing! I’ve been really concerned about my focus level when I’m working from home, as I’ve really struggled in the past. I’m definitely going to try this out!
The Filthy Rich Writer Team says
It’s an ongoing battle, we hope this can help!