Kill the Squirrel Syndrome with the Pomodoro Technique
Yeah, I’ll admit it. So should you.
As part of my recovery process, I have to admit something. I have experienced occasional symptoms that seem to point to a disorder known as Squirrel Syndrome. I am not alone in my plight. In all honesty, it should be called, the “SQUIRREL! Syndrome.” Not familiar with that term? How about the Shiny Object Syndrome? Or maybe the “I Need to Work on This but Got Sidetracked with That” syndrome? It’s not the same as attention deficit disorder, but when it comes to multi-tasking on multiple important projects, shiny objects can sometimes become a distraction.
Hopefully you get the point here and if it affects you on occasion too, you might struggle to make it through the rest of this article without wondering about your stock investments or the next step on a project for which you’ve committed to complete. In fact, you are probably reading this article when you really should be doing something else, right?
“I’ll get back to it,” and “What was I supposed to be working on?” are all common phrases muttered by someone infected with Squirrel Syndrome. Common phrases they frequently hear might include, “I thought you said you were going to do that first?” “You left to take out the trash an hour ago but fixed the fence instead?” We won’t even discuss what social media does to these folks.
A gentleman named Francesco Cirillo developed a timeboxing technique using a timer that happened to be shaped like a tomato. He used the timer to break down his work into intervals of 25 minutes, separated by short breaks. He called these intervals pomodoros, which is Italian for tomatoes. Cirillo’s Pomodoro Technique improves mental agility by breaking projects into focused segments. During a pomodoro interval, a person commits to focusing on one project and ignores all other sources of distraction. This means no email, no phone calls, and nothing else that might distract the person for the task at hand.
Entrepreneurs, writers, software developers, and similar creatives have latched onto this technique as a tool to overcome the Squirrel Syndrome. Although I recently published a non-fiction book, I have a larger, major book project in the works. I have been working on this book for a few years now and I have struggled at times to buckle down and make solid progress on the few days a week I can find time to devote to it. I found a cool Pomodoro timer app for my phone and have been using it for about a year. I can attest that this technique is fantastic. I first find a time on my calendar that isn’t stressed with surrounding meetings. Then I grab a bottled water, get comfortable, exit my browser, and let my phone go to voicemail. I start the timer and get to work. It gives me a gentle musical notification when the time is up, that lets me finish my thought process without being startled. I can then choose to take a break before starting another session or starting on another project.
This technique has been a wonderful productivity tool for me when I really need to focus. I used to get easily distracted with shiny objects. Now it’s rare that I get distracted and forget to finish my