The concept of scheduling breaks is not new to the personal productivity world, and is not new to me either.
Scheduling breaks means, well, having a planned time for rest. One of the most well known methods for this is the pomodoro technique. It works well partly because your brain is aware that there will be a break coming up in 30 minutes when you will be allowed to do anything you like. Given that knowledge, your monkey mind will be more willing to sit still and focus instead of getting distracted for that quick hit of dopamine.
Scheduling breaks is especially important for me because once I get distracted, I tend to enter a different dimension where time does not exist, and an hour can fly by without my knowledge.
There are two kinds of break scheduling that I’ve tried and has worked well for me. One is the pomodoro technique mentioned earlier; the other is scheduling your day on a calendar (including breaks). I learnt the latter from Cal Newport (again). Essentially, you would plan out your entire day on a calendar, with blocks of time dedicated to specific tasks you have to accomplish. For instance, instead of “Work” from 9am to 12pm, you would write “Send out ___ to ____” from 9am to 9.30am, “Read ____ for ____” from 9.30am to 11am on your calendar, and so on. Not only is this a great alternative to to-do list, you will also have a good idea of how you have spent your days.
The ideal method would be to combine the two, giving you a good overview of what your day will look like, while at the same time giving yourself healthy and adequate time blocks for rest within each block of work. Unfortunately, my job schedule can be rather unpredictable, making it inefficient to plan my day the night before with time blocks on a calendar. As such, I will stick to the pomodoro technique for now, and see how that works for me.
The great thing about the pomodoro technique is that you can adjust your work-to-break ratio as it suits you. The important thing is not to squeeze the most out of each block and give yourself as little break as possible; instead, it is imperative that you stick to your blocks strictly. When it’s time to work, you only work, and when it’s time to rest, you really rest. If it’s hard for you, then set longer time blocks for yourself! It could be 10 minutes of work for every 20 minutes of rest if that works for you – it’s definitely better than the alternative of no work at all.
I’ll try it out and see how that works for me.